If you're a budget traveler getting ready for your next summer vacation, one of the best ways to save money is by booking your summer travels and plans in advance.
By preparing for a trip several months beforehand, you have much more flexibility over your plans – where you want to stay, which tours or activities you want to do, etc. – and travel companies tend to reward early birds with significant discounts.
The Best Times to Book Your Summer Travels
Here are some tips for getting started on your next big summer travels and plans several months in advance:
According to Cruise Critic, the best time to book a cruise trip is several months in advance ("no later than 6 to 8 months out"). Cruises in popular destinations tend to raise prices in the final 1-2 months before the departure date.
So, booking in winter for a summer getaway is the best way to save money on cruise fare. Some cruise industry experts even recommend booking 12-18 months in advance to secure the best deals, because cruise lines are initially unsure what the demand for particular sailing dates might be and offer fantastic discounts to attract a baseline of customers before raising prices.
Don't wait until April or May to book a summer cruise. Even if you're planning out a tropical getaway for your winter vacation later this year, the best time to book a cheap cruise is sooner rather than later.
Hotels and Hostels
Depending on your destination's popularity with other tourists, you might be able to secure last-minute deals on hotels by booking the week or two beforehand, rather than several months in advance. However, the longer you wait, the higher the risk you'll have of losing out on accommodations in your dream hotel or B&B.
If you're planning on staying with Airbnb or a hostel, then your best bet is to book your accommodations 3-6 months in advance. Availability for these two accommodation options is much more limited than hotels, especially if you have certain preferences for amenities or number of people you'll share a room with in a hostel dorm.
By planning out your trip and booking your summer accommodations in winter, you'll have significantly more choices available – in terms of quality, cost, amenity options, proximity to the local attractions, etc. – which beats any potential savings you might get from booking at the last minute.
Tours and Activities
Tours in areas that draw in thousands of tourists during the summer season are likely to fill up fast, especially if they're highly rated tours with experienced guides and a strong online presence to attract customers.
If you're strapped for cash after the holiday shopping season, then waiting a month or so shouldn't be a problem. But, you should aim to book your tours and vacation activities at least 2-3 months in advance, just to be safe.
For less touristy areas, you might be able to find hidden deals once you're actually there. Ultimately, it depends on what your research tells you: buy ASAP because people are flocking to these tours, or hold off to save money now by signing up for activities when you arrive at your destination (an added benefit to waiting: you might find something better to do by talking to the locals!).
Don't Let Poor Timing Hamper Your Vacation
It's easy to get caught up in the post-holidays whirlwind of sending the kids back to school, starting back at work, and trying to fulfill your New Year's resolutions. But, a jam-packed schedule in the first several weeks of a new year shouldn't prevent you from planning your summer vacation, especially if you could save hundreds of dollars by booking flights, accommodations, and activities now. Find time in your schedule to research different parts of your trip and time your bookings for the best possible discounts!
2017 travel bucket list: Must-visit locations this year
2017 travel bucket list: Must-visit locations this year
Prince Edward Island, Canada
While other guides might point the Canada-curious toward multicultural Toronto or bohemian Vancouver, our pick is decidedly more pastoral and, some would argue, much prettier than either of those urban enclaves. A collection of sleepy fishing towns nestled between the Saint Lawrence River and the Atlantic Ocean, this tiny province is covered in bright-green rolling hills, red sandstone cliffs and picturesque lighthouses. It’s literally the stuff of storybooks: PEI is home to everyone’s favorite literary redhead, Anne from Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, after all.
For food, it’s all about the seafood: lobster, whitefish, clam chowder, mussels and, of course, oysters. The island’s responsible for supplying more than 55 percent of the continent’s bivalves. No matter how you slice it, a summer spent in PEI is the breath of fresh air you didn’t even know you needed.
If you’re scratching your head over this pick, you’re not alone. But according to just about every travel-savvy source out there, Estonia is primed to become one of Europe’s hottest tourist spots, and 2017’s the perfect time to get in on the action. This Baltic wonderland, which has more in common with Finland than its former Soviet states, is known for its unique cultural makeup, awe-inducing medieval architecture, and thriving culinary and nightlife scenes. It’s like a sexier version of your favorite Disney movie, punctuated with all the spoils of 21st-century life.
Art, art, art and more art. That’s the name of the game for Denmark’s up-and-coming little Aarhus. Whether it’s large-scale experimental installations; meticulously curated galleries; or flashy, graffiti-covered shipping containers, the city explodes with visual expression everywhere you look.
The city’s eye for beauty also extends far beyond the painter’s palette to Aarhus’s booming restaurant scene, cutting-edge fashion and ever-evolving music offerings. Once you’ve had your fill of reimagined smørrebrød or insanely tender boeuf bourguignon, make your way over to ARoS, one of the country’s most esteemed museums.
This just in: There’s way more to Ireland than Dublin. Perched on the edge of a vast ocean bay, past the medieval castles and shamrock-colored hills, sits Galway, a seaside town with a storied history, incredible scenery and a bit of a party city rep. In summer, it explodes with tourists, flying in from all over Europe to get a taste of authentic Gaelic culture while downing fresh, locally crafted microbrews by the dozen. There are more than 70 pubs to choose from, each with its own distinctive style, and a rotating cast of nightly musical acts that range from traditional Celtic fiddlers to Bono wannabes. It’s a college town at heart, a place where old (we’re talking 14th-century-churches old) meets new, art fills the streets, and fish-and-chips-happy twentysomethings rub elbows with tweed-jacketed gents downing Michelin-starred cuisine.
San Miguel de Allende, México
While this vibrant artist refuge has been topping Mexico must-visit lists for decades, we think 2017 is high time to finally make the trip. Known for its cobblestoned streets, towering churches and sunsets brilliant enough to turn even the most novice of shutterbugs into Ansel Adams, San Miguel thankfully manages to maintain its irresistible charm despite the constant flow of tourists and expats. Sprawling luxury resorts, pristine galleries and top-notch restaurants keep posh travelers happy, while horseback-riding adventures, bustling artisan markets, and a seemingly endless strain of parades and outdoor festivals add all the color one town could possibly muster.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Thrill seekers should bypass Melbourne and Sydney, and head directly to Queenstown, a small southeastern New Zealand town with a whole lot of adrenaline-pumping pluck. Located smack-dab between Lake Wakatipu's sandy shores and the snow capped Remarkables mountains, activity options for the outdoors-inclined are truly endless. It’s not uncommon for travelers to go from bungee jumping off a sky-high bridge at 10 a.m. to hitting the links at one of five award-winning golf courses at 3 p.m. before finishing up the day with a sunset wine tasting at a vineyard.
Asheville, North Carolina
Forget Wilmington’s beaches and UNC’s stadiums. Asheville is, without a doubt, North Carolina’s best-kept secret. The mountainous college town is bursting with life everywhere you look, from Hacky Sack-tossing hippies (yes, they still exist) to beer snobs frequenting the city’s award-winning breweries. Local farmers blend in with tourists and paint-spattered artists on hilly streets lined with galleries, record shops, beer bars, live-music joints and some of the country’s top restaurants.