Is planning a vacation last minute a good idea? Depends. Not if you really are trying to have your best experience. I think many people either don’t realize that planning in advance can work to their advantage, or they believe that all the best deals are found last minute. That’s simply not true. Planning in advance allows you to craft the perfect trip to suit your tastes, and gives you access to everything your trip should encompass. You aren’t settling, you are able to set the tone for your perfect trip.
My travel planning strategy does not depend on finding the biggest discounts and clearance prices. Why? Promotions for the most part are not predictable and it is exceedingly difficult to make a plan based on chance. If this is your big holiday for the year or maybe you only have a big holiday every couple of years, planning in advance allows you to design the trip you have always dreamed of and avoid making compromises on various elements of your trip . If there is an opportunity to take advantage of a promotion during the process of planning your trip, that is fantastic-- you get to save money, or you can use the savings to splash out on another area of your holiday (upgrade your accommodations, add in a special experience, or go out for a nice supper).
So, the question to ask is when is the optimal time to start planning your next vacation? There are 3 main things to consider when deciding how far in advance you should begin planning, and booking all the necessary components.
1. Where you are going. Ideal planning times firstly depend on the destination. International trips require more lead time than domestic trips, and trips to Europe should be booked far more in advance than a trip to the Caribbean. Oftentimes, this mirrors the timeline for ideal flight purchasing guidelines as well.
2. What season you are traveling in. Most places will have a definitive high season, shoulder season, and low season. The busyness of high season requires advanced planning for obvious reasons, and shoulder season as well, even at a slightly lesser degree. If you are traveling to a destination during low season, this is when you have a lot more leeway. It is also important to be aware of major local holidays, events or festivals because they can occur in a mid or low season and still majorly affect availability of accommodation and other services.
3. How much you care about creating your ideal experience? What normally happens when you book last minute, especially during high or shoulder season, is that you are not able to plan your perfect trip, you are settling for what’s left. I’ve put together a great proposal for a trip a few times this year, only to have to come back the next day and say that the last room was booked at a particular property, or that unique experience is no longer available.
Timing of travel planning is something that I personally struggle with, logically I know it is better to plan in advanced (for all of the reasons I have described above), but there is definitely a part of me that wants to drop everything and jump on a plane and spontaneously leap into my next adventure (I think this impulse stems from my backpacking days where I discovered a much lighter and more spontaneous version of myself). Or at the very least I want a shorter gap between planning and departure say one or two months instead of six or seven. It really comes down to the impulse to shake up my overthinking, overly structured self in the best way I know-- finding myself in a new place.
But I digress-- As for last minute holidays or grabbing a great deal, I do believe that type of travel has its place. While I don't recommend using last minute travel strategy for your big, long dreamed of trips, I do believe the "deals" are great for spontaneous, "need to get away" holidays. A seat sale popped up-- grab it and enjoy a long weekend somewhere new! I wholeheartedly believe that a mix of well planned holidays and last minute travel makes for a very healthy travel life.