It’s a conundrum all travelers will eventually have to face: book early, or wait to the last minute? Which form of trip planning will give you the best deals? There are those who swear it’s the early bird who catches the worm, while others will tell you it’s the last minute purchases that offer the biggest travel savings. As far as I’m concerned, both options can work to your advantage. You just have to know when to use them.
I recently got burned by waiting until the last minute to make important travel arrangements. When a friend told me she would be in Paris the weekend of September 12-13 I said, “Great! I’ll meet you there,” thinking I could wait until I was settled into life in Brussels before looking at ticket options and making my decision. By the time I got around to researching prices, round-trips were already too pricey for my weekend travel budget. To make matters worse, the train reservation sites were all advertising great Brussels – Paris deals…if you booked a month or more in advance. Nevertheless, there are travel websites out there that consistently offer great last minute deals. For example I’ve had success finding impressively low prices on normally out-of-range hotels with lastminute.com’s French site.
The Parisian weekend disappointment taught me a good lesson: if you have your heart set on a certain trip, book early. Start looking more than a month out, and if you see a price your comfortable with, go for it. What’s more, from what I can tell, booking early for train travel in Europe is almost always the way to get a good deal. On the other hand, if the mood to get out of town tomorrow strikes you, and you’re less concerned with the location than with the price, booking last minute doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll pay a fortune for your impulses. Have a few go-to discount travel sites on hand, be flexible, and get excited when you book a fabulous weekend jaunt without breaking the bank.
What’s your preferred travel style: book early, or buy last minute?