One question I get a lot is whether you get a better travel deal by buying your trip early, or taking advantage of last minute deals.

Good question.  The answer? It depends. There’s a difference, so to understand the difference, here’s a few things to think about.

Buying Early

Buying early often means good deals because suppliers (hotels, flights, etc.) set aside a certain amount of discount products in limited supply, knowing that they’ll sell at least that much.

For the travel companies, this reduces their risk slightly because they at least have some paying customers.

For you the consumer, it means you’ve got your plans sorted earlier on, and it locks you in, as often an early bird deal is not changeable/refundable without a fee.

If you want a deal on a popular product or travelling somewhere on high season, early is usually the way to go for the deal.

Buying Last Minute

Last minute deals are usually when an airline, car hire, or tour guide failed to sell out their product. Or, they’ve somehow found additional availability – e.g. someone cancelled – or they’re starting something new and wanting to test it out quickly.

As a consumer, to you this means that you never know what you’ll get last minute, because stuff that sells out is, er, sold out.

But, in general (but not always), I have noticed last minute sales are better than early bird deals. The obvious trade off is that you can’t be choosy, so if you wanted a beach holiday and there’s not a bungalow big enough for the whole family, you’re not going to the beach, end of story.

How To Choose

This is a hard one, but here’s what I tell people – your mileage may vary.

If you are pretty flexible and could be happy pretty much anywhere, then go for the last minute. Also if you’re super budget restricted and would sit at home and do a staycation instead if nothing came up, try the last minute thing.

If you are like me and like to have things planned out, then last minute might give you a heart attack. Also, if you have any die-hard requirements (we HAVE to travel on these days, we MUST go here) or special requirements (medical, etc.) then I’d advise go for the early bird and save yourself the hassle. And if you’re going somewhere forever popular – Disneyland, Paris in summer, etc. – early bird all the way.

That’s based on my experience – like I said, your experience may vary.

Photo by AdamSelwood


Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Friday, November 11th, 2011 at 11:15
Category : Holiday Tips
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2 Responses to “Getting a Travel Deal: Buying Early vs Buying Last Minute”

  1. […] talked about buying ahead versus last minute for deals, but that advice was geared more for flights and hotels. Trains are typically a buy-early-and-save […]

  2. […] sunburns and foot blisters, it’s also the season of late deals.  I talked last year about buying late versus buying early (in summary – it depends), but I know lots of folk feel the spur of serendipity, especially […]

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