Over the years I’ve found you can save quite a bit of money, and often get a bunch of perks if you plan and book your trip ahead of time. I’ve used travel agents and booked online, and in the last 5 years I’ve found great deals myself online and exclusively book that way now.
Now if you are booking online there are two standard ways to purchase a vacation, as a package where you are getting the flight and hotel together, or paying for each on its own. Generally if you book as a package you would save money on the cost of booking each item at that time individually, but there are many reasons for not booking a package, like redeeming frequent flyer miles for a free flight, or booking your hotel farther in advance than airlines sell tickets for flights.
Why book a hotel farther out than flights are sold?
Well some hotels especially in the Carribean offer their best rates well in advance, and a few chains will give you the current years rates if you book a return trip before the next years rates are published. Seeing as rates almost always increase from year to year, this is one way to lock in a lower rate if you are a frequent traveller.
Now even if your not planning return trips already, booking well in advance for places that have good reviews and generally sell out is recommended for the following reasons.
1. You get a room at a place you desire. I’ve waited too long before and had to settle for my second or third hotel and even destination choice before, don’t let this happen to you.
2. Get the best rates, as these popular hotels book up the rates rise as they get closer to their maximum capacity.
3. Special offers, such as spa packages, gift shop or casino credits are offered as incentives to early bookers at the lowest rates for the year when you book early. This is your best chance to get hundreds of dollars worth of perks. For a week stay in Jamaica I’ve seen a $500 dollar spa/gift shop perk added in. I know only a few wise travelers got that deal.
4. New years, or other special holidays. If you are planning that new years eve Vegas getaway, or a nice romantic escape and want to do it over new years, book early as possible, hotels do and will sell out.
Now with that said, if your looking for something to do this weekend and don’t want to pay high last minute rates at hotels, check out hotwire, or priceline where you can pay lower rates on hotels that have a certain rating, but you don’t know which hotel you are getting until after you pay. The perfect way to save a lot of money when you don’t book ahead as long as you don’t mind staying at a hotel in a certain radius of a city, with a minimum star rating.
Now airfare is a similar situation, avoid booking at the last minute, it only assures you will be paying high ticket prices, airlines can do this because business travellers have to get around and often can’t plan ahead of time and can bear the cost of the highest rates. I recommend checking out ITA Matrix and using their calendar of lowest fares to view your trip and get the lowest rates possible. Then check prices on expedia and compare around, often they have the best prices.
So have fun and enjoy your trip.