Some people are planners – they love to get everything in place, safe and secure, before they even contemplate starting on the next step. And some people are Pantsers – literally, they ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ as the Americans say, they’re impulsive, and plans mean nothing to them. For a lot of the time, these two types of people live entirely different lives – one a little more cautious, one a little more spontaneous … but one thing they have in common is the love of a good holiday. After all, who doesn’t enjoy getting away from it all and adding some adventure, some spice, and some good old fashioned relaxation to life?
The good news for everyone is that holidays can be booked well in advance) allowing plenty of time to plan an itinerary, pack everything (and then some) and prepare to get away from it all), or they can be snapped up last minute (sometimes with just days to go before it’s time to take to the air). So everyone’s happy. But who gets the better deal? What are the pros and cons of booking a last minute getaway compared to waiting half a year or more to fly off into the sunshine?
When Do You Have To Go?
Sometimes it’s not a matter of when you want to go on holiday, but when you can. For those with school aged children, time is limited, and those few weeks in the height of summer, or during the Easter break, get booked incredibly quickly. If you want to take the kids with you, and you don’t want them to miss school (which, along with potentially disrupting their education can land you in a lot of trouble, and includes a fine) then booking as early as possible is key. And it’s not just for those with little ones either; some jobs have restrictions on holidays too. If you can only spare a couple of weeks at certain times of the year, it’s best to book in advance and not run the risk of disappointment.
If it doesn’t matter when you leave the country, or you’ve chosen to go specifically when the school holidays are over, then you might want to wait for a last minute bargain – since these dates are less likely to get booked up quickly (if at all), the holiday companies often – but not always – sell them off at low prices the closer it gets to departure. They would rather make a little money than none at all, so you can make the most of it.
Do You Want To Gamble?
How long can you hold your nerve? It isn’t necessarily true that the longer you wait the less you’ll pay – and sometimes waiting it out means missing the bargains that you’ll get when booking early (travel operators sometimes pull holiday makers in with early bird offers – that way they know they’ve sold the packages and can work on their budgets). According to the Daily Mail based on statistics from well known travel companies, the best time to book your holiday in order to get the best price is 53 days prior to departure.
If you’d rather play it safe and book a holiday as soon as it goes on sale, you might actually get a better deal. It’s tricky to tell, though, as market forces determine the costs, and prices can go up or down… So it’s a gamble, pure and simple. Sometimes it pays to wait it out and dive in at the last moment. Other times… not so much. You have to do what’s comfortable for you. The independent traveller has some great tips on how to plan some aspects of your holiday so that if moments present themselves you can be more spontaneous and do things on a whim, while still enjoying the comforts of your pre-booked hotel.
If you book a holiday six, eight, or twelve months in advance, you’ve got time to make sure you and everyone flying with you is ready to go. You can sort out your passports (renewing those that are almost expired, or applying for the kids’ first passports if need be) with time to spare, you can save up your spending money, you can work out exactly what it is you want to do when you get to your chosen destination. For planners, this is exactly how a holiday should be; relaxed, organised, and taken care of in advance. For those who have left enough time you can apply for your passport renewal either online or via the post office. Typical time-scales are around 3-4 weeks for the renewal process.
For pantsers, however, that’s just not the way it’s supposed to work! Book one day, fly the next, that’s their motto (or something like it). And for many that works perfectly well. For a few unfortunate souls, though, it doesn’t. Holiday booked, bag hastily packed, these things can be done, but if you haven’t saved up enough cash to see you through your break away, things could get uncomfortable pretty quickly. And have you checked your passport lately? You know where it’s kept (hopefully), but do you know if it’s in date? And if it’s about to expire will that get you to your destination and back without hassle and embassies being involved?
It happens. And no amount of travel insurance will fix that. If you do need to renew a passport quickly, there are two services on offer a 1 Day Premium & 1 Week Fast Track Service, you can see more information on urgent passport renewal at the passport office website, please bear in mind however that there is additional cost for these services, and they cannot be used if it is your first British passport.
Money, Money, Money
Speaking of cost, booking in advance has the benefit of giving you the option to pay the entire cost of the holiday, or to pay a small deposit and spread the rest of the cost over a number of months. This can be a great way to enjoy an affordable holiday without paying by credit card or taking out a loan and finding out that the interest rate is simply painful.
With a last minute break you’ll need to pay everything all at once, and using any form of credit means you’ll be paying for that holiday well after you’ve gone back to work. But if you hold your nerve and book at the right time, you could save money by nabbing a deal.
It’s a difficult decision, and there are pros and cons for both ways of going about it.
The reality is, planners will never want to book last minute, and pantsers will never want to book in advance, I feel that overall it is always best to plan certain aspects of your trip especially if you are travelling with children! Things like travel insurance and foreign currency should always be sorted out in advance at least then you can continue to enjoy your well-earned break safe in the knowledge that at least some things are planned to protect you.