When should you book your 2016 holiday? If you're looking for the best availability, lowest price and guaranteed space on the flight for your chosen dates, the answer is now! Whether you should book your holiday early or wait for a last-minute deal is an age-old question and most travel experts will tell you that the biggest advantages come with booking your getaway well in advance.
If you are planning on travelling for an event or festival, such as New Year's Eve, the cherry blossom in Japan or Diwali in India, you will need to book as early as possible as these trips sell out fast. Neill Ghosh at Original Travel says: "People often think that a couple of months is forward planning but sometimes six months or a year isn't enough in certain places and at certain times."
See also: When last-minute booking is a bad idea
Thinking of a once in a lifetime safari holiday? Will Bolsover at Natural World Safaris advises that trips which require permits to restrict tourist numbers are best booked early. For instance, many wildlife safaris take place in national parks where the number of visitors is carefully controlled. Examples include tracking endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda during peak season (mid-May to mid-October) and observing snow leopards in Ladakh during the winter. Peru's Inca Trail is another trip that needs to be booked in advance. Responsible Travel says it requires booking five to six months before your trip just to be on the safe side as there are only 500 permits a day, 300 of which are for porters. Not only this, but concerns over preserving the Inca Trail are increasing and it is likely to be closed to all visitors in the not so distant future.
For group holidays, it's essential to be an early bird to avoid disappointment, especially if you are planning a European escape or UK self-catering break in the summer. Gioacchino Sortino, at Wish Sicily, recommends keeping a close eye on the release of flight schedules, particularly if you are looking for a large villa in peak season. He says: "Bookings for larger properties gain momentum in early October when summer holiday flights are released. For anyone looking to book a large villa for a specific week during the school holidays, or a unique property such as Le Case di Tindari, which gives you exclusive use of an entire estate for 21 people, we recommend booking in September."
Holidays in Italy are extremely popular in the summer and locations such as the Amalfi Coast get booked up year on year, with May as busy as August. If you are planning to stay in a small boutique hotel along the coast, then you shouldn't wait any longer to book for next summer. The seven-room Villa dei D'Armiento, near Sorrento, for example, has already sold around 50 to 60 per cent of its capacity for May to July 2016. Antonio Cresce, from ExpertoItaly, says: "While it is possible to find pockets of one or two nights during this period, anyone who is looking for a typical stay of five nights or more needs to book immediately."
If you're a parent thinking of a family break abroad in 2016, you won't want to wait until next year to book. As Emma McWhinney at Secret Escapes explains, the crackdown on parents taking children on holiday during term time means booking now is essential for securing the holiday you want, on the right dates and for a reasonable price without the last-minute panic. Bob Atkinson, travel expert at TravelSupermarket, tells us that the school holidays are the biggest annual driver of prices and availability and booking early for a holiday during this period can save you serious amounts of cash.
"Towards the peak school holidays in July and August, prices rise as availability dries up and families scramble to get away," Bob tells us. "Forget discounts as demand usually outstrips supply. This principle also applies to flights, car hire and hotels. The next most popular holiday dates are the Whit week half term in May, Easter (especially for breaks to Florida), Christmas, October half term and New Year. And for February half term, it is essential to book early for ski trips as these sell out every year."
Many travel companies and airlines offer early booking deals as an incentive. "Airlines typically offer special offers and lower fares for a select number of seats in order to fill up their cabins early," says Lauren Burvill of the Flight Centre Travel Group. "Once these seats have been filled though, fare prices start to increase. Sometimes you might get lucky with lower fares closer to the flight time, but this can be a huge gamble and is often not worth the risk."
Another reason to book a European holiday now is so that you can make the most of the excellent pound-euro exchange rate by buying your holiday cash now. Caxton FX analyst Nicholas Ebisch says: "The risk is that the exchange rate could get better before this time next year, but it could also get worse. If you buy your holiday money now, you know your budget and the exact amount of pounds that 1,000 euros will cost. At this point, it is over 12 per cent cheaper to exchange pounds for euros than it was last August."
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