I often get asked this question, and the answer is different depending on the kind of travel you want, who you are going with, and lots of other factors.
Some people are self-confessed last minute bookers, this can be due to uncertainty with time off work, lack of funds or just because you are spontaneous and fun! Others are planners, they like to have time to carefully plan, compare, pay it off, look forward to it… shop for it…
Most common among my customers is around 6 months ahead. Long enough to plan and spread the cost but close enough to feel it’s not too far on the horizon.
Me personally, I moved from booking 3-4 months ahead to around 11-14 months ahead after having 3 kids. It might sound crazy, but we need that long to budget for it, and I learned that when booking for a family, booking further ahead secures you the best price, choice of rooms (families of 5 will know the struggle) and I also use it as motivation to work hard!
Here are my tips for the optimum time to book certain types of holiday…
Best booked right when the flights go on sale 11 months ahead. Early February is the best time, and often there are early booking discounts on hotels, cruises and villas so we can create a great package, on a low deposit, at a great price! There are exceptions, such as Lapland for next Christmas, which usually comes out on sale 14 months before, so I have been booking these since October time for next Christmas. Certain ski operators such as Club Med offer early booking discounts when they go on sale in January…but more on ski holidays later.
February Half Term
Again the 11 months ahead rule applies here so late March is an ideal time to book for the following year. However! Feb Half term can be a great time for a last minute bargain if you can fly a few days either side of the main week off. Looking for a cheap week of skiing? Forget about Feb half term! It’s the most expensive week of the year for snow holidays, so either book a year ahead, or think about going to a high-altitude resort in the Easter holidays instead. February is a good time for long haul, so Dubai, Mauritius, Maldives and Caribbean are very good choices, with Canaries also giving pleasant temperatures although its sometimes chilly at night.
I seem to book Easter Holidays in the Autumn time. Easter is a good time to plan a long haul multi-centre trip as you get more bank holidays off, meaning less annual leave taken. What a good time to head somewhere far like Australia, Hawaii or Asia. Perhaps an expedition such as the Inca Trail or Everest Base Camp! Its also a lovely time for a UK break since England seems to have a fantastic Springtime these days, sometimes less rain than in the summer.
Summer Holidays – Late July and August
Two answers for this one – either in September/October when early booking deals come out for places like Ikos Resorts, Mitsis Hotels and Sani resort, amongst many others. Easyjet generally releases its Summer fares around October time so packages can be created with inexpensive flights for Europe. The past 2 years we have found long haul such as Mexico, Dominican Republic and St Lucia to be just as good and sometimes better value than Europe! So if your kids can handle a longer flight you should always ask me to look into this for you….
The second optimum (and most popular) time to book your holiday is January. Remember the adverts you’d see on telly on Boxing Day for summer beaches and free child places? Its been the same for decades, it’s a proper British tradition to book your summer holiday straight after Christmas, and the reason why Travel Counsellors just had a record breaking month selling £90 million of holidays this January!
Summer or Winter Sun, not in school holidays
Booking fairly close to departure works really well for those in this category, whether that’s for couples, groups of friends or solo travellers. We constantly get offers in for Indian Ocean, Caribbean, Bali, Thailand, Spanish and Greek Islands - almost anywhere! When travelling outside of school holidays you have the benefit of flights not being as busy, which keeps fares low.
I will break this down into 2 kinds of holiday. Skiing and Snowboarding goes on sale around February/March time for the following winter season. The season runs from the week before Christmas to the second week of the Easter Holidays. Most resorts are snow-sure from mid-January to Mid-March, but for December and April ski you need to go to a high resort above 2000m or you could be disappointed with the snow conditions. We can advise you on all of this as well as which resorts are best suited to your ability level. If you can travel outside of school holidays, last minute can be a great way to book skiing to get a good deal. If travelling with kids – early booking is essential unless taking them out of school.
The other side of this is are holidays in search of the Northern Lights, Santa Claus or other ice activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiles and whale watching. These can be booked at any time! They are generally bucket-list experiences that people like to book far ahead but equally we can usually find availability last minute too.
I find cities are best booked 4-6 months ahead- when you have the low-cost airlines on sale and plenty of flight times to choose from. If wanting to travel at a busy time such as Fashion week or Film festival week, or for a conference, then booking 9-10 months ahead is better. Business Travellers of course may not know they need to travel until same week or even same day, but we have the systems to check live-availability and can always accommodate a last minute traveller. Eurostar goes on sale 6 months ahead for Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, and 9 months ahead for Disneyland Paris
Well, cruises can be booked up to 2 years in advance and believe me you’d be surprised how many people do know what they want to do in two years time! Usually offering cabin upgrades, on board credit or free drinks packages, it can be beneficial, but we also see plenty of bookings 6 -9 months before departure too. Its also very common for regular cruise clients to book their next cruise while on board! If you do this, your booking still gets passed back to me, your Travel Counsellor to look after, so you should never be afraid to book on board as great discounts can be given!
Hope this helps! Jenny :)