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.
SEE ALSO: Paradise islands you've never heard of
SEE ALSO: The world's best holiday destination?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.