Travel Insurance

4 Things You Should Buy Early When Planning a Holiday

While taking a last-minute trip can seem like a spontaneous adventure, in most cases you'll save more money and have greater peace of mind if you book your itinerary well in advance.

Going on holiday is always exciting—you get a chance to take a break from the mundanity of everyday life, explore something new and spend quality time with close ones (or yourself). On average, most Singaporeans book their trips more than a month in advance, suggesting a penchant for strategic holiday planning and perhaps a bit of wanderlust. This planning window is actually in line with typical travel advice. For instance, it is well known that booking your flight a couple months in advance can save you on airfare. Below, we discuss airfare and three other purchases you should book well in advance of your trip to save on your vacation costs and ensure that your holiday plans go smoothly.

1. Flights

It's no secret that booking airfare early is cheaper than booking it last minute. With the exception of last-minute travel deals, early-bird airfare can be up to 80% cheaper than last minute tickets. Furthermore, booking your airfare early if you will be flying to a destination during its peak season means you may beat the high demand that can increase prices. Lastly, starting your airfare research early gives you more time to find good deals and increases the chances your preferred flight time and airline will be available.

This graph shows the average cost of airfare purchased a week before travel compared to airfare purchased 6 months before travel

The logic behind booking your flight early is twofold. First, airfare pricing is constantly recalculated through a complex algorithm that takes into account demand, consumer preferences and routes. Thus, prices increase when there is an increased demand to a particular location. Secondly, airlines also consider the type route and typically charge higher prices when consumers are booking last-minute trips on known business trip routes. While tickets on these routes are cheaper when booked in advance, airlines start to increase prices closer to the travel date because they know business travellers have no option but to book the flight.

2. Accommodations

Unlike airfare, booking your hotel early may not result in significant savings. However, booking your accommodation early does have its benefits. For instance, booking early can be useful if you are looking to stay at a very popular hotel or if you will be travelling during peak season. As you get closer to your departure date, you'll notice more and more hotels selling out, meaning your choices will be limited and you may have to settle for lodging that wasn't your top choice. The same logic applies to Airbnbs. The closer you get to your travel dates, the fewer options you will have. This can result in a plethora of inconveniences ranging from paying more to having to settle for a less-than-optimal location.

This graph shows the difference in pricing per night between booking a hotel last minute as opposed to 6 months in advance

3. Travel Insurance

You can purchase travel insurance as late as the day before your vacation, but we recommend booking it as soon as you book your trip. This is because it can protect you against most of the problems that can come with booking holidays early, such as unexpected illnesses or hazardous weather events.

For instance, suppose you booked a flight to a sunny, tropical beach a few months in advance. Unfortunately, your destination's government shuts down their beaches. This unexpected and frustrating closure may initially seem like a financial loss. However, you may be able to recoup cancellation or travel change costs if you bought a comprehensive travel insurance plan before news of this closure surfaced. One important thing to note is that you should always compare plans and read the policy conditions to make sure the events you are concerned about will be covered.

4. Train Tickets

If you're planning a trip through Europe, it may be prudent to buy your train tickets as soon as you know your itinerary. As evidenced by the chart below, you can save an average of 20% if you book your ticket one month in advance as opposed to booking it a few days before your journey. You will also have a wider range of travel times and route options to choose from (i.e. direct or with transfers).

This table shows the difference in prices of train tickets in Europe when booking a month in advance compared to booking last minute

Buying Early is Recommended, But Stay Aware of Risks

Planning your trip in advance offers more benefit beyond saving money. It also gives you time to get your holiday time approved at work, budget for your trip and plan out your ideal itinerary. However, there are still some things you should look out for when planning a trip far in advance. First, the main issue when booking anything far in advance is that you never know what can happen between the time of booking and your departure date. Natural disasters, work commitments and family emergencies may all end up in trip cancellations or rescheduling.

Another potential drawback to booking things early is that you may end up missing out on flash sales from online travel aggregators, especially in the case of lodging. However, if you booked directly with the hotel you may be able to get some benefits you otherwise wouldn't from a flash sale. This includes room upgrades or free perks like Wi-Fi.

However, the benefits of booking accommodations, transportation and travel protection early outweigh the negatives. With time on your side, it will be easier to account for uncertainties and you'll be saving money in the process.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, evaluating insurance products for consumers based on quantitative and qualitative financial analysis. She holds degrees in Economics and International Business Management and her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector. Her analyses surrounding insurance, healthcare, international affairs and personal finance has been featured on AsiaOne, Business Insider, DW, Vice, Her World, Asia Insurance Review, the Australian Institute of International Affairs and more.

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