How Far Ahead Should You Book on Vacation?
We’ve talked about several “hot spots” where you can go for vacation. But one of the questions we haven’t addressed yet is: “How far ahead should you book reservations?” The answer is: It depends on where you are going. Some places, such as Destin, Florida and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, require that you book almost a year in advance! This is because it is such a popular area, especially during the summer months. So you need to get your reservation in way ahead of time in order to secure your much needed vacation.
While it will vary according to the destination you choose, how long you plan to be there, and other factors, here are a few hard and fast rules to remember when planning vacations and making reservations for your stay away from home:
- Consider the location where you are going. This is important, because some vacation spots fill up faster than the others. Destin, Florida has many beach houses, condos, and hotels. The beach houses and condos usually fill up faster than the hotels. There are also more hotels than beach houses, so you have more to choose from. But it would pay to do your research about this popular site (and also many other locations in Florida), before booking and always remember, the earlier the better.
- Check cancellation policies. It is important to know what the cancellation policies are for the place you are reserving. Some Florida beach houses have a 20% rule, which means that, even if you cancel in plenty of time, you still lose 20% or more of your original deposit, so you have to be committed to going before you invest your money. You may not get it back. Florida, of course, is not the only place that has this general policy and it is not true of all rental properties. But just check out the particular policies of your intended lodging before following through with making your reservation. Another option to consider is purchasing vacation insurance which can help ease and/or erase cancellation penalties in the event of sickness and other “uncontrollable” situations.
- Call the hotel and ask. Even though many hotels now use a third-party call center to book reservations these days, you can still find the local number to the hotel itself (front desk) and call to get to know their policies. Ask how busy they are during the times you plan to go and ask their advice on when you should book. They will usually be honest with you and give you some sound advice on how much time you should book in advance of your trip. There is nothing worse than showing up to your desired lodging only to find that AmericasMart, Comic-con, CES or another high profile event has booked all the (once) available rooms.
- Base it on your vacation fund. The reality is that you can only afford to make reservations in advance if you have the vacation cash saved up. And, like we said in an earlier post, we don’t recommend taking the funds out of your regular paycheck or income source. Instead, build a savings reserve for vacations and only book when you can afford to. For more information, please read the well received Skycap News articles entitled; 5 Ways to Save for Vacation and How to Budget a Great Vacation and Still Come Out Ahead. While some hotels and rentals only authorize your payment and do not charge until you get there or check out, this varies. So “check it out” before you “check in.”
So, when choosing how early to book your reservations, check your favorite travel news site, bank account, consider the location, check cancellation policies, and call the hotel and ask. Just a little homework ahead of time will save vacation money and stress later!