How to Book Early Enough, but Late Enough?
With late booking, there is a risk to lose the service, if we don't act in time. If you search late enough, you have high chances of finding last minute discounts... But if you're too late, then you might not find any more services available! They get sold-out quite fast, offers are limited.
The question is: how to book late enough and early enough as well? Let's call it a "booking safety interval" within which you'll have to act in order to grab the service. This interval varies from service to service.
For instance, cruises have a larger booking safety interval, while with flights it's a shorter one and with hotels and rental cars it's the shortest.
When to Book Last Minute?
We advise you to start looking 14 days early, then you may stop your search the day before departing. The closer you are getting to the departure time set, the higher the risk is to encounter sell-out (others buy published offers up).
Most late offers start appearing 30-14 days before departure. After them, new ones are added at about 10 and 7 days before departure. This is the ideal time to book. The cheapest offers and the widest selection of services are available within this interval. But, late offers don't stop here.
Of course, you may risk booking 3-4 days before departure as well. The higher the risk, the bigger the discounts, but don't count on blind luck, if you're burning to take a dream trip! Some offers might be published as little as 24 hours before departure, but don't count on finding anything great that late!
Although, if you are a lonely traveler or a flexible group of people looking for "just an escape", then it might be the case to grab an offer just a day before the trip!
If you see a good offer, grab it! They won't be around for long!
What to Avoid, Risks
Don't take "last minute" literally. It should be called "last week" rather, because in the last 2-3 days the risk is the highest and on the last day the risk is extremely high not to find any more services available.
Don't get too close to the departure date. We believe that being 3 days from it is already very risky. But, it also depends on the type of service that you are looking for. A rental car's price can drop 24 hours before and, if you already have your flight and hotel booked, then you can indeed risk reserving the vehicle so late.
Early-discounted services: the ones that you can grab soonest
A particular case is with cruises. Last minute cruise offers start appearing as early as 3 months before departure. It's a service that you can book well in advance. For further details, please refer to our late cruise deals advice page for thorough information on this issue.
Services getting discounted late: their prices shrink up to 24 hours before!
Car rentals, hotel reservations are among the ones that you can reserve quite late... days before departing. It's easier to find another car agency or another hotel, so the risk is not that high. But it's not the same with flights!
The high risk is with flights: search too late and you won't find a thing!
For flights, don't risk more than 5-7 days before take-off date, especially if it's a low frequency direct international flight. For New York - Toronto or Paris - London, the selection is wide, so you may find discounts 2-3 days before. But, don't risk on long-haul flights...
Usually the more flights there are operated per route, the more airlines are competing against each other, therefore prices get more reduced.
The closer you are to the end of a travel season, the more discounts you will find on flights. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve are periods when airfares are reduced prior to holiday. So it's not always at the end of the season when you find the best prices.
Less predictable subsegments and services
Cruises and entertainment services are among the less predictable ones. You might not know if you are searching early enough or late enough.
These services have a more fluctuating demand structure than the most common, basic travel services, which are: flights, hotel reservations and a few others.
Cruises and entertainment depend on so many other factors, such as: weather, natural disasters and others...
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