If you’re not a fan of the long month of January, it looks like you’re not alone—according to a recent study done by vacation rental company HomeAway, January is the busiest vacation booking month of the year. In fact, the number of people interested in reserving vacation homes doubles this month, and it makes sense: People plan now so that they have something to look forward to for the year.
According to HomeAway’s data, if you too want to get in on some of 2018’s hottest destinations, you’d better act fast. After looking at the more than 2 million places that are available to rent on their site, HomeAway’s determined it: There’s now proof that booking early really does pay off.
“HomeAway’s data analysts have figured out where the demand surge is for each of the busiest travel times of the year. If you plan your trip before that surge, you’ll have a better chance of finding the perfect home for your group for the amount you want to spend,” Melanie Fish, HomeAway’s travel expert, said in a statement.
Whether you’re looking for the perfect beach house, cabin, or condo to relax in, beating the peak booking times means you’ll have the best selection. Plus, with more rentals to choose from earlier on, you’re more likely to find a deal in your budget.
Mark your calendars, though, because each of the most popular vacation times has a different peak booking window, and that’s what you want to avoid. Here’s the breakdown:
If you’re thinking about spring break, book before January.
This is one where people start prepping early. Planning peaks in January, so HomeAway advises choosing a place to stay before January for the biggest selection.
If you’re looking forward to summer, book from January to March.
It’s really never too early to think summer vibes. The best way to get ahead of the demand is to book in January—but if that’s too soon to plan, April 1 is when the majority of places booked on HomeAway have been chosen.
For Fourth of July weekend, book by May.
A long weekend in the summer is popular for people to plan a trip. Lock down your stay before May 1 to get ahead of the curve.
For Memorial Day weekend, book in January or before March.
As it’s another popular time for people to get away, many book in January in anticipation of summer’s big kickoff. Need more time? Book before March for the biggest range of home sizes, locations, and prices available.
For Labor Day weekend, book after July 4.
People tend to wait longer to plan their end of summer getaway. Book right after the Fourth of July to beat the demand surge.
If you’re ready for ski season, book by mid-October.
The best selection of ski inventory is available from early fall until about midway through October. Half of all in-season ski rentals booked on HomeAway were snapped up by December.
For Thanksgiving, book by October 2.
This holiday tends to be a favorite for last-minute bookers: You can still beat the demand surge if you book by October 2.
For Christmas, book before the end of October.
The sweet spot for Christmas bookings is three months before your trip—this will give you the best selection to celebrate the holiday.
And if you’re looking to get in on 2018’s travel trend of unconventional accommodations, there’s even more reason to book ahead—some of these unique properties are in high demand. Waterfront properties, vacation homes near popular attractions like Disney World, and places with popular features like swimming pools are also snapped up first by travelers, so you’re more likely to get what you want if you plan a little in advance.
Between booking ahead of “the surge” and choosing a vacation rental home over a hotel or resort, you’re getting the most bang for your buck. HomeAway explains that in general, vacation homes offer travelers twice the space at about half the cost… and inviting friends and family to join in on a rental (thereby splitting the cost) is a great, budget-friendly way to travel. Plus, HomeAway allows you to search by price, so you can find something that fits your budget.
As to where people will most likely be traveling, HomeAway’s data suggests an affinity for the Sunshine State, with Panama City Beach, Florida, topping the list of the site’s hottest destinations based on overall demand. People are also likely to flock to places like San Diego, California, and the Gulf Shores of Alabama, along with Paris, Rome, and Florence internationally.
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