by Emma Cooke, The Telegraph, October 10, 2019
There are two types of traveller. Those who fly by the seat of their pants, booking flights at the last minute and shrugging enigmatically when asked where they’ll stay when they land – and those who break into a cold sweat at the idea of such antics.
If you are the sort of holidaymaker who heaves a blissful sigh of relief knowing your travels are pre-booked well in advance, autumn is the time to put those planning skills to use.
Post-Christmas, the travel industry sees a flurry of activity, with people waking up from their festive slumber to book their year’s holidays, but right now it’s blissfully quiet.
While the majority are distracted by leaf-peeping and mulled wine, travel agents are left twiddling their thumbs – which makes it a prime time for bagging discounts on your 2020 trips.
We’ve picked out the best holidays to snag sooner rather than later to help you get a head start on the January rush – whether it be discounted rooms or hard-to-access destinations that you’re after.
Cherry blossoms in Japan
Japan’s spectacular cherry blossom season is one of the most popular events of the year, with people both inside the country and out flocking to enjoy the flower-filled parks. Add to this the tourism boom from both this year’s Rugby World Cup and next year’s Summer Olympics, and there’s never been a higher demand – making booking early essential.
While the three week blossom window generally runs from mid-March to mid-April, we’d recommend visiting between April 4-19 and travelling to the Tohoku Region where the cherry trees flower later in April. Good Friday and Easter Monday will fall on the April 10 and 13 next year, giving you 16 days away for only eight days leave. Book the dates before your coworkers catch on.
From £3,890pp for a Week in Japan tour departing on various dates between March 24 and April 8, 2019. Full board (wendywutours.co.uk)
The Canadian Galapagos
The Haida Gwaii Islands – Canada’s answer to the Galapagos – lie just off British Columbia’s coast, a remote place filled with wildlife that’s been home to the Haida First Nations people for over 10,000 years. Intrepid will be launching their first tour to the region led by a local leader in summer 2020, making it incredibly easy to explore the area. It's best to book your place now as spots are limited, with a maxiumum of 13 places per trip and only four tours planned.
From £1,845pp for a Haida Gwaii Islands Expedition departing on various dates between July 30 and August 17, 2020. Partial board (intrepidtravel.com)
This glacial wonderland has been picking up steam as a unique destination for the last year, but access is still incredibly limited. The visiting season only lasts from November to March and expedition ships are generally small, as only 100 people are allowed to disembark onto the region’s shore at a time – avoid larger ships, as any vessel carrying over 500 people isn't allowed to disembark at all.
Booking now means you're sure of a good cabin on one of the better boats, plus you can save a bit of money on this notoriously pricey trip. Hurtigruten, for instance, are currently doing 25 per cent off their 2020 dates.
From £5,436pp for a Highlights of the Frozen Continents tour departing on various dates between November 2020 and January 2021. Full-board and domestic flights included (hurtigruten.co.uk)
Grizzly bears in Canada
From late August to September, the rivers of western British Columbia are filled with hungry bears looking to gorge on the leaping salmon making the run upstream to spawn. There are more bear-spotters out there than you’d think, so the lodges get booked up tight during these key dates - book quick if you want first dibs on an idyllic spot.
From £3,995pp for a Whisperer itinerary including five nights, full board, at Pyna-tee-ah lodge with guided bear-viewing, departing late August or early September, 2020 (frontier-canada.co.uk).
The European Capital of Culture for 2020, there’s never been a better time to discover the gem of Ireland’s west coast, Galway. Galway 2020 has a number of creative events planned for the year, which will undoubtedly draw unprecedented numbers of visitors, so best to secure your itinerary now.
From £655pp for a Galway, Connemara & Ireland’s Stunning West tour, half-board, with return-flights, departing from April 19 to October 11, 2020 (telegraph.co.uk)
Wine tasting in the Douro Valley
One of the most in-demand wine tours is the Douro Valley – which is one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world – particularly in autumn when the annual grape harvest starts. Classic week-long European cruises generally sell like hot cakes, but the Douro’s autumn season is one of the most sought after. Book Scenic’s eight-day Douro cruise, which takes in Porto and rural landscapes of northern Portugal, now and not only will you nab a spot, you’ll get it at a bit of a discount, too.
From £2,595pp for a Delightful Douro cruise departing April, September and October, 2020 (scenic.co.uk)
Lille, France // Photo courtesy of Pixabay
Eurostar are currently offering 25 per cent off hotels in Paris, Lille and Brussels when booked with train tickets, in honour of their 25th anniversary. The offer is valid until March 2020 but needs to be booked before the October 18 – perfect for anyone looking to get some decently-priced weekend breaks in next year’s diary.
From £266pp for a Paris hotel package, including return train fare plus two nights in a hotel room ( eurostar.com )
An epic American road trip
In summer, huge numbers of visitors head to America’s national parks, and it’s easy to see why. The open spaces of the US are incredible to behold. It's the stuff road trip dreams are made of. Thanks to all the space, getting into the parks during the day isn’t an issue, but accommodation is thin on the ground, with campsites and motorhomes selling out fast – so get your booking in now.
From £1,307pp for an 11-night California’s National Parks fly-drive holiday, including car hire and accommodation. Excludes flights and National Park fees (trailfinders.com).
Inca Trail in South America
If you want to get to Machu Picchu you’ll not only need to trek for four days, you’ll need a permit. These are restricted to 500 per day for trekkers plus accompanying guides and crew. Permits for 2020 were released this month, and the most popular months of March, April and May will be sold out by the end of November, such is the demand to see the sunrise over the Lost City of the Incas. Most specialist operators include the cost of the permit within their tours.
From £1,684 pp for an 11-day Classic Inca Trail tour with a four-day trek and some meals, excluding flights and transfers, departing from May 2, 2020 (worldexpeditions.com).
Arguably one of the best places in the world to visit, these remote islands off the coast of Ecuador are a once-in-a-lifetime trip. So, it’s best to do it right, and get a place on one of the smaller boats that cruise the island. Unsurprisingly, they sell out fast, so now is really your last chance to book for a primetime slot. One of the most popular boats is the 14-berth motor-schooner, The Beagle. But other top picks include the 18-berth, 1920s-style cruiser, Grace and the elegant tall ship, Mary Anne, which only accommodates 16 passengers.
From £2,520pp for an eight-day cruise (dependent on which yacht you choose), excluding international flights and US $100 park tax (galapagosspecialists.co.uk).
Gorillas in Africa
There are endangered mountain gorillas in the forests of Rwanda and Uganda, and while trying to spot them is a magical experience there are, understandably, restrictions. Namely, access is controlled with a limit of ten or 11 permits per day for groups of up to eight people. These permits sell out far in advance, especially during the drier seasons of mid-December to early February and from June to August, when the gorillas are easier to spot at water sources.
From £4,095pp for a nine-day Rwanda and Uganda Gorilla Discovery adventure, full board, including mountain gorilla, golden monkey and chimpanzee trek permits, departing Jan-Dec 2020 (trailfinders.com).
Solar eclipse in Patagonia
Space watchers have the opportunity for a unique experience next year, when Chile and Argentina both see a total solar eclipse. The eclipse will happen on 14 December, which is peak season in South America, and tours are already beginning to sell out. Eclipse Travel still has a few spaces left, as do Explore, which is running a comprehensive eight-night trip through Patagonia with a local astronomer present for the event.
From £2,850pp for a ten-day Patagonia Solar Eclipse tour with some meals including, departing from Dec 8, 2020 (explore.co.uk).
Private riads in Marrakech
Marrakech // Photo by VanderWolf-Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Marrakech is ideal for big celebrations, thanks to its wealth of beautiful, inexpensive riads that can be rented out in their entirety for groups. Most properties run from five to ten bedrooms, but few are as lovely as Riad Yasmine. Thanks to being one of the most photogenic – and surprisingly affordable – riads in the city, the property books up exceptionally quickly. You’ll be able to find other accommodation if you book later, but who wants the pain of knowing you missed out on the city's most lush spot for your birthday.
From €900 per night for exclusive riad rental. Private birthday dinners can be arranged in the riad, from 250dhs (£21.11) per person (riad-yasmine.com).
Two southern Europe trips in one month
Next year, if you take eight days of annual leave, you’ll be able to get 18 days off in return. How to do it? The May Bank Holiday falls on May 8, allowing you to take May 2-10 off for only four days leave, and a second bank holiday on the 25 means you can pull the same trick again. Unfortunately, the week in-between means it’s better to have two holidays rather than take most of May off – unless you have a very understanding boss – but there’s worse things to do with continental Europe on the doorstep.
Southern Europe is usually teeming with visitors in summer. May is the sweet-spot when temperatures are picking up but the crowds aren’t at their zenith, so take advantage with two trips in one month. Trailfinders offers a range of eight night options, from wandering the French Riviera to walking the Venetian hills.
From £589pp for a nine-day French Riviera and Provence tour, not including international flights. From £1,045pp for a nine-day Walking in the Venetian Hills trip, breakfast and dinners included ( trailfinders.com ).
Given that skiing is infamously pricey, taking advantage of the many early bird offers on at the minute is a no-brainer, especially if you’re prepared to go towards the end of the season. Groups have a particular advantage, with many companies offering free spaces for groups of six and over, as well as discounted ski hire and lift access.
From £875pp for a seven-night trip to Val D’Isere with Alpine Elements, including flights, but for the best discounts and offers it’s best to call or email direct (alpineelements.co.uk).
Greece is top pick for summer holidays: the coastline is sensational, there’s a wide variety of accommodation and it’s, well, Greece. Because of this, it’s also expensive in the peak summer months, with many families paying through the nose for their holidays in the sun. Early deals make this prime destination much more affordable, however, especially in the all-important sunshine months.
From £1,053pp for seven nights in a luxury hotel in Crete, all-inclusive with flights (britishairways.com).
New journeys in Los Cabos
TUI will be launching new direct flights to Los Cabos in November this year, meaning there’s a flurry of great deals to encourage customers to the new route. Los Cabos itself is stunning, located at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula and full of powdery sand and azure seas.
From £795pp for seven nights all-inclusive in Los Cabos, including flights ( tui.co.uk ).
Festive winter sun
Destinations like the Maldives and the Caribbean fill up fast over the peak Christmas and New Year season, with prices to match the demand. Booking now will not only secure you a prime room in these most luxurious of destinations, but may save you a penny or two as well. Kuoni is currently offering seven full-board nights in a Maldives private pool villa for £1,799 per person, while early bird bookers will find 13-night Caribbean cruises for £1,042pp with P&O Cruises.
From £1,799pp for a seven night Maldives Private Pool Villa trip, including flights, full board and transfers ( kuoni.co.uk ).
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