For the best deals, now is the time to start your 2020 vacation planning
Written by Wendy Maxey, Star City Travel
Maybe your summer vacation has become a distant memory now that September is here, and football season is under way. But now is the ideal time to think about your vacation plan for summer 2020 if you haven’t already. Start organizing your itinerary with these practical tips. The more you do now, the less stress you deal with later.
• Lock in your destination. Oftentimes, we have a desire for a dream destination, but as summer gets closer, we ditch it for someplace easier to book. Also, the great thing about planning now is that you can pay off your vacation in increments.
• If you’re planning a multigenerational family vacation, make sure you get everyone on the same page as part of your early planning process. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it helps to make sure everyone agrees on the vacation plan.
• Take advantage of the upcoming holidays. If you know you’re in need of new luggage or a good carry-on, put it on your wish list. Travel accessories make good stocking stuffers.
• Now is the perfect time to make sure your passport is up to date. We have seen this time and again—you’re ready to book and your passport is close to expiration. The renewal process takes time (unless you want to more for an expedited version). If you’re considering a trip abroad, many countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry. So, if you want to travel overseas in July 2020, your passport needs to be valid at least through January 2021.
• Booking accommodations in advance is a debated subject. The truth of the matter is there are benefits to booking early and late, but often the months in between will expose you to more price fluctuations. If you book a hotel now, you’ll have more options as far as room categories. In addition, you can compare prices and aren’t forced to book just because one hotel has availability, and another doesn’t. This is especially true for cruise cabins. Many cruise lines only have a certain number of specialty cabins and they fill up quickly. Keep in mind, too, that most hotels allow you to cancel your reservation without penalty up to at least a week before your stay.
• As far as airlines, unless you’re using points, you can only book flights up to 331 days in advance. And one thing to note about booking early flights is that usually it’s more expensive. Think of it like buying the first version of the Apple watch. As a rule of thumb with flights, look to book between four months and three weeks before your departure date. However, if you happen to come across a promotion you can’t resist… book it! You can always build your trip around your flights.
• If you have good credit, take advantage of credit card offers that will help you save on flights or hotel stays. There are some good deals to be had. For instance, signing up for a Delta Airlines American Express gold card and agreeing to $1,000 in purchases within the first three months gets you 30,000 bonus miles, a free checked bag for each cardholder in the family and main cabin priority boarding for life. Look for the annual fees. Some will waive the first year and then add the fee later. But $95 a year isn’t bad if you and yours fly a lot. The free checked bag alone will pay for itself in no time. (Obviously these credit card deals are always changing.)
• Now is the time to start learning some catch phrases in a new language if you’re planning a visit abroad. Sign up for an introductory class at a local community college or invest in a language app like Duolingo.
• Research your phone provider’s data plans and the SIM card situation for your destination. This will ensure you can use your phone and not expose yourself to astronomical roaming fees.
• Lock in a deal with a travel agent who can monitor fluctuations in fares and get you the best deal, even after you book.
Happy 2020 travels!
Wendy’s love of travel started at an early age with family beach vacations. Early on in her career she was managing editor of a hotel reservations website. Wendy is co-owner of Star City Travel, a Roanoke-based Dream Vacations franchise. Need travel advice? Call (540) 713-3068 or visit starcitytravel.com.