The sooner you start making reservations, the better. David and I usually bandy around destination ideas at least a year in advance, pick up a few guidebooks at yard sales to read about areas in our chosen location for the next several months, and then hunker down in the dead of winter for serious planning so we can make reservations at least four to six months before we plan to leave.
The trip we're taking this spring was in the hazy planning stage most of last summer, but after perusing guidebooks and deciding on our destinations, we began making reservations in December.
We set an alert on Kayak, but, really, after last year's experience, we knew we had to get a non-stop flight to London even if it cost a few dollars more. (After spending close to 23 hours in transit last spring to reach Rome, we almost got divorced during a four-hour layover in the Madrid Airport--and we haven't even gotten married yet!) It will be worth the extra $50 to avoid that experience again.
So that we can explore the Normandy and Brittany areas of France, as well as the great city of London, we'll be taking the Eurostar across the channel. That's where early reservations truly save money. By buying our tickets three months in advance instead of three weeks, we paid £56 each instead of £112 for the London to Paris rail trip. We saved 50% just by making our reservations early!
We love getting train tickets for half price, but the early bird rewards don't end there. Unlike friends of mine who cobbled together a trip to Europe a couple weeks in advance and had to take what they could get in terms of rentals, we had the pick of the choicest apartments with the most reasonable prices. More details about the rentals will be posted later, but I'd like to note here that our apartments in France will average €78 per day while we managed to snag a lovely one-bedroom apartment in ridiculously expensive London for £83 a day.
I've said many times in previous blog posts that apartments are as cheap or cheaper for two people than private rooms in hostels and this is no exception. One of the top-rated hostels in London is the Travel Joy Hostel where a private room for David and myself would cost the exact same price as our one-bedroom flat. But instead of sharing a building with a hundred others, we will have peace and quiet along with a garden terrace, full kitchen, living room, bedroom and bath!
So, don't delay. Get busy planning your trip today. Cut the cost of the two most expensive aspects of travel--transportation and accommodations--by making reservations as early as possible.
Unlike airlines, where you may luck into a flash sale at the last minute, train tickets are guaranteed to be cheapest several months in advance. Purchase 60-90 days in advance for most trains and 120 days in advance for the Eurostar. But note that it is pointless to try to reserve earlier than these time frames because routes and prices will not be posted yet.
If you haven't already bookmarked the website, The Man in Seat Sixty-One.com, do so now. His award-winning site will tell you everything you need to know about trains, including seating, ticket purchasing, and routing, for trips all over the world.