Plan your summer holiday

If you've only just recovered from the Christmas festivities, a summer holiday is probably the last thing on your mind. But there are some advantages to booking early and planning ahead could save you money as well as giving you something to look forward to through the cold, dreary winter months.

Holiday marked on calendar
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Of course, you'll need to research your destination before you make any firm decisions. If you fancy somewhere new this year, first narrow down exactly what you need from your holiday - will there be plenty for the children to do, is it a family-friendly destination, self-catering or five star?

And work out what dates work best for you so that you can snap them up in the advance booking deals. This is particularly important if you have children of school age.

Once you have your dates and destinations in mind it's time to take advantage of early booking discounts.

The holiday companies love advance bookings - they've made a sale, and you've got time to plan - so plenty of the big names offer sizeable discounts to early birds.

For example, both Thomson and First Choice are currently offering a seven per cent discount if you book your summer hols online and Thomas Cook have knocked £100 off their 2011 summer holiday prices.

Elsewhere, you could save up to £300 per person for booking early with Olympic Holidays, while The Co-Operative Travel has free child places available to advance bookers.

Another good reason to get your booking in early is that many travel companies allow you to put down a small deposit (as low as £60pp) and some will even offer payment options, allowing you to pay for your break bit by bit. So while those last minute deals might seem attractive, you will inevitably have to pay a sometimes hefty lump sum in one go.

Besides, by securing your holiday in advance, you'll have time to save up plenty of spending money so that you can splash out in bars, restaurants and shops when the moment finally arrives.

Not only that, but you'll also have time to browse for your holiday wardrobe, collect the necessary travel essentials and find yourself the perfect holiday read.