Timing is everything when it comes to getting a good deal on travel. That's because the price of a flight, hotel room or cruise can vary greatly depending on when you book. The difference can be in the hundreds of dollars per person.
To help you determine when to buy airline tickets, reserve a room or book a cruise to get the best price, here's what you need to know about the best times to book travel throughout the year.
1. Domestic Flights: Book During the Prime Booking Window
The best time, on average, to buy airline tickets for a domestic flight is 54 days before departure, airfare shopping engine CheapAir.com found by analyzing 1.3 billion airfares. However, there is a prime booking window when prices are lowest that falls 21 days to 112 days before departure.
Fares can fluctuate a lot during this 90-day window, but it's the best time to find a bargain on a flight, according to the CheapAir.com study. Passengers will pay at least $20 to $50 more per ticket, on average, by booking more than 112 days in advance of a flight.
If you book seven to 13 days before departure, you'll pay about $75 more than during the prime booking window, said Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com. If you wait until within seven days of departure to book a flight, you'll pay $200 more per ticket, on average, he said. You can use CheapAir.com's When to Buy Flights tool to pinpoint when cheap airline tickets are available for flights you want to take.
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2. Holiday Flights: Book August Through October
CheapAir.com tracks fares on a daily basis for more than 11,000 markets during the holiday season, and has found that the cheapest airfares for Thanksgiving holiday travel are available in August and September, Klee said. The cheapest flights for Christmas are found in September and early October.
However, the days you choose to fly during the holidays make a big impact on price and how far in advance you should book. "If you are traveling on the peak days -- the Wednesday before and Sunday after Thanksgiving -- not only should you expect to pay a hefty premium, but it's also more important to buy early because most flights will eventually sell out," Klee said. "On the other hand, if you are flexible with your travel dates you can better afford to wait a little longer."
3. International Flights: Book Four Months or More in Advance
When to book an international flight depends largely on where you are going. To get the best price on flights to Canada and Mexico, book 75 days in advance, according to the CheapAir.com study. For flights to Central and South America, the best prices are available 70 days before departure.
However, flights to Europe need to be booked four months in advance to get the lowest fare. For Asian destinations, the best prices are available 160 days before departure. Flights to the Middle East and Africa need to be booked 215 days in advance. And the best fares for Caribbean and South Pacific flights are available 320 days before departure, according to CheapAir.com.
4. Hotel Rooms: Book a Month in Advance
The best prices for hotel rooms can be found 30 days before your arrival, said Cheryl Rosner, CEO of boutique hotel booking website Stayful. This holds true even for peak travel season and stays during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
If you don't tend to plan that far in advance, you're not out of luck. There's another window of opportunity to get a good price seven to 10 days prior to a stay, she said.
The best way to get a deal is to be flexible about when you visit a destination, said Brian Ek, travel analyst for travel booking site Priceline.com. For example, a package that includes roundtrip airfare from New York to Las Vegas and accommodations at Treasure Island is $748 per person from Sept. 16 to 19, but it's just $512 from Dec. 9 to 12.
5. Last-Minute Travel: Book Hotel Rooms the Day of Your Stay
If you're willing to take a gamble on whether a room will be available, you can get a great deal by waiting to make a hotel reservation until the day of your stay. Last-minute savings on hotels can be up to 60 percent, Ek said. You can find these deals through Priceline.com's Tonight-Only Deals search feature, as well as through travel sites such as Hotwire.com and LastMinuteTravel.com.
Be aware that hotels won't start making those bargain rates available until 11 a.m. local time, Ek said. And the number of rooms they sell might be limited. "So pick a destination, synchronize your watch and start counting down," he said.
6. Cruise: Book a Year in Advance
To get the best price on a cruise takes advance planning. "You can get an excellent deal by booking a year out," said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. This applies regardless of the time of year you plan to cruise.
You won't necessarily get a steal, but you're likely to get the room of your choice at a good value -- which is important if you're traveling as a family. The cruise lines also tend to throw in extras -- such as spa packages, excursion packages, drinks packages or free airfare -- if you book well in advance, Brown said. Savings by booking early will vary depending on the cruise.
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To get the best value, enlist a travel agent who specializes in cruises to help you book your trip. "The service they provide at no cost is amazing," Brown said.
7. Last-Minute Cruise: Book 10 Days to 3 Months in Advance
Cruise lines typically require passengers who've booked in advance to make a final payment three months before departure, Brown said. So cabins tend to open up at this point if people decide not to go through with their travel plans. It's a great time to get a deal -- if you're not picky about which cabin you get.
"A very good price on a cruise would be about $125 per person per night," Brown said. However, she has seen last-minute deals with rates as low as $30 per day. You'll find especially good last-minute deals on cruises that set sail to the Caribbean and Hawaii between Thanksgiving and Christmas -- when fewer people travel. Look for these deals to pop up at the end of October, Brown said.
Keep in mind that booking a last-minute flight to the port could be more expensive. And last-minute deals on cruises aren't available until the actual last minute. You need to book at least 10 days to two weeks before departure.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The Best Time to Book Your Travel Plans