When Is the Best Time to Book Summer Travel?

By Dan Miller · March 28, 2023 · 5 minute read

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When Is the Best Time to Book Summer Travel?

The summer months are one of the most popular times to travel. Families with young children are often locked into summer travel due to school schedules. Even some adults have work schedules that make summer the most convenient time to travel. The upshot: Without proper planning, summer travel can be crowded, chaotic, and expensive.

While there isn’t a magic “best” time to book summer travel, there are a few things that can help ensure smooth sailing.

Things to Keep in Mind When Booking Summer Travel

For many top destinations, summertime is considered the peak season, when availability is at its lowest and prices are at their highest. If your timing is flexible, traveling during “shoulder” season (between peak and off-peak) can be easier.

You’ll also want to consider whether you’re willing to travel during special events or holidays like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc. Although it’s tempting to take advantage of a long holiday weekend, that’s what millions of other travelers will also be doing. You’ll find that it’s cheaper and less stressful traveling on a non-holiday weekend. And if you are traveling with pets, make sure your destination is pet-friendly and explore if there are any pet fees for where you are staying.

When to Book Flights for Summer

When to book flights depends on whether you’re looking to book domestic or international flights.

(One way families can afford to travel more is by choosing a closer destination where you can drive instead of fly.)

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Domestic Flights

For domestic summer travel, keep an eye on flights for several months before your planned trip. Many travel booking sites allow you to see historical prices for certain dates and routes. That can help you determine if the current price is higher or lower than average.

Before you book any flights, make sure you understand the change or cancellation policy for your ticket, and whether it’ll cost you to rebook.

International Flights

Booking international flights for summer travel can be tricky. Usually, you’ll want to book an international flight sooner than a similar domestic flight. If you wait until the last minute, you could see the price rise dramatically. Not having booked a flight may also cause problems with your visa, should one be required for the country you’re visiting.

Booking Hotels for Summer: Advance vs Last-Minute

Deciding whether to book your hotel for summer travel in advance or at the last minute depends on your personal preference. If you’re a planner, you may want to lock down your itinerary by booking your hotel early. However, you may be able to save money on hotels by waiting until closer to your travel dates.

You can try to capture the best of both worlds by booking early and then regularly monitoring your reservation. Many hotels allow free cancellations on reservations until only a few days before check-in. So you can reserve in advance, and then if the price goes down, just cancel your booking and book again at the lower price. Using credit card miles or cash back can be another way to save money on your hotel booking.

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How Far in Advance to Book Rental Cars for Summer

If you are renting a car for your summer travel, you can often use the same trick. It is common for many car rental places to offer the ability to book your rental car and pay at the counter. This form of book now pay later travel allows you to lock in a low rate for your rental car and then cancel and rebook if the price goes down afterward.

When to Book a Summer Cruise

Prices for cruises vary drastically based on a number of factors. The time of year, the cruise’s duration, your cabin choice, and how soon the cruise departs can all play a role in determining how much you’ll pay.

Prices for cruises may be low several months before departure and gradually rise, but it’s also common for cruise lines to offer “last-minute” specials to fill rooms that might otherwise go empty. If your life situation is such that you can decide to cruise at the drop of a hat, you may be able to pick up a cheap summer cruise.

Best Time to Book Tours, Sites, and Activities for Summer

It can be hard to book various activities for your trips until you have firm flights and hotels booked. But once you know for sure where you’ll be and when, you can start booking tours, events, and activities. It’s generally a good idea to book these sooner rather than later, since preferred dates and times can fill up fast. Keep your travel fund stocked, so you have enough money in your budget to do everything on your bucket list.

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The Takeaway

The summer months are some of the most popular times for travel, due to work and school schedules. But traveling to places everyone else wants to go when everyone else wants to go there will often lead to high prices and less availability. Being as flexible as you can with both your destination and travel dates can help.

Another good summer travel tip is to book cancellable reservations. Then you can regularly monitor prices and rebook if your plans change.

FAQ

When is the best time to book a trip?

Prices and availability vary based on the destination and season. Your best bet is likely to book as early as you can to ensure you get the flight, hotel, and activities you want. If prices come down, you can always cancel and rebook. Just make sure you understand the change/cancellation policies.

What is the cheapest month to travel in the summer?

If your heart is set on a summer vacation but your budget is tight, you’ll get more for your money by traveling during the “shoulder season” — in early or late summer. Travel in September can be especially nice, because the crowds have dispersed and the weather is still summery (but no longer sweltering). If you’re heading to a summer resort town, just make sure that your favorite haunts — restaurants, activities, etc — don’t shut down after Labor Day weekend.

When is the best time to buy airline tickets to Europe 2023?

If you’re flying from North America, book your European airline tickets as early as possible. More people are expected to travel in 2023 than in previous years. That means flights may book up more quickly, and prices rise. Unlike with domestic travel, you likely won’t find many last minute deals to Europe.


Photo credit: iStock/gradyreese

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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