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...
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