Should you book your holiday early or late to get the best bargain? That's the million dollar question!
Booking a last-minute holiday can mean big savings if you're flexible and don't have somewhere specific in mind but there are many advantages to booking early. We look at the reasons why savvy shoppers book their holidays in advance...
Early birds can take advantage of a wide selection of incentives for booking in advance, such as free spa treatments, room upgrades, excursions and even your own butler, among other complimentary add-ons.
Virgin Holidays, for example, is offering travellers to Miami a free flight on the new Little Red service from Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Manchester to Heathrow, for bookings made before 30 June 2013. So by confirming your trip early, you won't have to make the arduous drive south to Heathrow!
From £100s of pounds off per couple to free nights and even free weeks, travel companies offer all sorts of money-off deals to get us booking early. You'll find discounts on brochure prices with anything up to 50 per cent off the price of your holiday. Thomson, Inghams and Olympic Holidays are just a few of the tour operators offering excellent early bird discounts.
By thinking about next year's trip now, you'll have the pick of the crop in terms of destinations, flights and hotels. Those who know exactly what they want will appreciate this factor.
If you're travelling as a family, booking early means you're more likely to find seats together on the flight too and once you've selected you're destination, you can spend the rest of the year looking for the best family-friendly beaches, restaurants and attractions (the exciting stuff!).
David Pointer at Western & Oriental says: "You can guarantee features like inter-connecting rooms and it also gives you the opportunity to budget over a longer period of time, as well as choosing the flights you want, especially if you're looking for regional departures. For peak travel times such as Easter, Christmas and school holidays, you will rarely be able to take advantage of offers unless you book a long way ahead."
There are particular locations where booking in advance is essential as there is restricted availability or access, such as the Inca Trail in Peru, where permits are limited to 200 a day so last-minute availability is scarce. Holding out for a better deal can mean missing out entirely, especially with the Inca Trail, with permits selling out at least six months in advance.
When it comes to accommodation, many safari lodges and camps, for example, have only five to 10 tents or rooms and are in particular demand in August and September during the annual migration, so book too late and you'll miss out on a ringside seat for nature's most dramatic spectacle, says George Morgan-Grenville at Red Savannah.
Buy now, pay later
If you've just paid out for your 2013 holiday and can't afford to pay for another trip in advance, a number of holiday companies will allow you to secure your trip for a deposit of as little as £20. This means you have time to save the full balance and can relax knowing that your dream getaway is just a few pay days away. You can then focus on saving for that all-important spending money.
Some travel agents, like Directline Holidays, even offer customers the chance to pay monthly on holidays, interest free. This means the earlier you book, the longer you can spread the cost of payments and the cheaper the monthly instalments will be.
Last but not least, securing your holiday early gives you something to look forward to. When the winter blues start to set in, you'll need something to lift your spirits and what better than your upcoming escape to Thailand or Ibiza?
Want to book your 2014 holiday now? Check out these great early bird deals and exciting new options available...
2014 holidays you should book now!
Why you should book your 2014 holiday now
Tuscan holiday villa company To Tuscany says you should book now to get the most beautiful villa for 2014, especially if you're after a one-bedroom rental with a private pool. For example, La Casanova, which offers excellent views and a romantic location just a short walk from Radda town in Chianti, has availability throughout the year.
Book a holiday to Colorado with Ski Safari by 30 June 2013 and enjoy a two-night stopover in Reykjavik for free. You'll fly to Denver from Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester or Glasgow and spend two nights at the three-star Hotel Fron in Reykjavik, plus have a free excursion to see the Northern Lights. The 10-night holiday, including eight nights at the three-star plus The Village in Breckenridge, Colorado starts from £1,230 per person, including flights and resort transfers.
Hoseasons is offering selected 2014 getaways at 2013 prices, plus the bonus of booking a 2014 holiday with just a £25 deposit. For example, a seven-night stay for six people in Peveril at Darwin Forest Country Park from 8 February 2014 costs £430 (saving £30) when you book before 1 September 2013 and you can secure the holiday with a £25 deposit.
Already explored Dubai? See a different side to the Middle East next year with a seven-night break at Le Meridien Al Aqah in Fujairah from £799 per person with Premier Holidays, saving you up to £289 per person. Le Meridien Al Aqah is refurbishing all of its rooms this summer ready for 2014. Fujairah is nestled between the Hajar Mountains and the Indian Ocean, just a 90-minute drive from Dubai. Visit Al Bidya Mosque, hike to Wadi Wurayah waterfall or explore Madhab Sulpheric Spring Park. The offer includes flights from Heathrow, seven nights' accommodation and private transfers. Book by 15 July 2013 for travel between 11 May and 30 June 2014.
Book a North American ski holiday by 31 July 2013 with Scott Dunn and you'll benefit from 40 per cent off the brochure price. For example, a stay at the luxury Four Seasons Resort Whistler costs from £1,930 per person including a 40 per cent early booking discount, based on two adults and two children in two deluxe king rooms.
Book a 14-night break to Ibiza for a family of four with Directline Holidays and pay monthly in 14 instalments. Two weeks during the 2013 school holidays costs from £541 per person (total cost £2,244), staying in a one-bedroom apartment at the three-star C’an Sanso, departing London Gatwick on 30th July 2014. The price includes resort transfers and 15kg hold baggage per person.
Easter 2014 may seem forever away but if you'd like to travel over the peak period and save money on a luxury escape, you'll want to start thinking about booking your holiday now. Western & Oriental is offering 25 per cent off an indulgent getaway to Riviera Maya in Mexico, including a week's stay at boutique resort Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita on an all-inclusive basis, flights and private transfers for £1,829 per person (saving you £645 per couple) when you book by 30 September 2013 and travel from 21 to 30 April 2014.
Book a Scott Dunn chalet for a January 2014 ski holiday in Val d’Isère or Courchevel 1850 and you'll benefit from free childcare. You can choose from one free place at the Scott Dunn Explorers Club in Val d’Isère or one private nanny in Courchevel. The offer applies to full chalet bookings for January 2014 made before 31 July 2013.
A gorilla tracking permit in Uganda currently costs $500 (£329) per person per day (already a significant part of the cost of a gorilla safari) and the tariffs are expected to increase to $600 (£395) from 1 July 2013. So if you're looking to save money on a 2014 safari, you may want to book your holiday and gorilla permit now before the new tariff is launched. Journeys Discovering Africa offers gorilla trekking safaris from £2,000.
For early birds looking in search of island paradise, Turquoise Holidays is offering seven nights' half-board in a Colonial Garden View Room at The Residence Mauritius from £1,599 per person. The price includes private transfers, return flights from London Heathrow and a saving of £450 per couple (23 per cent). The offer applies to travel between 1 May and 30 September 2014, when you book by 30 June 2013.
Only 200 people are allowed on the Inca Trail each day, including guides and porters, which means that permits often sell out at least 6 months in advance. So if you only have a limited travel window, there's a real chance that you could miss out entirely. Considering that Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail are most travellers' top reasons for visiting Peru, securing that slot well in advance is a wise move. Peru For Less offers four-day treks from £426, including all equipment, meals, porters and guides.
In March 2014, the luxury Soneva Group is launching Soneva In Aqua, a highly refined yacht or 'boat villa' with an on-board chef, butler, dive instructor and spa therapist, as well as a sunken glass bath, two cabins, a bar and dining area. To celebrate the launch, you can enjoy 35 per cent off published rates when you book before 21 September 2013, plus a free island picnic for four and a bottle of champagne. Brochure prices start from £2,813, plus a £657 daily supplement.
Feel like partying on the beaches of Miami but don't fancy a long drive down to London Heathrow? Virgin Holidays is offering free Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Manchester flights to Heathrow on the Virgin Atlantic, Little Red service when you book a 2014 Miami holiday before 30 June 2013. A four-night holiday in Miami with a stay at the three-star Days Hotel Thunderbird Beach Resort on a room-only basis with car hire, a free internal flight on Little Red and flights from Heathrow to Miami starts from £699 per person with Virgin Holidays, based on a 6 January 2014 departure.