Why January Is the Best Month To Book Travel

It’s the New Year, and with it come new sales and greater opportunities to save money on this year’s travel experiences.

January is the first month of the year, and it’s also the first month of Wave Season in the travel industry. The so-called “Wave Season” is typically the first quarter of the year and is aptly named for the new “wave” of clients that travel advisors get during this time period.

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Jordan Bradshaw, Vice President of Northcutt Travel Agency, said, “January seems like a fresh new beginning in all facets of life and that goes for travel as well. Air begins to open up for those family holiday vacations and planning in advance allows you to budget accordingly. Additionally, December is such a busy month that people tend to focus on what is right in front of them. When January comes around, that’s when people look ahead to the year and start to plan their trips, so the earlier in January you plan, the more availability there will be.”

Besides availability, new access to flights and greater opportunities to budget for travel throughout the year, Wave Season also offers some of the greatest deals of the year.

Flights for the summer are going to be cheaper to purchase during the winter months; book flights during the opposite season in order to get the best deals. One reason for why airfare is going to be cheaper the further out you book is because there’s generally less competition and demand for those flights. Once everyone starts searching for flights for their summer trips, usually in April or May, the prices will skyrocket.

Flights during typically low travel seasons, usually not structured around a holiday or the summer, can be booked cheaper around one to three months out for domestic travel and two to eight months in advance for international travel. If you know you’ll be traveling around a holiday or during the summer, though, make sure to add a few months to your timetable because of high demand.

One of the biggest areas a traveler can save right now isn’t in flights or hotels: it’s in cruising.

Avalon Waterways, Avalon Envision, Envision, Budapest,Avalon ship
The Avalon Envision in Budapest, Hungary. (photo via Avalon Waterways)

Cruising takes Wave Season very seriously; nearly all cruise lines are offering some sort of savings on their cruises for this year. Disney Cruise Line, Avalon Waterways and Scenic are just some of the many cruise lines offering new ways to save when travelers book now, typically between January and March for travel through the end of the year.

Charles Sylvia, ECC and VP, Industry and Trade Relations for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), believes that Wave Season is the best time for cruisers to book their travel for the year.

“Wave Season, which occurs in the first few months of every year, is when cruise lines see the majority of the year’s bookings get sold. Highly attractive promotions are offered by practically every cruise brand, and travel advisors are inundated with inquiries from clients. Wave Season is the busiest time of the year for travel advisors, who generate more than 75 percent of all cruise bookings annually. Travel advisors are the leading distribution channel for cruise lines, so consumers who want to get the best deal during Wave Season are encouraged to book through a CLIA-Certified professional travel advisor who is well versed in all the seasonal promotions.”

It’s also better for the cruise traveler: besides saving some money or earning added perks like an upgraded room or free drinks packages, travelers can also take their pick of the best cabins for them. This means they won’t have to adjust their needs or compromise if their desired cabin category is no longer available, which can happen quickly the closer it gets to the sailing date.

But you might be wondering: what about the pandemic?

Travelers are right to be a bit hesitant about traveling; the pandemic still continues to impact how, when and where we travel, with entry protocols and travel warnings always changing, flights being canceled and even specific cruises being canceled or adapted due to the pandemic.

Booking now can give travelers some peace of mind in cruising due to flexible cancellation policies. Celebrity Cruises’ “Cruise with Confidence” program, for example, offers guests the ability to cancel their cruise up to 48 hours prior to departure for any reason and receive a Future Cruise Credit, without any penalty. This is applicable for all sailings that are booked by the end of January; other cruise lines have similar policies in place, which can give travelers better flexibility.

The same is true for some airlines, too. Delta is continuing its policy of offering zero change fees for travelers who book Main Cabin seats or higher. These seats can be canceled entirely for a Delta credit towards a future flight in the instance that travel plans change.

When booking pandemic travel, reading the fine print when it comes to pandemic protocols and flexible policies are incredibly important; booking air, accommodations and other forms of travel with trusted brands offering great policies that give travelers more confidence in the travel process is absolutely necessary.

Despite many of the upheavals we’ve seen in the past few months alone, there’s still hope that travel in 2022 will become even more popular than any year previous throughout the pandemic.

“As someone involved in cruising for nearly 30 years, and a passionate cruise traveler myself, I believe it will be a strong performance year for our industry; one that will see 100 percent of cruise ship fleet capacity return to service within the coming months,” said Sylvia.

“My sense is that our present challenges will pass as swiftly as they arrived, and greater awareness of the effectiveness of our enhanced public health and safety protocols will continue to grow among consumers. I believe the pent-up demand will manifest itself in unprecedented, record-breaking booking volume in 2022.”

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