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Old 10-21-2014, 08:42 PM
 
Location: Katy, TX
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How far in advance do you start planning for a vacation? By planning I mean, booking reservations, putting deposits down etc.

It seems like you'll get a better deal (and better selection) the earlier you book. The last minute deals are probably the cheapest but you are stuck with what is left.

I always feel like I'm paying for the next year's vacation before I even get to take this year's! Granted we do go on 3-4 vacations a year. Usually one big extravagant family trip, one couple getaway, one ski trip, and one or two family road trips (short distance).
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:02 AM
 
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For me it is usually relatively last minute meaning usually some time within the month before I go (although last time it was 6 weeks in advance which is unusual for me).
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Old 10-22-2014, 06:10 AM
 
Location: Gorgeous Scotland
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We buy airline tickets about 6 - 9 months ahead and as soon as we have them we book accommodation. And we go on long trips about 3 times a year as well as several shorter ones.
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Old 10-22-2014, 10:07 AM
 
Location: Seattle
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So much depends on the nature of your travel, your personal situation, and your traveling style.

When we were younger (retired now) we tended to be last-minute planners - throw some clothes into the car, blast off, or maybe a month in advance, book flights and a first-night hotel, stop the mail, and then take off, winging it as we went.

Then our travel started getting more ambitious - longer, more complicated trips where advance planning was more needed, due to, for example, a narrow range of accommodations where we were headed, or more complicated travel routes, etc.

Then around 10 years ago we discovered round-the-world airline tickets, and got addicted to the frequent flyer mileage game. This coincided with us developing a taste for business-class flying and a real desire to see far-away places.

A couple of features of RTW tickets is that (a) they're good for a year, and (b) they're priced very differently depending on where you begin and end the trip. They allow up to 16 flights, and in business class can end up costing less than $400 per flight. That may sound high for a flight between, say, Chicago and New York, but how about New York and Hong Kong? Or London to Sydney?

Anyway, we also discovered that a year's paid RTW flying earned us enough airline miles to "pay" for additional business- or first-class travel outside the ticket. One year's RTW ticket (16 flights) could generate enough miles for, say, 4 additional biz/first flights the following year, say (in our case) Seattle to Europe and back, or in one case, Argentina and Chile.

So we started paying for an RTW in year one, then using the earned miles in year two, then another RTW in year three, and so on. It works out quite economically - around $300 per segment, or a bit less, averaged out.

However, RTW tickets require a considerable amount of planning. (They're quite flexible; you can change dates and itinerary much more cheaply and easily than conventional tickets, but you do have to travel around the world.)

Because they're cheaper to buy overseas (cheapest places for us at the moment are South Africa, Japan and Egypt/Israel/Jordan) they actually work for multiple vacations per year. For example, we would start in South Africa (use miles to get there) and go on a safari before the ticket starts, they fly to Australia for a second period (visited the Great Barrier Reef, also the Great Ocean Road.) Then we'd fly home to the US and resume working. The ticket allows several segments within North America (which includes the Caribbean and Central America) so we'd use it for business trips to New York, or get-togethers with friends in Alaska, or to the Caribbean for a winter sun break, whatever. Then, later, we'd head to Europe for another holiday, visiting Scandinavia, or family in Israel (considered part of Europe) before returning to South Africa where the ticket would end. (Maybe another brief visit to Cape Town or another safari.) Miles to get home, then the following year use some miles for a trip to Scotland, or make that year's vacations domestic - car trips, maybe. Then the next year, back to Africa and start all over.

Thus we leverage one ticket into three, or four, or even five separate vacations, spread out over a couple of years.

But this requires a lot more planning than the throw-the-bag-into-the-car sort of travel. We've started doing two- or three-year "strategic" travel plans - not so much the nitty gritty details, but more of a scheduled bucket list attack. Want to go to Easter Island? Okay, where does it fit into the next two years? How about autumn leaves in Hokkaido, or the midnight sun in northern Norway? Chart it out.

This works for us, and won't for a great many people. But I think the idea of an outline plan - an attack on the bucket - is an idea that can work for many people.
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Old 10-22-2014, 11:51 AM
 
Location: Sanford, NC
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I never pre plan anything. I know where I'm going to get to sooner or later and I don't worry about it....
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Gorgeous Scotland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by builder24car View Post
I never pre plan anything. I know where I'm going to get to sooner or later and I don't worry about it....
Wouldn't work for us. We often go to places during high season (winter in warm climate) and if we don't book ahead we'll end up staying in some dump as all the good ones will be full.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:12 PM
 
Location: Orlando
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When my husband was alive and healthy, we traveled a lot. We were both working good jobs that gave us lots of time off, and we used all our vacation time. We traveled in Europe a lot, and also in the US.

For me, planning the trip is as enjoyable as the actual travel; in fact, I enjoy a trip less if I've had less time to plan it. So we usually made our travel plans months in advance. We did one trip with Road Scholar (f/k/a Elderhostel) to Tuscany, including a week of cooking classes. That was one of Road Scholars' most popular trips, so we had to book it almost a year in advance to be sure of getting in.

We always bought trip insurance too, in case we'd have to cancel.

I travel much less now, but I still like to have plenty of planning time. A couple of months ago, I booked a cruise for May 2015.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:19 PM
 
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Usually decide the itinerary 3-4 months in advance and book flight tickets at the same time. Flight ticket price usually rises after that. It doesn't necessarily save money if you book 12 or 9 months in advance. Often airlines don't release discount fare that early.

Hotel arrangement depends but relying on the last minute deals is not a good solution. Often there is none. I usually reserve hotels and only choose the ones that can be canceled so that if you find better deals, you can always change. Try priceline and hotwire if it is a popular place with ample supply. You could save a lot.

Of course I am talking about cross continent trips. Smaller trips (flights under 5 hours) don't need that much planning.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:21 PM
 
10,847 posts, read 11,260,811 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WellShoneMoon View Post

We always bought trip insurance too, in case we'd have to cancel.
As far as I know you can only cancel for free under very specific circumstances (sudden sickness, death of a family member etc.) If you simply changed your mind because you don't want to go any more or wanted to visit a difference place, or because it will rain, I don't think the insurance will help.

This is why I never buy such insurance.
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Old 10-22-2014, 12:34 PM
 
Location: City of Angels
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I never book in advance. Currently at the airport waiting to board a flight that I booked 10 hours ago. Will wait to book my hotel until I land at my destination. This is business travel though. But even for vacations, I can't recall ever booking more than a couple days in advance.
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