By when, I not only mean month of the year, but I also mean on the days one should travel. We all look forward to our vacations especially long breaks during summer / winter or festivals. This is reflected in the holiday-rush at airports, railway stations etc. I am not saying that you beat the rush by going at some other time (although that can sometimes be considered), but I recommend that you plan early so that you beat the booking rush.
Some factors that influence the decision of which month to go are:
Is it Travel Season? You should consider the travel season at the destination e.g. try and avoid European places during July and August when it is the most popular time for Europeans to holiday. This is the time when airfares and hotel rates will be the highest. Likewise, South-East Asia and Middle East (warm places) will be popular during winter breaks. So, if the kids’ summer break is in April / May shoot off to any location in Europe / Americas / Australia. For some of us in India we won’t mind the heat in Singapore, Malaysia etc. too.
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Weather at Destination. Do you really think that July is great in Dubai? It’s a sweltering 50o Celcius there! Or don’t think of Russia during your winter holidays. You can make some exceptions e.g. New York or London or Vienna (Austria) during Christmas times are good destinations because of the festivities that make you forget the cold which brings me to the next factor. There are a couple of websites like www.thebesttimetovisit.com or www.besttimetogo.com where you can get recommendations for destinations based on the local weather. You may also like to look up the weather statistics offered by AccuWeather and other weather sites.
Festivals or Events at Destination. I mentioned the Dubai and Singapore Shopping festivals and Christmas. Besides these events may also include say La Tomatina & Bull Run in Spain, Oktoberfest in Germany, or Carnivale in Venice or even the Monaco Grand Prix. Look up the city / country’s tourism website and you will see the event calendar for the year. You can also consider www.fest300.com/worlds-best-festivals for more information on the festivals. This will give you an idea while you plan your itinerary.
Now, should you consider the day and time to travel? This has absolutely nothing to do with any auspicious day and time. But it is a significant factor in your travel budget and comfort.
Good Days to Travel. First let us see which days are considered good. There is empirical data to indicate that airfares are cheapest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and the highest on Fridays and Sundays when most corporate people fly. Likewise, some hotels offer excellent weekend deals when the business people have checked out of their hotels. This is often reflected in the offers by some hotel chains like Hilton who usually have weekend break offers. So when you are researching for the best travel days, do keep your options open for a block of about 4 to 5 days and keep comparing till you find the optimum price – trade-offs are to be expected especially during travel / vacation season. You should also consider the fact that in some Middle Eastern destinations, Friday is a holiday instead of Sunday.
Good Time of the Day to Travel. The objective of finding the best time to travel, is to save on time and ensure convenience. While booking the air ticket, one becomes so focused on that excellent, money saving deal that you ignore the arrival time at the destination. This implies that you may land at the destination early in the morning, much before the hotel check-in time. So that you don’t waste time at any place waiting for you / your group to check-in after that long flight, you should try and reach at the hotel just around check-in time. Now work backwards – the travel time from airport or railway station to hotel + time at passport control / immigration & baggage collection (say, one hour max) + the travel time from your city / intermediate location to the destination city. This will give you the approximate departure time you should aim at. Another tip is to get the early flight out of your city (between midnight and sunrise) – these are usually the most economical. So, if the time of arriving at the destination hotel is before check-in time, ask the hotel if they allow early check-in. For, hotel loyalty program members most hotel chains do allow provided they have rooms available. If not, try the next best option in terms of considering another hotel or another time for departure. You should aim for a balance between an excellent deal (flight + hotel) and convenience, since it will be unpleasant experience if you sit disheveled in the hotel lounge waiting for the check-in time. Yet another option is that you can freshen up at the airport (many international airports have facilities for showers too) and then keep your luggage in the hotel cloak-room / left luggage room This will allow you time for some quick breakfast and some sightseeing. We did this in Singapore, where we kept our bags in the left-luggage room of our Holiday Inn, enjoyed the Singapore Flyer and then had our lunch.
This exercise is for a group / family of four. You should tweak it to your requirements.