Whether you're suffering from the winter blues or simply want to get organised for 2018, there's nothing quite like booking a holiday to lift your spirits.
Whether you're after all-inclusive holidays, cheap holidays, family holidays or even staycations, there's an abundance of breaks on offer - but sometimes it can feel like a daunting task to search out the best deals.
And then there's when to book. Do you book as early as possible? Is it better to hang on and chase a bargain later in the year?
And when is the best time bag cheap flights?
Mirror Travel teamed up with TravelSupermarket’s travel expert Bob Atkinson to work out how to navigate the forest of offers to help you plan your next holiday.
Stuck with school holidays?
If you have school-age children, then you are of course already restricted to when you can make a break for it with the kids.
Or you may work in education and just have to go at this time – or not at all. So getting it right when it comes to booking Easter, summer or half-term breaks in May or October is essential.
The rules are simple – book before the end of February to stand a chance of getting the holiday you want without having to compromise. You already know that going away in the school holidays is more expensive, so there is no point in having to settle for second best by picking from what is left at the last minute.
On top of that, you’ll find the prices for family-based hotels with the facilities you want for a stress-free trip tend not to get discounted, so book now to insure against holiday disaster.
The big tour operators, such as TUI and Thomas Cook, often offer free child places or prices from as little as £1, online booking discounts and low deposits to help you get the best price.
Meanwhile Virgin Holidays often hosts flash sales with discounted packages to a whole host of exotic destinations.
Just ensure you compare the total costs of each option before booking and when payments are due.
For summer holidays, it's worth checking out online travel agents such as Travel Republic, OnTheBeach or LoveHolidays; they tend to use low-cost flights for beach destinations, and the only direction that prices go for the peak summer dates is up. So get in early before prices start to escalate.
Bob’s Top Tip: Opt for the middle weeks of the school holidays rather than the beginning or end and avoid travelling at weekends to keep costs as low as possible.
Can go any time
If you know what you want, then don’t waste another minute.
Get online, visit high street travel agents too, and plan that trip as soon as you can.
Compare all the prices and deals on offer and get that booking made.
Even if prices do come down at a later date, you’ll have secured what you want at a price you were happy to pay – and will now have something to look forward to.
If you’re planning on waiting until nearer the time, then you’ll need to steel yourself for the roller coaster ride of looking for a deal.
If you play the game well, then off-peak package holiday prices can often drop like a stone, with the best last-minute deals being found for travelling to the Med in May and June or in September and October.
The biggest reductions in recent years have been to Greece, as well as to the Spanish Costas.
One of the best-value times for a two-week, last-minute deal is to travel out on August bank holiday, when a fortnight in the sun can be reduced by as much as 70%, providing there are still seats on the plane.
These reduced prices tend to be found within six to 12 weeks of departure.
Check holidays you like the look of daily to plot what is happening price-wise.
Bob’s Top Tip: Sign up to all the email newsletters from your favourite airlines and operators to ensure you know when seat sales start.
Long Haul holidays
It’s definitely sale time with a raft of deals on offer – but the best prices tend to be for departures from March to June.
Why is that?
It’s simply down to the fact that a large part of the holiday cost is driven by the air fare, and airlines currently have some great sales on to attract passengers for those months.
So companies such as Kuoni and British Airways Holidays pass on those savings in the form of price reductions. It’s vital you compare all the deals on offer and you are unlikely to find any huge savings on trips at Easter at this late stage.
If you’re planning to travel later in the year, then it may pay to hold back and wait for better airline deals – although summer dates to places such as the USA and Canada are unlikely to get any cheaper.
Bob’s Top Tip: Be sure to compare various airline options as part of your long-haul break. Firms such as Expedia, Netflights and ebookers often give you a choice of airline where you can trade off direct flight, service and comfort against better pricing and indirect routes.
Last minute breaks
A fix of winter sun could be just the tonic after the excesses of Christmas and New Year. Or maybe you fancy the thrill of some winter sports action on the slopes?
Either way, last-minute prices are on offer for departures almost through to Easter so if you are ready to go, then get online for the best deals now.
Mainstream destinations, such as the Canaries, Red Sea and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands, offer some of the best savings with deals of up to 60% off brochure prices with the big tour operators.
Tunisia, Malta and the Spanish Costas are on offer from around £125 upwards for a week’s winter sun. Even ski and snowboard breaks can be found from as little as £250 for
self-catering trips to France (but don’t forget to add lift passes and any equipment hire to those costs).
Bob’s Top Tip: Organise your travel insurance, holiday money and airport parking all online before you go using a comparison site to get the best possible prices. You’ll save
January is a fantastic time to book a short break to a fascinating city for travel before the summer. Airlines have sales on now and before flights fill up you can pick up some amazing prices to popular places, especially in Europe.
If you can avoid weekend travel, then you’ll shave more off your flight. And if you can stay on a Sunday night, you’ll often find hotel prices for that night are lower.
Bob’s Top Tip: Book now for Easter and the two bank holidays in May. The earlier you do so the better the price you’ll get as demand always outstrips supply.
If you are travelling after summer, then holding off until spring may pay dividends. However, this is a gamble, so if you’re stuck with dates, then don’t wait – book now.