Are you daydreaming of your next getaway? When you book a vacation, timing is of the essence. Depending on where you’re headed, certain times of year (or even days of the week) are better than others both in terms of price and the kind of trip you can expect. The same goes for timing when you book airfare and accommodations. With a little planning and a dose of strategic timing, you can take your dream trip without a price tag nightmare.
Start planning early
The sooner you can start mapping out your travel plans, the more time you’ll have to scope out deals and comparison shop. Research your destination to find out the peak season, which can vary from place to place. While summer and school breaks are always popular travel times, some locales have other seasonal shifts in popularity as well. Once you decide on your destination, keeping an eye on rates for hotels and airfare means you’ll be ready to jump when they fall.
Book flights in advance
When it comes to buying airfare, you’ve probably heard that the early bird gets the worm. While booking flights in advance is generally good guidance, there is a bit of a sweet spot. Don’t book too early or late — shoot for an average of 76 days before your departure date for domestic flights. International travel should be booked a bit farther out — up to almost 10 months ahead of time to score the best prices.
Be flexible with travel dates
The more open you are with your travel dates, the easier you’ll be able to take advantage of the lowest prices. For example, flying on weekdays is generally cheaper than flying on Saturday or Sunday. Business travelers often fly on Mondays, so midweek flights between Tuesday and Wednesday have lower demand and corresponding lower prices. If you have flexibility, play around with your arrival and departure date to find the best deal possible.
Use reward points
When paying for travel, cash is not always king. In fact, depending on what you’re booking (like transportation or accommodations), points, rewards or a combination of the two may be the more economical choice. Do your homework and make sure your payment method is getting the best deal. For example, some credit card points are worth more when spent on travel versus cash back. The devil is in the details, so don’t forget important factors like the cents per mile when booking flights with travel rewards.
Travel during the off season
One of the most influential factors in the cost of your vacation is when you travel. In general, avoiding summer and major holidays will save you some serious cash. But be sure to do a little research into what’s considered high season at your destination. For example, theme parks are especially sensitive to price hikes when most schools have breaks (i.e. winter break, spring break and summer break). For European travel, high season is considered from roughly mid-June through August. When it comes to cruises, it’s largely dependent on the part of the world where you’ll set sail. The Alaskan cruise season is from May to September, while Caribbean cruises are most popular November through April. If you can travel during non-peak season, you’ll enjoy lower prices and less crowds to boot.
Time your travel wisely for maximum cost savings
If you want to enjoy a fabulous vacation on a budget, timing is everything. Plan when you’ll travel and when you’ll book to get the best price possible. With a little forethought and flexibility, you can take an amazing and affordable trip.