As a self-proclaimed extreme planner, I LOOOOOOVVVE to plan and coordinate things out far in advance. Everything from meals to workouts, get togethers with friends and family and of course travel. And I don’t mean planning a summer vacation in March of the same year; I’m usually planning (and booking) trips sometimes a year or more in advance.
And you might be thinking – well duh, you do this for a living. Your job is to be the planner, to think of every, last detail and to chart the course for any type of trip for your clients.
Planning makes a lot of people I know cringe.
How and why would I want to plan out so much of your life?
Well, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of last minute weekend getaways and even our trip to Peru that I planned only a month in advance (that was cutting it a bit close for me!) But there are a few reasons why I think it’s important to plan your travel farther out than you’d like, even if you are a procrastinator or proponent of winging it.
- Studies have shown that the lead up to a trip is often as enjoyable as the actual trip itself.
- It allows more time to budget, save, plan and pay for trips so everything is paid off before you go, allowing the trip to be that much less stressful. Who wants to come home to a large credit card bill?
- You can save money on the trip itself. Now some of you may think – wait, what about last minute deals? Well last minute deals typically come with a lot of stipulations and not a lot of choice and customization. Sometimes companies will even book you on this year’s rates before they go up for the next year.
- You can book exactly what you want. Want a specific oceanview, infinity pool, concierge level room at an all-inclusive resort? Sometimes even waiting 6 months prior to going you’ll be left with whatever room types haven’t been booked up. And I’m not talking the standard level rooms – sometimes just the Presidential Suite will be left during peak times of years and unless you’re willing to pony up a lot of cash, you’ll be sacrificing getting what you want.
- This also goes for flights – want the nonstop flight or the one that doesn’t require a 20-hour layover? Sometimes not waiting until the last minute gives you more choices for flight times, choice of seat, etc.
- Tours, restaurants and any other activity that requires a reservation or a ticket can be secured in advance. Hands down the best restaurant I have ever been to in my life was at Carte Blanche in Aruba. Reservations open 6 months in advance for this restaurant and unless you’re waiting by your computer on the day 6 months prior, you’ll be hard pressed to secure a spot. Missing out on that type of epicurean experience would have been disappointing if it weren’t for pre-planning very far in advance.
So, what is the ideal amount of time to book a trip in advance? Actually, location and type of trip really determine that.
For international travel, I would recommend at least 6-12 months out, especially if you’re thinking of going for more than a week. That means all the research (that a travel professional can do for you!) would already need to be completed, an itinerary put together and you ready to pull the trigger that many months in advance to pay any deposits and reserve all the components.
This also gives you time to get any required immunizations, visas, required clothing, etc.
Booking a cruise it is recommended anywhere from 18 months out to a week before – this really depends on the popularity of the cruise itinerary, cruise line, or cruise ship. The more in demand, the farther out you’ll want to book to get the sailing date, cabin and amenities you’re looking for; in addition, some sailings that have a short window for the season, such as Alaskan cruises that are best May to September need to be booked almost a year in advance.
Cruises over the holidays book up fast and ideally should be planned for 8-12 months in advance.
And then there are the specialty cruises – around the world cruises that surprisingly book up within days of sailings being released, to the one cruise ship – the Queen Mary 2 on the Cunard Lines that allows your pets on board for transatlantic sailings – this particular cruise books up more than 2 years in advance.
Cruise itineraries are typically released 18 months to 2 years in advance and may have early bird specials. Even if you’re concerned about other deals and the price dropping, working with a travel professional may come in handy. For example, I have access to software called Cruise Watcher that notifies me anytime a cruise fare has gone down, allowing me to pass along those savings as many times as that happens.
Then there’s trips that are planned around specific events –
All of these, and more, have to be considered 1-2 years in advance.
With so many people wanting to travel during a short window of time, this is when planning is truly on your side.
How far in advance do you book your travel?
Comment below and let me know what works for you!