In general, the best time to book a summer holiday to Europe and long-haul flights are in the first 3 months of the year, January to March. There are numerous early year sales by travel agents, eager to drive early booking volumes. As a result prices are generally cheaper, especially if you’re booking for a popular period such as Easter or the summer holidays.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t find an even cheaper deal when booking closer to the time you want to jet off. Last minute deals are a great way to save money, however they are more difficult to find. The time of day can also make a difference to the price of your holiday. Confused.com have an excellent article here that explains the cheapest day and time of the week to book your holiday.
January to March is 100% the best time to book a summer holiday if you can answer yes to any of the following questions:
- Are your dates restricted to kid’s school holiday or other popular holidays?
Travel dates and destinations with a lot of demand get booked up quickly, prompting travel booking companies to increase their prices gradually as more seats fill. Demand is low in January – March as a lot of people book last minute. Low demand means lower prices and you should take advantage of this. If your dates are restricted to the UK kid’s summer holidays, the best time to book your holiday is as soon as the new year starts! Look out for deals from January 1st.
- Are you booking your hotel and flights separately yourself?
Flights are almost always cheaper when you book at least 4 months in advance and you can grab a bargain hotel deal in the January sales. Take advantage of this and book as early as possible. You could even book a ‘Buy now, Pay later’ refundable rate hotel and re-book it with elsewhere if you find it cheaper later on.
- Are you flying to a destination that has limited flights from your chosen airport?
The likes of Heathrow, Stansted and Manchester have an abundance of flights and plenty of choice. However, if you’re flying from a smaller regional airport, seats on the plane are limited and prices generally don’t fluctuate too much once you near the flight date as they’re likely to be filling up fast. Be the first to secure your seat and take advantage of cheaper prices.
- Are you flying long-haul?
The January sales are a great time to book long-haul flights. Airlines worldwide offer discounted flights throughout the month, particularly around Boxing day to January 1st and the January pay-day weekend at the end of the month. These long-haul flight sales are sometimes hit or miss depending on your destination. Our advice? Check anyway, it’s worth a shot!
The upfront cost:
The major turn-off for booking a holiday between January and March is the upfront cost required. Christmas has just passed and for most of us, shelling out £££ on a holiday can be difficult. Here are some great ways to help you pay and ensure you take advantage of the early booking deals.
In-store travel agents have always offered ‘deposit now, pay the rest later’ packages and now you can do the same online too. Travel Republic offer £1 deposit options, On the Beach have deposits from £50 per person and many other package operators do the same. Simply pay the deposit and then the rest of the money a month or two before you fly. If you decide to cancel you just lose the deposit.
Buy now pay later hotels
You may prefer to book your accommodation and flights yourself for flexibility and a cheaper cost. If this is the case, why not pay for your flights upfront and then take advantage of a hotel booking website ‘buy now pay later’ option. Most if not all of the big booking websites offer this option. It can sometimes cost a little bit more than the ‘pay now’ option but it’s well worth it if you need more time to save. You can also cancel and book another hotel if you find a cheaper or better option. We recommend Hotels.com, Agoda, Booking.com and Expedia.
0% interest credit cards
Booking a full holiday on a credit card can be a tempting and risky business. However, if you’re smart and only use the card for the holiday and then pay it off gradually before you jet off, it can be a great money saver.
Sign up for one of the many 0% interest cards on the market and aim to pay of X amount per month until you travel. That way you can spread the cost and don’t pay the high interest you’d be charged on a normal credit card. We recommend destroying the card after paying for the holiday so you won’t be tempted to purchase anything else on it.
Compare the best 0% credit cards on Money Saving Expert here.
Save up pre-Christmas
Putting money aside on a monthly basis as soon as you return from your previous holiday can be a very smart way of paying off next year’s holiday. You’ll get into a routine of saving and gradually won’t notice that you don’t have the money. We recommend opening up a separate ‘holiday’ savings account and setting up a standing order of X amount per month. You may not be able to save the same amount every month but every little helps. You could also use an app such as Chip where you can automatically put money aside each month to save for a big purchase. See a full list of top money saving apps here.
A note on booking your flights and accommodation separately:
We’re a strong advocate of booking your holiday online as separate components instead of as part of a package or using a travel agent. It allows you more freedom for visiting different places, a better choice of hotels and can be significantly cheaper if you do it right!
Check out our booking guides below:
Tips for finding the best prices when booking your holiday:
1. Monitor prices regularly
Using a price monitoring tool such as the Skyscanner flight tracker can be a great way of regularly checking prices and swooping in to book once they drop to an attractive price. Simply do a search on Skyscanner here and click the button to set a ‘price drop tracker’ and select your route and dates. You’ll then be notified of price increases and decreases via email. You should also check regularly yourself a few times a week. On the train to work and have some spare time? Browse Trivago to compare hotel prices and note down changes.
2. Fly out mid-week for cheaper flight prices
Friday to Sunday are the most popular times to fly out to holiday destinations, whilst Monday and Tuesday are generally in a lot less demand. Change your search dates to early weekdays and watch the prices drop.
3. Fly outside of the UK summer, Easter and Bank Holiday weekends if you can
It’s not always possible to due work, family and school commitments, but wherever you can, try and fly outside of the key UK holiday dates. These high demand dates almost always have inflated prices due to the high demand. These holidays include:
The August school summer holidays
The week before and after Easter
Bank holiday weekends
The February and October half term weeks
Between Christmas and new year
4. Go for an unusual amount of time
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, the key to securing the best prices is to travel outside of dates and times with peak demand. The main lengths of stay for holidays are 7 nights, 10 nights, 14 nights and weekend breaks. Choosing an unusual amount of nights’ stay such as 9 or 15 nights or flying and returning on weekdays can be cheaper. Package holidays are usually set days so you’ll need to book accommodation and flights yourself for this tip.
5. Compare nearby airports
Another tip from our UK flight booking guide is to look at nearby airports instead of your usual local airport. Regional airports have less frequent flight routes and limited demand depending on the route. With so many flights departing from larger airports, you can often find very cheap airfare. Compare nearby airport prices for the same holiday. You could save hundreds of pounds for a family trip for the inconvenience of driving a little further to the airport.
Some examples for local airports with larger counterparts nearby include:
Leeds Bradford Airport > Manchester Airport
Sheffield Doncaster Airport > Manchester Airport
Durham Tees Airport > Newcastle Airport
Cardiff Airport > Bristol Airport
Norwich Airport > Stansted Airport
East Midlands Airport > Birmingham Airport
Our ‘best time to book a summer holiday’ guide is targeted to holiday-seekers looking to stay in Europe or book long-haul flights for a trip at least four months in advance. However, for some destinations it can be cheaper to book nearer the time or even further in advance. When booking Dubai for instance, the cheapest flight prices can be found around 2 months in advance of your departure.
The Independent has an excellent guide showing you how long in advance to book your hotel room in other worldwide destinations, to secure the best savings. Check it out here.
Do you have any questions about our article or want some help booking your holiday? Contact us. We’re happy to help!