To get the best rates on your vacation and make sure you get the accommodations you’re after, it’s important to start planning in advance. It’s true, last-minute deals do exist, but they may not be the best for your situation, especially if you have a family, a big group, or are looking to travel during the holidays or high season. In other words, when you’re juggling a lot of travel logistics, don’t leave it to chance. Give yourself some time to familiarize yourself with the prices and plan accordingly.
Depending on when and where you’re heading out on your vacation, and who you’re bringing along for the ride, trip planning can start anywhere from a few to 24 months in advance. Here’s our take on the best start to start planning your 2022 vacations.
If you’re looking to book a big trip in 2022, say an international trip or one that may cost you a bit more money, it’s a good idea to start trip planning 6-12 months in advance. This gives you all the time you need to monitor prices and read up on the best places, flights, rentals, accommodations, and activities. It also gives you some time to renew your passports and save a little extra cash for the trip.
Weekend getaways are a totally different story. If you’re hoping to head to the mountains for a weekend trip or want to take your partner on a quick beach vacation, 1-3 months is a good range of time to plan your mini vacation. And if you can be flexible on the weekend you’re traveling, you’ll find even better options and prices.
Cruises are a great easy vacation that limits some of the minutiae of travel planning. But when you book a cruise, you should book as well in advance as you can. Look 12-18 months out, or even 24, which is often when cruise lines announce their trips. This is particularly helpful if you’re looking for a specific type of room, like connecting rooms for big groups or families. Some companies also offer early booking incentives like free airport pickups, drink packages, or other onboard credits that can really lower the overall cost of your trip.
Holiday travel can be wild. Which is why it’s not a bad idea to book 12-15 months in advance. Prices are high during holiday travel seasons like Christmas or spring break, and travel companies can keep them that high because there is so much demand.
High travel seasons in certain destinations function similarly. For example, if you’re heading to a ski resort during the winter or a popular beach in the summer, you’ll want to start planning far in advance. But if you’re traveling to one of those destinations in the off season? Six to nine months will be just fine.
Knowing when to buy your flights can be tricky, and it sometimes feels like playing the lottery. Which is why it’s ideal to start looking 6-12 months in advance so you can scope it out and get a good idea of the flight prices to your destination. Cheap flights can pop up out of nowhere and when you least expect it! So start searching early and then you’ll know when you come across a good deal. Or, sign up for airfare alerts so you don’t have to constantly check.
Buying your flights way in advance won’t always be cheaper, as airlines may not even have all their flights listed at that time (especially right now with lingering pandemic-related travel uncertainty). Some theories say you should buy 2-3 months in advance, while others say anywhere from four months to three weeks before the trip will get you the best prices. But let’s be honest, buying a flight a few weeks before a trip isn’t too conducive to organizing the rest of your travel plans.
Do what works for your time frame and travel needs, but that 2-3 month mark is a good sweet spot. And if you’re able to buy flights in January after the holidays, you can also find some better deals.
If you’re looking for a specific location and accommodation, on specific dates, and at a specific price, it’s a good idea to book well in advance, particularly if your needs are pretty common amongst other travelers, or if you’re heading to highly-coveted destinations. Stuff like national park lodges or big beach houses tend to get booked up pretty early. On a different note, if you and your crew like to stay in the same place every year, you might as well just book the spot again right after your vacation.
You can also book a hotel or vacation rental with free cancellation up to the travel date and “pay-on-arrival” (meaning you won’t pay until you check in). This tactic leaves space to check out other options just in case. That way you’ll have a place locked in, but if something better comes up, you can snag it. Just make sure you read the cancellation policies.
Regardless of what type of lodging you’re after, do your research and take a look at multiple sites to compare prices.
Car rental is an important part of travel, and it’s also an expense that tends to have some shifting prices. If you’re booking during high season and especially summer travel, it’s a good idea to book 3 to 6 months before your trip. But just like with airlines and lodging, comparing prices on various websites will help you find the best prices. The earlier you start looking, the more knowledgeable you’ll have to spot a deal.
To get more tips on car rental planning for your next big vacation, check out Avail. When you add car-sharing to your travel planning, you’ll save more and earn more.