Book Early vs Last Minute Deal


Almost daily I am asked if it’s better to book early or wait for a last minute deal.  In this blog and the next I am going to discuss the positive and negative aspects of each.  This week-last minute deals.

In the travel industry we use the term “distressed inventory” to describe rooms at resorts, cabins onboard ships, and seats on tours which are not booked for particular dates of travel.   For example a resort that is half empty from Nov 4-11 would say it has some “distressed inventory” over that date range. The term originated right after 9-11 when, as you can well imagine, the entire world stopped traveling.

About 90 days in advance of the un-sold dates the sales managers responsible for filling those rooms/cabins/seats will offer them up at an enticing price point.  

At all-inclusive resorts the sales managers shoot us an email letting us know their property is going to offer a discounted price.  Assuming we have customers for whom that property would be a good fit we do our best to fill those available discounted rooms and get you, our customers, a great deal.   (Note-you rarely see the best resorts offering last minute deals.  They have a loyal following and simply don’t have to offer discounts to fill their rooms).

Sometimes these resorts have availability because our economy has been bad resulting in decreased demand.  Sometimes they have availability only during low season, again, decreased demand.  Fall is always low occupancy in the Caribbean and a good time to get a good deal.

Sometimes resorts have unsold rooms for “buyer beware” reasons.  Maybe they are on a less than desirable beach, they are experiencing a seaweed invasion, they are under construction, or they are having service issues and getting bad reviews.  Just because a resort is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good deal.  A cheap trip is still a bad value if you have a miserable vacation 

Mid-priced cabins that offer a view are the most sought-after cabins on river cruises and the first to be booked.  Waiting until the last minute on a river cruise (90 days from departure date) could get you a great deal on an entry level cabin if you don’t mind a smaller cabin without a view.  The experience will be the same for you as the person who booked the millionaires suite other than the cabin.  


Here’s the kicker-river cruises are a very high demand product, they are the fastest growing segment in the travel industry.  So even if you wait until 90 days prior to sail date the odds of the ship being sold out are high, especially during peak season.  For river cruises the “steal of a deal” is always for the no view cabins on the most disadvantageous sale dates (disadvantageous due to low water levels or unpleasant weather conditions).

River Cruises are generally booked about a year in advance for the best dates and itineraries. My favorite river cruise brand is having a FREE air sale beginning Aug 20 for 2019 cruises.  I am sworn to secrecy but you can bet on Aug 20 I will be blasting this news from the rooftops so you can take advantage of this amazing offer (follow me on Facebook and be the first to know).

When it comes to European tours we have some great last minute deals for fall 2018 travel.  In fact, did you know the low season pricing on European tours is always lower than the high season?  Flight costs are currently very low as well, making our low season tour sale a truly once in a lifetime opportunity.

Low season European tours are cheaper primarily because there is less demand for fall and spring travel (families especially prefer to travel during summer months), and at the end of the day travel is a supply and demand business.  Low season European travel is also subject to colder weather conditions.

If you have a flexible schedule and can pay in full when we tell you about a great offer, last minute/low season booking could be a terrific opportunity for you.  If you have a tight schedule and need to plan in advance, or you need to have some time to pay off the trip, you need to book early.  More about that next week.