Tips on Finding the Best Time To Travel and Book Your Next Vacation

Tips from AAA Travel experts on when to book reservations for popular destinations and the best times to travel.

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to October.

Photo: iStock

With the new year well underway, it’s time to start thinking about vacation plans for this year and next. Maybe an Alaska cruise for the entire family and a trip with your spouse to Germany’s popular Oktoberfest?

As you’re making plans, AAA Travel Counselors recommend keeping in mind that the more popular the destination or experience is, the earlier you need to pin down trip details and book hotels, flights and cruises.

It’s best to make plans for Oktoberfest in Munich at least six months in advance.

Photo: iStock

Here are a few other tips to help you plan your dream vacation:

Alaska cruises

The Alaska cruise season runs from May to October, with the coldest days occurring early and late in the season. However, if you want to travel during the summer months, when you can still see snow but hike in the 70-degree sunshine, it’s best to book flights, cruises and even excursions the fall before you plan to travel. If your dates are flexible and you book now, you may get lucky and grab something for this season.


Oktoberfest—slated for Sept. 21 to Oct. 6, 2019— is popular with American tourists, but the folk festival focused on Bavarian culture and beer brings out folks from Germany and across Europe. Though reserving seats in the festival’s free but crowded party tents is tricky, it can be done online with individual tent owners. (If you’ll be with a large group, you might want to make reservations as early as February.) It’s wise to book airfare to Munich and hotel rooms, which can be pricey, at least six months ahead of time. AAA Travel Counselor Kathy Kugler in the Hayward, California, branch, recommends booking early because “you are going to be getting better fares and you can do monthly payments,” she says.“There are AAA Member Benefits with many of our travel partners; if you pay in full, you will receive an extra percentage off.”

It’s a good idea to book at least six months ahead if you want to visit a favorite theme park in June, July or August.

Photo: iStock

Theme parks

Once upon a time, you could count on theme and amusement parks being most crowded during the summer months and at Christmas time—which made the rest of the year the best time to travel. Even though year-round schools have made family vacation times more diverse, it’s still a good idea to book at least six months ahead if you want to be at Disneyland® Resort or another favorite park in June, July or August—especially if you want to stay at a particular resort hotel. If July 4th week or Christmas week is your only window of time, book a year ahead. Other busy times include Easter, Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays. And don’t forget spring break, which floats throughout March and April for children, teens and college students, and brings thousands of sun-seekers south. Generally, hotels and restaurants, as well as airfare, are more expensive during these busy times.

Christmas market cruises

Even a scrooge will melt during a European river cruise focused on visiting Christmas markets in countries like Germany, Austria and Hungary. Wandering around wooden stalls, sipping mulled cider and marveling at handmade nutcrackers and toys – what better way to celebrate the season? However, Christmas market cruises on the Danube and the Rhine only run from late November to late December. To ensure your preferred cruise or cabin are available, it’s best to book a year in advance. Note, things really get into full swing at markets in December. AAA Travel Counselor Janice Yip-Hudson in the Daly City, California, branch says, “When you book early, there are many offers where you can save big. One example: Members can receive $1,000 off airfare per couple. And there are even savings when you pay in full.”

Since you’re more likely to get an early-booking discount than a last-minute cheap flight or cruise, why not make “Book now!” your new travel mantra? Your AAA Travel Counselors know the best time to travel and will help you make it happen.

No matter where or when you want to travel, the experts at AAA can help you plan and book your ideal vacation. Call 877-396-7159 or visit your local branch to talk to a AAA Travel Counselor.

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Janice Yip-Hudson, AAA Travel Counselor, Daly City, Calif.

Today, people's lives are so busy. We're thinking three days ahead just to get through our to-do lists. I love helping my clients plan vacations where they have nothing to do but relax; where time stands still, and you're just on vacation.

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