Best Time to Book A Holiday – In Advance or Last Minute?

We all want to bag the best deal when it comes to booking a family holiday, but what’s better? To be super organised and book well in advance, or hope to get a better price by snapping up a last minute bargain? This is always a difficult decision so, here’s our expert advice….

5 Benefits of booking a holiday in advance

Whilst some of us can only dream of being organised enough to book our family holiday a year or more before the departure date, many families opt for this approach. Booking in advance offers plenty of benefits such as first pick of accommodation options and first pick of convenient travel dates. But is booking in advance cost saving and savvy? Well, here are some benefits:

You’ll secure your travel dates

If you know you only have small windows of time to take a family holiday rather than being flexible, then always aim to book as early as possible to make sure you’ve got plenty of opportunity to book your preferred dates. During peak travel dates in the summer, last minute prices can actually increase rather than fall and choice will be much more limited.

You can grab early booking discounts

You may think that the best offers are only available to last minute bookers, but this isn’t always true. Many holiday companies offer perks to families opting to book early such as discounted child rates, meal deals, free nights, room upgrades and more.

Some travel companies run promotions up to a year in advance, so it is always worth keeping an eye out for these. It can be a good idea to sign up to travel company newsletters as well, because these often contain some excellent offers that are not widely advertised – I strongly recommend you sign up to the Tots to Travel newsletter.

You’ll have plenty of time to spread the costs

If you book a holiday early, it’s likely that you will be eligible for deposit and payment schemes that allow you to spread out the cost of your holiday. This means you don’t have to worry about shelling out a lump sum all in one go which might mean having to skrimp on your spending money.

It also means that you may be able to afford a few added extras if you have plenty of time to pay it off such as a bigger room, sea view or board upgrade.

You’ll have the cream of the crop

When you book in advance, you’ll get first pick of accommodation, flight times, plane seats and airport parking meaning you’ll be able to travel in the way you want and also be safe in the knowledge that the family is catered for correctly. Booking early will guarantee you’ll find the most appropriate sized accommodation and plane seats that are together, rather than scrabbling for seats or settling for somewhere that might not be your ideal relaxing getaway.

Something to look forward to

It sounds cliché but we all need a bit of motivation sometimes, especially with all of the hectic day to day dramas that having little ones tends to bring – having a holiday to look forward to can really brighten your mood. It brings great peace of mind to know everything is booked, secured and ready for you to step on a plane to enjoy some sunshine!

Tips for booking holidays in advance…

  • Try to avoid booking during school holiday periods if you can, as these competitive dates cause accommodation prices to hike up
  • If you choose to book your flights early, take a look at your airline’s policy and keep an eye on flight prices throughout the year. Some airlines will refund the difference if your flight drops in price at a later date
  • When you are ready to book, make sure you buy insurance cover immediately – your break may feel a long way off but anything could happen in that time so it is best to be as protected as possible
  • If you have the luxury of time, really stop to consider what kind of accommodation might work best for your family and browse a variety of options to check that your accommodation will really offer you everything you might want and need
  • Sign up to websites that monitor how flight prices are going up and down or that send you an email blast when flights are discounted. Once your dream accommodation is safely reserved you can relax and nab a great flight deal as well, you don’t necessarily need to rush to buy flights right away to get the best price

Booking in advance verdict:

Booking a holiday well in advance is best for families who have specific needs, inflexible holiday dates or whose busy lifestyles mean they won’t have time to organise everything at short notice. However, you may not always be able to bag as good a deal as you might if you book last minute, and if you’re not sure about committing to holiday dates so far in advance, this may not be the right approach for you. Read on to find out about the benefits of booking last minute.

5 Benefits of booking last minute 

Booking a last minute holiday can be both super exciting and super stressful, all rolled into one. Advice on booking last minute is pretty confusing, ultimately there a couple of questions that need an answer; Are flights and hotel rooms going to be more expensive? Or, are you actually going to snap up a pretty cracking deal? Here are our thoughts on booking last minute:

Best chance of bagging a bargain

If you book your holiday less than 10 weeks before departure, you maximise your chances of getting the best deal on your holiday. Flights and accommodation providers want to ensure that their planes and hotels are full, so they sometimes offer great last minute discounts. The more flexible you can be, the better the deal you can get however, be mindful of availability on the types of accommodation you are looking for. If you can be flexible with accommodation then consider choosing a last minute break, it could be a real steal.

You can adapt to avoid travel disruptions or weather issues

When you book a holiday a long time in advance, it can be difficult to know what you’ll be doing in several months’ or a year’s time. Plans often change and booking a trip that’s far off into the future just isn’t practical for many families. Booking a holiday  closer to the time means you can be sure of your availability to go in the first place and have a better chance of making that dream getaway, without risking losing a deposit or having to pay a cancellation fee.

You can adapt & avoid environmental issues

Weather, political issues and industrial action such as airline strikes are completely unpredictable when booking 6+ months in advance. If they occur, these types of issues can be substantially disruptive to your getaway which isn’t fun for anyone.

For example; booking in advance, you can only cross your fingers and hope, that the weather is going to be sunny and there are not going to be delays to your journey. However, if you book last minute, you can go online and check the weather forecast for 14-30 days and also find up to date government travel advice for your destination. That way you are less likely to fall foul to disruptions beyond your control and you can make a more informed decision on best destination for your family.

Avoid the crowds

Booking off peak holidays last minute can be a great option for grabbing a good deal and also avoiding bustling crowds. If your family can make off peak dates, keep an eye out for some excellent last minute promotions that offer stunning accommodation in desirable destinations, whilst also providing an escape from crowds.

The thrill!

Spontaneously booking a holiday is exciting and can be a lot of fun for some families! If you’re stuck in a rut, feeling a bit knackered or you’re simply seeking some winter sun, booking a last minute holiday can really lift your spirits, turn your mood around and give you something exciting to look forward to!

Tips for booking last minute holidays…

  • On average, the biggest holiday price drop happens around 8-10 weeks before departure. This might not feel super last minute, but start searching for your dream holiday around this time to increase your chances of getting the best deal.
  • Use flight comparison tools like Skyscanner to find the cheapest and most convenient way to reach your destination. Signing up for flight alerts can also help you find the best price.
  • Don’t spend too long contemplating – last minute holidays can be snapped up pretty quickly, so before you start searching, have a clear picture of what you’re looking for, and once you’ve found it, book it asap.
  • Equally, don’t rush into something – it can be tempting to snap up the first bargain you find, but holding your nerve and doing a little bit more research can really help ensure you’ve found the best option for your family.
  • Get on the phone – sometimes travel agents are aware of deals that have not yet been made public, or can wangle a great last minute bargain for your family based on what properties they know are available. For example, you can contact the Tots Family Travel Experts who always know how to get the best price for your getaway.

Booking last minute verdict:

Booking a last minute family holiday is best for families who are very flexible with destination, flights and accommodation options. Also for those who aren’t sure what their circumstances will be long term and for those crazy cats who quite simply love the thrill of a spontaneous getaway! However, families who have specific holiday wants or needs or who are restricted by holiday dates during peak periods may want to consider booking in advance rather than risk missing out on an ideal holiday.

Our Advice…

There are advantages and disadvantages to both booking in advance and booking last minute – what it really comes down to is your family’s specific circumstances.

Ask yourself:

  • What do you want from a holiday?
  • Would you be disappointed if you didn’t get exactly that or would you be happy with any getaway in the sun?
  • Do you have set dates that you need to take a holiday between?
  • Do you need to try and save money?
  • Would it be more affordable if you could spread the cost?
  • Do you know what your availability will be like in year’s time or is it still unknown?
  • Will you need to holiday during peak periods?
  • Would you be happy to fly at more unsociable hours or risk not being seated with the rest of your family?

These are just some of the questions you should be asking yourself, and the clearer you can be about your situation and what your family needs to get from your holiday, the easier you’ll find it to decide when might be the best time to book!

Wendy Shand
Wendy Shand

Wendy Shand is the founding director of Tots To Travel, mum of three, award winning mumpreneur, traveler, business enthusiast and author of ‘The Mother of Invention’.

Find me on: Web | Twitter

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