Why you should book your 2018 holiday now

honeymoon couple snorkeling by tropical island in the Caribbean

When should you book your 2018 holiday - early or late? Savvy travellers looking for the best availability, cheapest price and guaranteed space on their chosen dates plan their holidays in advance, according to the travel experts.

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Whether you should be an early bird or wait for a last-minute deal is an age-old question and while there are often terrific late offers to be had, the biggest advantages come with booking your getaway months before you wish to travel.

With the 'safe' destinations selling out fast, flight prices fluctuating throughout the year and more people travelling than ever before, now is the time to book early to avoid disappointment. We spoke to a few holiday industry experts to find out their predictions for the year ahead, which types of trips you should bag early to save money (and stress), and why cruisers and families, in particular, should be thinking about next year's escape right now.

Young woman reading a book while relaxing on tropical island

Because most holiday companies like to be organised, they are keen to incentivise people to buy early. Graham Harrop, co-founder and director at travel agency Florida4Less, tells us: "As a general rule, booking well in advance allows you to get the whole deal for much less - sometimes with a 25% discount - and with some extras included." With a wide range of deals available for early bookers, you could snap up two weeks for the price of one and five-star stays at three-star prices. Tour operator Olympic Holidays has even included single parent discounts to its summer 2018 programme.

The effects of Brexit are likely to change holidays as we know them and could mean anything, from the price of flights skyrocketing to staycations becoming pricier if demand for holidays in the UK increases. By securing your 2018 trip now, you can take advantage of this year's rates. Harriet Warren at luxury UK holiday home specialist Unique Home Stays says: "Agencies usually review their tariffs towards the end of the year so booking ahead of this will ensure you receive the best possible rates, especially with the uncertainly of how Brexit will affect travel and tourism over the next 12 months." For post-Brexit trips abroad, Al Judge, co-owner of French chalet firm AliKats Mountain Holidays, adds: "Who knows what will happen to the price of European holidays in the future. By booking now, you get to lock in something that might get a whole lot more expensive in the future."

Tropic Flight

When it comes to purchasing flights, you don't want to wait around for a last-minute price reduction as it's more likely they will rise. As momondo.co.uk's Neil James Cartwright explains: "Gone are the days of getting the very best deals a few days before departure – this is when airlines usually hike prices up to a premium." Jaymin Borkhatria, sales director at Southall Travel, says: "The less seat availability on a particular flight means those seats left will be sold at a higher price - it's simply supply and demand so it's always advisable to book as far in advance as possible." For those looking at taking long-haul holidays to the likes of Australia or New Zealand, Katie Warburton, Austravel's destination manager, advises travellers that airline fares are available to book 11 months in advance and booking this far ahead is recommended.

She's super excited...

There are huge advantages for families booking their holiday as early as possible, such as free child places offered by a large number of travel companies, including tour operators and even airlines. Those who don't have the budget to fork out for next year's holiday now can also enjoy 'buy now, pay later' deals which ask for a small deposit before you settle the balance closer to your departure date. And as ABTA reminds families, there are millions of tourists from other countries travelling to your popular holiday location, putting competitive pressure on hotel rooms and flights. With a limited supply of both, it's worth booking in advance to ensure your family doesn't miss out.

Machu Picchu

With so many Brits eager to tick off the world's bucket list destinations and experiences off their list, you'll want to think well ahead to beat the crowds. Once-in-a-lifetime holidays including Japan during the cherry blossom season and the trek to Machu Picchu sell out fast. Will Bolsover, managing director of Natural World Safaris, advises that for trips where permits are required, and the number of these is restricted (such as Peru's Inca Trail), now is the time to book to ensure a slot. For instance, many wildlife safaris take place in National Parks where numbers of visitors are carefully controlled. The other consideration is that for specialist led departures where the number of guests that can join are small, it is best to book now to ensure you don't miss out."

Meanwhile, holidays to popular beach and city locations are simply not worth the risk of waiting until the last minute. Niel Alobaidi, managing director at Emirates Holidays, says: "Sri Lanka, known for its beautiful coastline and colourful culture is easily becoming a firm favourite with families. In fact, we've seen a 90% increase in family bookings this year and would encourage booking early for your 2018 break, particularly for school holiday dates."

Young woman relaxing in a resort swimming pool

For those who like to escape to a European villa for a self-catering summer holiday, Italy, Spain and Greece are some of the most popular countries where the villas are snapped up fast. Gioacchino Sortino at villa booking website Wish Sicily says: "If you are looking for something slightly out of the ordinary, the advice is definitely to book as soon as you can. This particularly applies to bigger villas for large gatherings or special occasions as the chances are you will want a specific date and the best value flights."

Cruise holidays are as popular as ever, attracting all types of travellers with their impressive facilities and destinations. Seasoned cruisers know exactly why it's best not to wait around when booking a cruise. "Early bookers can usually snag plenty of value-add promotions and incentives, such as free drinks packages, free on-board credit, cabin upgrades or inclusive gratuities, and compare what different cruise lines and agents are offering," says Cruise Critic's managing director Adam Coulter. Meanwhile, Tony Roberts, vice president at Princess Cruises UK and Europe, says that over the past few years, guests have been booking earlier and earlier, allowing them to choose their preferred cabin and giving themselves plenty of time to plan shore excursions and dining experiences.

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Psst... These are the alternative holiday destinations to visit this summer
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Psst... These are the alternative holiday destinations to visit this summer

It's time to soak up the sunshine on a summer holiday and this year, we're looking beyond the beaches of Ibiza and the tavernas of Crete. With the help of travel site momondo.co.uk we've rounded up the best destinations for an alternative holiday in July, August or September.

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Whether you're looking to get cultural in overlooked capital city or discover waterfalls, mountains and tiny towns away from the seaside crowds, you'll love these unconventional summer holiday locations...

About 3km north of mainland Noord-Holland, Texel is the largest of the Dutch Wadden Sea Islands and a dune-smothered wonderland. White-sand beaches engulf a heart of wilderness reserves and forests, with the occasional village thrown in. With horse-riding, kite surfing and salt marsh hiking galore, it’s a fitness lover’s paradise, and there’s plenty to entertain the family. Head to Ecomare, where you can watch seals and porpoises being fed, then snap a picture with the vivid red lighthouse at the island’s far north.

Surrounded by mountains and nestled deep in an emerald valley, Medellin has long shaken off its Pablo Escobar days, growing into a vibrant, cosmopolitan jewel of a city. Brand new infrastructure, including a metro system, hillside gondolas, parks and museums speak to its rich cultural heart. Nicknamed the 'City of Everlasting Spring', it offers perfect weather year-round. El Poblado’s Parque Lleras, a park with a perimeter of bars and restaurants, is where you want to be in the evenings. Visit in August to check out the famed Feria de las Flores, the Flower Festival.
Duck across the Morbihan Gulf to an island paradise measuring just a few kilometres in all directions – and home to just a few hundred people. Tranquil, low-key and picturesque, Brittany's Ile-aux-Moines is perfect for a lazy day or two away from it all. Tiny white traditional houses and vanishingly small bars and boutiques line the narrow alleyways of the built-up area around the port. As you head further south, the cobblestones give way to fig tree-lined bicycle paths, and you can catch some rays at the Grande Plage and at the beach near Goret. The entire island is free of cars, so breathe deeply and enjoy that clean air.
Forming the arch of Italy’s boot, Basilicata is draped with forests and mountains and kissed by the warm Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas. Its blissfully quiet countryside is studded with tiny villages and the remnants of volcanic activity. Lake Grande and Piccolo sparkle at the base of the extinct Mount Vulture, while the Sassi di Matera, ancient dwellings thought to be the oldest in Italy, are a sight to behold. Explore Ancient Greek and Roman ruins in the towns of Armento and Venosa, and visit a museum in a castle in Melfi on a trip to this alternative Italian region.

Kotor is a UNESCO-listed medieval masterpiece with an abundant heritage. Ringed by massive stone walls and looming mountains, the red-capped city of Kotor feels protected against the march of time. About an hour south of Dubrovnik, it offers churches dating back to the 12th century and narrow streets. Grab a stuffed burek to snack on while you explore, take your time over a coffee al-fresco, or book a cruise around the picturesque bay.

With its laid-back Mediterranean vibe, Lugano is an Italian-speaking city offering a holiday-friendly mix of boutique shopping, boat cruising and funicular riding. It’s a relaxed spot for a weekend away, brimming with cafés, bars and promenades. The old town hugs Lake Lugano, magnificent against its mountainous backdrop. Indulge your passion for cocoa at the Museo del Cioccolato Alprose, grab a coffee at the Grand Café al Porto, stroll City Park with its centrepiece Villa Ciani and check out the town’s quirky Mario Botta-designed Cherry Building.

What better place for a summer holiday than a jaunt to the self-proclaimed City of Sunshine? Nestled on the banks of the Tisza, Szeged is a laid-back university town lined with al-fresco cafés and featuring surprise palaces and cathedrals. Stroll the Stefania promenade for exquisite river views, and nod along to the strains of the musical fountain at Dugonics Square. In the evening, Dóm tér, the city’s main square, transforms into a massive open-air stage with shows playing every night throughout the summer.

Presiding over massive lake Müritz in northern Germany, Waren is an out-of-the-way spot a few hours from Berlin. A ghost town just a few years ago, it’s suddenly bursting with activity: a new marina and a profusion of new hotels and restaurants mean you’ll have plenty to keep yourself entertained, while the area’s natural beauty has been left well enough alone. Explore the nearby national park bursting with eagles and ospreys, or saunter through the cobblestone streets of the red-roofed old town – be sure to stop off for some fish-stuffed bread rolls and Italian-style ice-cream.

Matarraña blooms with olive trees, vineyards and pine forests. It’s just three hours away from Barcelona but feels a world away. Ancient, tiny towns perch like mountain goats on the hillsides, ibex roam about, and cave paintings and prehistoric settlements lurk waiting to be surveyed. Explore Puertos de Beceite Natural Park, cycle the abandoned La Via Verde and cool off at the El Salt waterfall in La Portedella. Refuel by nibbling on cured ham, goat’s cheese and walnuts – and toss back some local wine.
Often overlooked in favour of Paris and Berlin, Croatia's capital city offers quaint, historic charm alongside new bars, restaurants and boutique clothing stores. Stroll Maksimir Park, drink in the soaring spires of the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and snack on farm-fresh food at the Dolac Market. Kids will love a visit to the Museum of Illusion and you can escape the heat to explore the city’s literal underworld with a stroll through the Grič Tunnel.
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