Book Early or Book Late?
It’s a dilemma that many of us have faced when planning our summer getaway. In order to secure the best possible price for your hotel, should you book early, or wait and take a chance on a last minute booking?
There are no easy answers to this question of course, and the answer can often simply be ‘it depends’. However, you can make savings, but first you need to have some understanding of how the industry works.
Explaining how the industry works is in itself a challenge, and the can of worms I’ve just opened are now busily wriggling all over my keyboard. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a go, and to make the task easier we’ll create ourselves a scenario.
The scenario is this. You are planning a summer family getaway for two weeks in July this year (if you’re in the southern hemisphere I trust you’ll make the necessary date adjustments); so, do you book now, wait until six weeks or so ahead of arrival or wait until the very last minute?
Hotels have various contractual arrangements with travel agencies and tour operators. There are guarantee contracts; whereby a tour company will effectively reserve a specified number of rooms for a specified period of time and will pay for those rooms regardless of whether they fill them or not. In these circumstances, the room rates are usually quite low and the tour operator has a great deal of room for movement as far as price is concerned.
Put simply, if a package tour operator has five rooms unsold in a hotel and they also have sufficient seats on the aircraft, then it automatically follows that as the date approaches they will reduce the cost in order that they simply fill a room that they are obliged to pay for anyway. This is your classic ‘late deal’, travel companies selling holidays at a loss because they would lose even more by not selling them at all.
So, if you like your holidays all nicely packaged up, then there is a lot to be said for booking late; you’re almost certain to pick up a bargain holiday somewhere, providing of course you’re not too fussy about where you actually end up.
The problem of course is that package holiday companies are disappearing at an alarming rate, there are not many left in truth and thus the amount of choice and potential for late deals continues to diminish. Not only that, travel with a package tour company these days and there is no guarantee it will exist by the time you come back. A situation best avoided.
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