Wondering when you should make your vacation reservations? It all depends on when and where you’re going, but Covington experts recommend these guidelines.
Holiday Vacation Reservations
The holidays are a wonderful time to get together with family. Believe it or not, your family isn’t the only one that thinks a holiday vacation is a great idea. Travel Maestro tip: For lower cost and greater availability, consider traveling between the holidays: the first two weeks of December or the first week of January.
If you prefer to travel over the actual holiday dates, here are our expert recommendations for when to book different types of holiday vacations.
- European Christmas markets – The Christmas market season runs from about November 22 through December 30 and there are many markets throughout Europe, so if you’re flexible, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. We suggest you book land trips by June, although Christmas Market river cruises often fill earlier.
- Caribbean villas – Large multi-bedroom villas are popular with extended families throughout the holiday season, so lock in your reservations by April. Make reservations no later than February for actual holiday weeks, even for smaller villas.
- Big New Years celebrations in major cities – New York City, Sydney, and Rio de Janeiro are favorite places to ring in the new year for literally millions of revelers. If you want prime viewing of the festivities from a hotel on Times Square, the Sydney Harbour, or Copacabana Beach, be willing to put down a hefty deposit a solid year in advance to hold your room.
- Thanksgiving air travel – Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest air travel weekend of the year, so the earlier you buy your ticket, the better your price. You can book air travel 330 days (about 10.5 months) in advance. Prices will rise steadily from August on and planes are usually totally full by early-October.
- Ski vacations – The last two weeks of December are in high demand because of the holidays, even if snow isn’t guaranteed. Then high season runs January through February. Although there are some seasonal differences between skiing the U.S. west, Canadian Rockies, the U.S. northeast and Europe, you should start your planning in January the year before for the best options.
- Holiday Cruises – Hundreds of thousands of passengers enjoy sailing over the holidays because it’s a festive, fun, and no stress vacation. Expect special events on holiday cruises, along with holiday supplements to the pricing. For high-demand holiday weeks, you’ll want to book a year in advance for best pricing. Prices rise as the ships fill and most will sail completely full.
Spring Break Getaways
Every March, at least one frantic parent calls trying to arrange a family spring break trip for April. At that point, even if you have deep pockets, we can’t get your family to Cancun or Jamaica or Disney. We get it. You’re a busy parent driving to soccer practice, supervising homework, and packing lunches, but don’t put this one off. 85 percent of the schools in the U.S. have that same week off so you must plan ahead.
We recommend you start planning when the kids go back to school in the fall and you get the school year calendar. For spring break hot spots – basically any beach in south Florida or the Caribbean – get your reservations in order before Thanksgiving. After that the holidays roar in and by the time you come up for air, it’s the new year and it’s too late. Travel Maestro tip: Consider alternative destinations like Southern California, that have great appeal but are not traditional spring break meccas.
Alaska Cruises and Cruisetours
The Alaska cruise season is mid-May through mid-September with prime time being the end of June through mid-August. Travel Maestro tip: The early and late season cruises are the lowest prices, but they may have less desirable weather and wildlife sightings than the mid-season sailings.
The ships that sail Alaska are smaller and fewer in number than the Caribbean or Mediterranean, so we suggest you begin your booking process in the fall before your cruise the next summer. You need to have a deposit on a stateroom by January at the latest to get your first choice of ship, itinerary, and stateroom.
Cruising is a year-round option with worldwide itinerary choices, so advance booking requirements vary widely. Generally, cruise lines offer discounts and promotions when the sailing is first opened for reservations. As the ship fills, the discounts are reduced, and the prices rise. The timeline is entirely up to the cruise line, so there is no rule of thumb for a number of days.
Some river cruises in Europe during high season (summer) are full a year and a half ahead of sailing. Likewise, round-the-world sailings and special luxury itineraries book up with loyal repeat clients nearly instantly. Caribbean cruises are plentiful year-round but Mediterranean cruises are seasonal. Travel Maestro tip: To get the best promotions, work with your cruise advisor very early and be prepared to make the final payment well in advance.
Summer Family Vacations
There are so many wonderful summer family vacation options – beaches, national parks, historical sites. You’re only limited by your own interest. If you’re flexible with time, budget, and destination, there’s no reason you can’t put some family memories in the bank. Travel Maestro tip: Talk to your vacation advisor by Spring Break to make sure you can confirm your first-choice destination at the best prices.
Europe in Summer
If your summer trip involves Europe, know that it is high season. Sunny days draw millions of visitors to the beaches of Spain, France, and Italy. Long days and mild temperatures make it a great time to visit England, Scotland, and Scandinavia. Gardens and vineyards are in bloom and river cruising offers spectacular scenery. Travel Maestro tip: Start planning your itinerary the prior fall. For popular areas such as the Amalfi coast, confirm your reservations six to eight months in advance.
Disney Vacation Reservations
Disney, the perennial family favorite, is a year-round destination. Because Disney offers so many accommodation options and price points, there is usually good availability up to three months in advance of travel. Multi-bedroom units fill up first, so during traditional school breaks, plan six to eight months ahead. For prime holiday weeks, confirm even further in advance. Travel Maestro tip: Make reservations for character meals and special dining 180 days in advance (call 407-939-1947 or book online). For the most popular ones like Princess breakfasts, be on the phone at 7 am when the lines open!
Annual Sporting Events
Attending one of the major sporting events as a spectator is a dream come true for many sports devotees. To witness golf tradition at the Masters, the fanfare at the Super Bowl or the equine pageantry at the Kentucky Derby is a thrilling experience. Tickets to these annual contests of skill are often available even at a late date – IF you’re willing to pay exorbitant prices. To lock in the best seating and lowest prices, not to mention hotel accommodations convenient to the venue, shoot for booking a year in advance immediately following the event. Travel Maestro tip: Spectator sporting events make terrific gifts that your favorite fan will never forget.
If you have more questions or are ready to confirm your vacation reservations, contact the experts at Covington soon.