Vacation prices fluctuate — a lot, so we’ve teamed up with the travel experts from tripcentral.ca to give us the inside scoop on the most asked question: When is the best time to book?
It depends on a variety of factors, like the type of vacation you’re taking, time of year, and how flexible you are with your decision. We’re here to help you sort through this common question.
Why do prices fluctuate?
Supply and demand controls the travel market. Booking early versus booking at the last minute largely depends on the season and many other factors.
Richard Vanderlubbe, president of tripcentral.ca tells us, “Airlines, hotels, tour operators, and cruise lines use yield management to adjust their prices depending on market conditions. Day of week, time of day, advance booking, scarcity of the product, how bookings have gone so far, and how much is left to sell all affect pricing.”
Sometimes travel planning involves agonizing over price fluctuations and postponing booking for fear of price drops. We’ve all been there. But the key is to be comfortable with the price you lock in. After you’ve taken the plunge with your credit card, don’t look back to regret your timing! What’s in the past is out of your control and you don’t want to spoil the excitement for your trip.
Booking early vs last minute
You can expect sun vacation prices to skyrocket in the winter when people want to escape the cold temps. Book at the end of your summer or early fall to take advantage of early booking bonuses. Visiting the Caribbean or Mexico during the off-season when the weather is warm at home can end up saving you money too.
Booking at the last minute could mean lower prices, but less selection. It’s a risk, but if you are flexible on destinations and dates, you may just find a better deal.
Pro Tip from Vanderlubbe: The best value vacations go first. To take advantage of last minute vacations, you need to be very flexible on where and when you travel to find the 4 or 5 star hotels at 3 star prices.
Many airlines will have seat sales to fill up their planes from October to April (excluding Christmas). The sweet spot for flight deals is usually 60-30 days in advance, or when seat sales become available. If you are flying somewhere remote with limited availability, book early!
When should you book last minute?
- June or September, when the kids are not yet out of school or back to school.
- Early December (before Christmas) and early January (after New Years and after the kids are back in school). Before the Holidays, people are busy with shopping and family get togethers so demand to travel is lower. After the holidays, credit cards are maxed out and routines start up again.
- April, as winter comes to an end in North America and travel to sunny destinations slows down, especially if the weather warms up.
Last minute trips to Las Vegas could be beneficial in low season: June-September (hot weather), January and February (cooler weather) and, before Christmas (when it’s quiet).
When should you book in advance?
Booking in advance to secure your spot is important during the obvious peak periods:
- Christmas, New Year’s Eve
- Spring Break/March Break
- High season in general for specific destinations: Europe (July and August), Caribbean (February and March)
Booking in advance is also important when:
- You want to reserve space in a small, boutique property where space is limited
- You are departing from a small airport or a small community. There are less flights out of these airports so there is naturally more demand
- You are flying to your cruise embarkation port and need to be there at a certain time.
- You are going to a convention, festival or big event where there is a ton of demand.
- You have anything to attend to, like a wedding, meeting, etc. Peace of mind is worth booking early for.
Whether you’re looking for a family vacay or a tour of Europe, there’s always going to be a mix of awesome deals and painful-to-look-at prices with your bookings. The best thing you can do is to start your research as early as you can and be prepared for anything!