One of the questions I get asked the most is; When is the best time to book a vacation to get the best deal?
While there can be many factors that come into play, including where you want to go, for how long and with whom will you be traveling; my basic response is that the earlier you book the more likely you are to get best overall vacation experience at the best price.
In the United States, Fall is a great time to sit back and think about the type of vacation you want to take in the coming winter or in spring of the following year. As the kids head back to school and the leafs begin to change you will find that global travel brands and individual resorts and destinations are saturating the internet and print media with great offers for the holiday and spring travel season.
This marketing push should come as no surprise since companies involved in travel face the stark reality that unsold inventory doesn’t remain on the shelf for next year, its simply gone. So in October and November you will see two trends which you and your travel agent can take advantage of:
- The inventory of “last minute deals” expands as travel brands work feverishly to end their present year with as little unsold inventory as possible reflected on their books. If you have the flexibility to travel on relatively short notice, and are somewhat flexible on choice of accommodation, you can find spectacular savings.
- Those same travel brands are also offering early booking discounts and specials for the coming year. The more sales they can record and book now means they can spend less on marketing next year and may allow them to hold their pricing firm and offer fewer discounted deals as the year progresses.
So travelers who understand this and know what type of vacation they want, can work with their agent to craft exceptional vacations at great prices. One of the keys to finding these deals is your Agent. Agents have access to industry sites operated by travel brands and not available to the public that serve to educate travel agents on their brands and ensure they can represent their brand attributes and products. I get inundated daily with new offers from these sites around this time of year and often find some offers which are truly fabulous; but weeding through these for the keepers takes a lot of time and we like to think that we can find great deals that don’t require our clients to compromise their vision for their perfect vacation; but to do this effectively we need to have had conversations with our clients to draw out the vision and translate it into a set of search criteria, so planning with your agent early can be very rewarding.
Planning early also means more choice.
I don’t know how many times I have found a great deal that exactly matched a clients requirement but the client’s were not ready to commit; and when they were ready, the opportunity was no longer available; alternatives were available but the “dream” solution was either not available or was going to cost significantly more. Whether you are cruising or going to an all-inclusive resort, the earlier you book the more choices you will have to get the best stateroom or suite, not to mention the best flight connections.
This brings up the second most common question, or concern, and that’s: Do I have to pay for the vacation when I book it?
In general a deposit, which varies by travel brand, is normally sufficient to guarantee the reservation and the price point.
Most vacation providers allow you to spread out payments prior to departure without any additional fees and agents can help you negotiate these payment schedules. TripIndulge will schedule payments and with your authorization process necessary progress payments to your suppliers.
Cancellation policies vary widely, which is another reason to involve an agent, but there is generally a period where you can cancel without incurring more than a nominal service fee; as you get closer to departure, penalties increase and can become equal to 100% of the quoted fare.
Exceptions to deposits securing reservations can include airfare components which may have to be paid upfront ( always ask your agent to review with you cancellation policies of travel suppliers so you can make informed decisions when selecting your vacation). Make sure you understand the cancellation or change policies of your air carrier.
Last point, we are believers in Travel Insurance for all travel, but especially for more complex or expensive vacation options. There are plenty of options and your Agent can provide you with several options to choose from. All Travel Insurance is not equal and it pays to give this some thought based on your personal lifestyle and circumstances. Having a policy in place when planning in advance can give you the peace of mind that should something come up you have a plan in place with your agent to take care of it.
So in summary:
- Fall is a perfect time to plan your next vacation.
- Engage your agent early, even if your plans are tentative. The more your agent knows, the better they can serve you and provide you travel solutions that match your vision and passion.
- Winter and Spring offers are out and available for your review.
- Book early and secure your choice with a deposit. Booking early gives you more choice and the best shot at a great price.
- Discuss Travel Insurance with your Agent to give you peace-of-mind and flexibility.