Getting a great deal on your holiday is difficult, especially when airlines and hotels seemingly change their pricing at whim. Conventional wisdom maintains that the best time to book your trip is around 2-3 months in advance—however, is this always the case? Also, does travelling during Singapore's long weekends cost more? To get to the answers, we examined hotel and airfare pricing for some of the most popular holiday destinations for Singaporeans to find out the best time to book your vacation.
Book Your Flight Early, But Be Aware of the Consequences
Our data found that airfare for almost all of the destinations is cheaper when you book 3-6 months before departure. Not only that, last minute bookers will end up paying over 2.5x as much for a roundtrip ticket for regional destinations (Bali, Bangkok), around 80% more for further destinations in Asia and up to 25% more for destinations in Europe compared to those who book 3-6 months out.
However, booking your trip very far in advance can also have its own drawbacks. For example, airlines will sometimes have flash sales closer to your departure date as they try to reduce inventory and fill as many seats as possible. Additionally, booking too far out in advance may be risky since you never know what can happen in the future. In the past year, we saw a number of events that have severely affected travellers who had their trip planned out months in advance, whether it was the volcano eruption in Bali or the sudden closure of beaches in Thailand and the Philippines. While travellers affected by these types of events were fully covered by their travel insurance, those who encounter other non-emergency medical, political or climate related events will have to bear the full cost of cancellation even if they purchased travel insurance in advance.
No Need to Book Hotels 3 Months in Advance
In contrast to flights, it seems that hotel bookings don't change much in price even for the earlybirds who are willing to book early for great deals. Our research found that hotels have more predictable pricing schemes than airlines and either maintain similar pricing year-round or change their prices slightly depending on the popularity of the season. In most cases, you can expect prices to increase up to around 20-35% during peak tourist seasons. For instance, the average hotel price in Tokyo in June is around S$191, whereas the fall season (mid-november)—which is second in popularity only to cherry blossom season—has an average hotel price of S$231.
Buy Your Travel Insurance Before Your Trip
When it comes to buying a travel insurance policy in Singapore, timing doesn't matter as long as you purchase before your departure date. Generally, your premium will depend on how far away you're travelling and how long your trip is, not when the trip occurs. However, it is advisable to get travel insurance in advance of booking your trip to take advantage of any pre-trip coverage they may offer. For example, natural disasters that directly affect your itinerary may be fully covered and reimbursed if you bought your travel insurance ahead of time.
Travel insurance is also where you don't want to skimp too much on costs as it can provide life-saving coverage not just for you but for your travel companions as well. Besides covering for trip cancellations, delayed flights or lost luggages, travel insurance will be able to help you cover the cost of medical emergencies and pay for repatriation to Singapore if need be—a life-saving feature especially for those visiting places with expensive or lackluster medical system. If you can take advantage of great promotions, you can get a great policy for just S$33 for a long weekend trip.
So When Is the Best Time to Book Your Trip?
Unfortunately, there's no concrete formula that can help you make sure you book the at lowest price possible. However, there are some guidelines that may help you save up to S$400 on your next trip. First, booking in advance is definitely your best bet for saving money on airfare. You should aim to book a trip between 3 and 6 months and try to avoid flying during Singapore's long weekends if you are flying regionally. Additionally, consider alternatives to peak tourist seasons at your destination and stay at less tourist-trodden cities. This will not only help save you money, but also give you an opportunity to explore a city that you may otherwise have never experienced.