There are lots of ways to save money on a holiday abroad. One effective way of cutting costs is to consider how far in advance you book your hotel and flights.
Booking early (over six months in advance) is a common way to save costs. Many hotels and airlines offer early bird deals to those that are willing to commit far ahead.
Booking last minute (less than a month in advance) can also make an impact. In the last few weeks, many hotels and airlines slash their prices as a way of quickly filling up any available rooms and seats.
But which option is better? While both options can save you money, they each have their added benefits and drawbacks, which are worth taking into account. Here are just some of the pros and cons of each option.
You can pay in instalments
A major advantage of booking far ahead is that you can often pay in instalments. By spreading the overall cost out over several months, it can be more affordable than having to pay it all at once. The further ahead you book, the more instalments you’ll be able to pay.
You have more time to prepare
Booking early gives you lots of time to prepare. You can spend months shopping for swimwear to get the best deal, you can spend time shopping around for currency and you can easily look for a dog-sitter if necessary. You’re also more likely to get time off work by booking the time off early.
It gives you something to look forward to
Booking far in advance gives you something to get excited about in a year’s time. Ultimately, the holiday will be more rewarding when it finally comes around because you’ve waited so long for it.
Early bird discounts aren’t always guaranteed
Not all airlines and hotels offer early bird discounts. This means that you could end up spending just as much as you would were you to book a couple months in advance. It’s worth comparing prices when booking over six months in advance to prices three month in advance to see if there’s any major difference.
A lot can change in the next few months
Committing early has its drawbacks. A travel company or hotel could go bust, disease or political unrest could break out in a country making it unsafe, plus there could be personal events that happen in the next year that get in the way of your plans. You may not be able to get your deposit back once you’ve committed, so be wary of which companies you book with, which countries you plan to visit and who you plan to go with (if you’ve only been with a partner for a month, it could be a bit of a gamble to book a holiday with them for a year’s time).
Not all hotels/airlines allow you to book far ahead
Almost all hotels and airlines allow you to book six months in advance, however if you’re planning to book a holiday a year in advance you could find that some hotels and airlines don’t schedule this far ahead. This could result in limited options.
Booking Last Minute
Price cuts can be bigger than booking in advance
Price cuts can be huge when booking last minute. In some cases, you could save as much as 80% by booking in the last two weeks.
You can more accurately predict the weather
A great benefit of booking last minute is that you can get a more accurate idea of the weather. Using sites like AccuWeather, you may be able to see if a ski resort has good snow conditions or if a European beach resort is likely to get some winter sun. This is something you can’t predict as easily when booking in advance.
You don’t have as long to wait
You won’t have to wait as long to go on holiday when booking last minute. If you’re severely stressed out and in need of a break, a last minute holiday could be just what you need rather than having to wait several months to get that break.
You can’t pay in instalments
Even if you do manage to land huge discounts, you’ll have to pay the whole amount upfront when booking last minute as instalments won’t be an option. A way around this could be to take out a loan using a lender like Buddy Loans, allowing you to spread out the cost. Even with the added cost of interest, you could still spend a lot less overall than you were you book early with instalments. Just be wary that you’ll be paying off your holiday after you’ve been on it.
You have less time to plan and prepare
Booking last minute gives you less time to prepare. You may not have time to go shopping for holiday clothing or to book a dog-sitter if you have a dog. Some employers may not even allow you to book time off work at such short notice, which could be an obstacle.
There may be limited availability
Some hotels and flights may already be fully booked, which means you could have limited options when it comes to hotels and flights. You could also find that certain tours and activities are fully-booked – popular tours, restaurants and events sometimes need to be booked several weeks in advance.
So which is your best option?
Both booking early and booking last minute have their perks, but it may depend on the type of person you are as to which is better suited.
If you’re the type of person that likes to plan things far ahead and is generally very organised, you may find that booking early is better.
Meanwhile, if you’re the type of person that likes to be spontaneous and doesn’t need a lot of time to prepare, booking last minute could be the better option.
In each case, make sure you spend a lot of time doing your research. The more deals you compare, the more likely you are of finding that perfect cheap holiday abroad.