Nice. You are a couple of weeks away from March Break and you didn’t even realize it. Not until one of your kids reminded you anyway, asking about what magical place you’ll be visiting this year. Calling it a surprise, you run for your laptop and sequester yourself in a spare room, frantically combing through online travel deals for a last minute vacation/salvation.
To your initial horror, it looks like you’ll have to spend upwards of $12,000 for a family of 4 to get away over the impending school break. And even if you took out that second mortgage on your home, you will still have to keep the kids out of school when you get back and use a couple of hard-to-come-by sick days from work too – all that’s left, even for $12K, are Monday to Monday packages. Ugh.
The more you think about it, the less surprised you become. Why the shock? After all, people have been booking this particular week away for months and months, and the smart ones, almost an entire year ago. What bargain did you truly expect to find this close to one of the busiest travel weeks of the year? Major parent fail.
You close your browser, take a deep breath and swallow your pride. Heartbroken, you bravely brake the news to your kids, promising them the trip of a lifetime next year.
Sound familiar? It’s the worst.
Life has a way of sneaking up on us – all of us. As much as we think about our kids, their happiness and try to plan accordingly, sometimes the daily grind just gets the better of us and we fall short. And while you may have truly messed up your family’s March Break this year, here’s how to make it the best ever family trip next year.
Start planning now
That’s right – now. And by planning, I don’t mean walking up to your travel agent with some dates 12 months from now and asking for their best deal. For starters, most holiday providers haven’t even sorted out next year’s inventory yet. In the travel industry, product comes out and becomes bookable about 9 months in advance, not a full year.
By planning now, I meant settling on a destinations or two, perhaps narrowing down your hotel or resort options to a handful and maybe even checking on any frequent flyer points for any possible freebies down the road.
If you are to visit your travel agent at all this far in advance, ask them about their EBBs, or, Early Booking Bonuses. Assuming you’ve settled on an all-inclusive sun holiday, next winter’s product should be available to the public in late summer, along with next year’s juicy EBB deals and deadlines for winter travel.
And oh! Grab a couple of brochures too. Most of the product in them will be available next year also. Leaf through them at you leisure, alone and with the family. You never know what may jump out at you until you see it.
At this point, you have about six months until you should be seriously considering booking your trip.
The EBBs of early fall
When it’s time for your kids to start their new schoolyear, it is also the time to get down to business of booking your family’s March Break trip.
This is a good time to swing by and see your travel agent again. Ask for their new winter sun brochures and ask about their EBBs again. They’ll be able to give you this year’s deadlines for paying in full to lock in your discount, usually around the end of October.
You may notice the office full of people doing the exact same thing you are. There’s a pretty good chance that they’re teachers, as they’ve been in this predicament for their entire careers and know exactly when to book a March Break trip to get the most options at the best price.
Expect prices to be higher than usual, after all, travel is based on the age-old principle of supply and demand and the demand will always be sky-high for any school break getaways. Like you found out last year, March Break vacations mostly sell out before they get a chance to be discounted or ‘sold-off’ last minute. If anything is left a few weeks out, I can almost guarantee you that you won’t want it.
Your flight times will change
If you’re still after an all-inclusive package down south, check what days of the week the charter airlines operate on. Typically, but depending on the destination, there should be a Saturday and Sunday departure at the start of every March Break available.
Now, working this far in advance, all the airlines can do is to list their intended flight times. They will know the exact dates they are scheduled to fly but the actual flight times are nowhere near set in stone and are always subject to change. In fact, be prepared for a call or email from your travel agent a few months down the road advising you of your revised flight times.
In all cases involving charter airline schedule changes, if it’s just the times in the day that change and not the dates themselves, those booked have few options but to accept the changes.
Charter airlines, those that operate your all-inclusive packages, will usually only have one flight on the days they are scheduled to fly. If the airline does propose a date change (instead of just times), you should be given the option of a full refund or a re-booking to dates that suit you better, at the current fare. For this reason, airlines may change flight times but will rarely change dates, if they can avoid it, of course.
In short, when booking, be ready to depart at any time of the day you are scheduled to fly.
If you are booking outside of 90 days to departure, most tour operators will confirm your booking with a simple deposit, with the balance due at a later time, usually 45 days prior to travelling. To qualify for an Early Booking Bonus discount however, many tour operators stipulate a pay in full deadline of either the end of October or November. At time of booking, your consultant will provide you with the payment schedule. It is up to you to either confirm with a non-refundable deposit or to pay in full at this time.
BOOK IT UP!
Whether you confirm by deposit or by paying in full – just book it. By holding off at this point, you are only risking availability later. ‘Holds’ and ‘reservations’ don’t apply here. Book it up. As explained earlier, the price won’t drop – it doesn’t have to. It will sell out first. It’s best to just book it and forget it.
Book it knowing that this year, you nailed it.
While your family may be relegated to your local petting zoo, play dates and maybe the Science Centre this year, if you follow the simple suggestions outlined above, you’ll be a March Break hero next year. Promise.
You may be late for this March Break but if you can travel later, we’ve got some real last minute specials available! Connect with us online, by visiting your nearest Flight Centre store or by calling 1877 967 5302 to book.