Plan your summer holiday

It used to be that the best holiday bargains were always to be had if you left it until the last minute to book, but things have changed and it's often the early bird who gets the best deal now.

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The growth of online holiday booking and feedback sites such as TripAdvisor mean that the good places now tend to get booked up quickest and leaving it until the last minute can be a bit of a lottery.

So as we head into the depths of depressing January, why not cheer yourself up by planning your summer trip now?

Of course many of us have to plan early anyway to make sure we get something in the school holidays or to book exactly the place we want - but there also seem to be increasingly large discounts available to early birds too.

For example, this year companies keen to boost cashflow in the winter months were offering discounts of up to 15 per cent - along with free child places, no flight supplements and other valuable freebies to secure early bookings.

Anyone who has had to pay full price for a toddler will know how valuable free child places can be!

Early bookers can also often secure their trip for a deposit, paying the rest later when they have recovered from the cost of Christmas.

And if you're travelling independently - which more and more of us are - then you'll always get cheaper flights if you book as early as possible.

It can also pay to sort out your holiday money well in advance, you're unlikely to get the best rate if you leave it until you get to the airport or you are in resort to change your pounds up. Take a moment to check out the best deals on money comparison sites and you could save a tidy sum.

It's also sensible to pick up sun-tan lotion when it's on two-for-one offer before you go, because it can be really expensive abroad - as can other essentials like batteries, nappies and baby food.

But all these eminently sensible reasons for booking early pale into insignificance next to the best reason of all: It's really good fun planning your holiday!

And of course once it is booked you can concentrate on the really important issues, like refreshing your holiday wardrobe, getting in shape and deciding what books to take.

- Visit AOL Travel for great deals and inspiration

Are you an early bird or a last-minute gambler? Where are you planning to go this year? Tell us below...