It’s that time of year again when most people’s minds turn to New Year resolutions, the next credit card statement and of course the inevitable where to go on this year’s holiday and, equally importantly — when to book it? Many people still mistakenly think that if you are flexible in when you can take your annual leave and are also a bit of a gambler then it is always worth your while to leave it until the last possible moment as you’re then more likely to be able to avail of some ‘distressed inventory’. Whilst this is partially true when it comes to charter programmes, the reverse is true when it comes to scheduled flight services, at least most of the time!
If you’re planning to book your flights separately from your other travel components such as accommodation, transfers, attractions, car-hire etc., and if those flights are going to be on either a scheduled legacy (e.g. Aer Lingus, British Airways, United Airlines) or low-cost carrier, then my advice is to book as soon as you have firmed up your travel dates and are in a position to commit as the general rule of thumb is that they will only get more expensive as time goes on whereas the reverse tends to be the case where chartered air product is concerned as that is seen as a more perishable product. Having said that, this assumes there is going to still be availability left for the dates that you want and that is unlikely to be the case this year, as it was in 2016 because of the huge displacement caused by security concerns in places such as Turkey that have always been traditionally popular with Irish holidaymakers.
Tourism figures for Turkey were down between 31% and 40% in 2016 and all that capacity has had to be absorbed by more traditional markets such as Spain, Portugal, France and Italy as millions of European (and Russian) travellers have had to change their holiday plans due to increased anxiety over further terrorist concerns. Because there are a finite number of destinations that people prefer to go to and which tick the multiple boxes of proximity, guaranteed sun, relatively cheap, high accommodational standards, safety, good shopping, dining out and nightly entertainment, the list of alternative destinations that holidaymakers tend to choose is much smaller than you might think.
Will you secure something if you don’t book it soon — probably — but at what price and what quality? To put it another way: Imagine that it is the first day of the January Sales and you wander into a shop about an hour before they are due to lock up for the day. Would you seriously expect any of the best deals, offers or bargains to be still available? Of course not! It’s no different with travel services, other than the longer timescale involved. My advice for all intending travellers is this year is to either:
- Book as soon as is practicable, particularly as the deposits required on some bookings is quite low with Royal Caribbean being a good case in point with deposits being just 30 for any bookings made by March 6th.
- Speaking of Royal Caribbean, you might also consider 2017 to be the year when you try out cruising for the first time as there are some great bargains to be had for early bookers with all the major cruise companies such as Royal, Celebrity, Azamara, Oceania, Silversea, Hurtigruten and of course MSC Cruises who probably lead the field in price-competitive cruise holidays!
They say that the early bird gets the worm so who am I to argue with such sage advice!