How much do you really save by booking your vacation early?

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Getting a great deal on your holiday is difficult, especially when airlines and hotels seemingly change their pricing at a whim. Conventional wisdom maintains that the best time to book your trip is around two-three months in advance—however, is this always the case?

Also, does travelling during Singapore's long weekends cost more? To get to the answers, we examined hotel and airfare pricing for some of the most popular holiday destinations for Singaporeans to find out the best time to book your vacation.

Book your flight early, but be aware of the consequences

Our data found that airfare for almost all of the destinations is cheaper when you book three-six months before departure. Not only that, last minute bookers will end up paying over 2.5x as much for a roundtrip ticket for regional destinations (Bali, Bangkok), around 80 per cent more for further destinations in Asia and up to 25 per cent more for destinations in Europe compared to those who book three-six months out.

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However, booking your trip very far in advance can also have its own drawbacks. For example, airlines will sometimes have flash sales closer to your departure date as they try to reduce inventory and fill as many seats as possible.

Additionally, booking too far out in advance may be risky since you never know what can happen in the future. In the past year, we saw a number of events that have severely affected travellers who had their trip planned out months in advance, whether it was the volcano eruption in Bali or the sudden closure of beaches in Thailand and the Philippines.

While travellers affected by these types of events were fully covered by their travel insurance, those who encounter other non-emergency medical, political or climate-related events will have to bear the full cost of cancellation even if they purchased travel insurance in advance.

No need to book hotels three months in advance

In contrast to flights, it seems that hotel bookings don't change much in price even for the early birds who are willing to book early for great deals.

Our research found that hotels have more predictable pricing schemes than airlines and either maintain similar pricing year-round or change their prices slightly depending on the popularity of the season. In most cases, you can expect prices to increase up to around 20-35 per cent during peak tourist seasons.

For instance, the average hotel price in Tokyo in June is around $191, whereas the fall season (mid-november)—which is second in popularity only to cherry blossom season—has an average hotel price of $231.

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Buy your travel insurance before your trip

When it comes to buying a travel insurance policy in Singapore, timing doesn't matter as long as you purchase before your departure date.

Generally, your premium will depend on how far away you're travelling and how long your trip is, not when the trip occurs. However, it is advisable to get travel insurance in advance of booking your trip to take advantage of any pre-trip coverage they may offer.

For example, natural disasters that directly affect your itinerary may be fully covered and reimbursed if you bought your travel insurance ahead of time.

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Travel insurance is also where you don't want to skimp too much on costs as it can provide life-saving coverage not just for you but for your travel companions as well.

Besides covering for trip cancellations, delayed flights or lost luggage, travel insurance will be able to help you cover the cost of medical emergencies and pay for repatriation to Singapore if need be—a life-saving feature, especially for those visiting places with expensive or lacklustre medical system. If you can take advantage of great promotions, you can get a great policy for just $33 for a long weekend trip.

Best travel insurance plans for your consideration

Etiqa Tiq

Consider this if you have pre-existing medical conditions

  • Personal accident coverage
    • $30,000-$500,000
  • Trip delay coverage
    • $300-$500
  • Baggage delay coverage
    • $200

Coverage and benefits

Premium and value Entry Savvy Luxury
Personal accident and death $200,000 $250,000 $300,000
Medical expenses incurred overseas $200,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
Emergency medical & repatriation Combined limit up to $1,000,000 Combined limit up to $1,500,000 Combined limit up to $1,800,000
Trip cancellation and loss of deposit $5,000 S$5,000 S$10,000
Trip delays $300 ($50 per three hours) $300 ($50 per three hours) $500 ($50 per three hours)
Baggage delay $200 ($100 per six hours) $200 ($100 per six hours) $200 ($100 per six hours)

Covid-19 extension 

Premium and value Entry Savvy Luxury
Trip cancellation and loss of Deposit due to Covid-19 $3,000 $4,000 $5,000
Travel postponement due to Covid-19 $500 $1,000 $1,500
Trip curtailment and disruption due to Covid-19 $3,000 $4,000 $5,000
Medical expenses incurred overseas due to Covid-19 $100,000 $200,000 $300,000
Overseas Covid-19 diagnosis quarantine allowance $500 $1,000 $1,500
Emergency medical evacuation and repatriation of mortal remains due to Covid-19 $200,000 $300,000 $500,000
Hospitalisation benefit in Singapore due to Covid-19 $100 $200 $300

Etiqa Tiq Pre-Ex plans provide comprehensive coverage against medical expenses if you fall sick during your trip due to pre-existing medical conditions. Pre-existing medical conditions include diabetes, eczema, asthma, heart conditions, stroke, asthma, sleep apnea, cancer and epilepsy.

However, do note that your illness must be stable and under control. If you are looking for an affordable yet comprehensive plan to protect against medical treatment due to pre-existing conditions, you can consider Etiqa Tiq's Pre-Ex policies.

Income travel insurance (standard plan)

Consider this if you want protection against unexpected Covid-19 expenses

  • Personal accident coverage
    • $150,000-$500,000
  • Trip delay coverage
    • $1,000 to $2,000
  • Baggage delay coverage
    • $1,000 to $2,000

Coverage and benefits

Premium and value Classic Deluxe Preferred
Personal accident $150,000 $200,000 $500,000
Medical expenses overseas $250,000 $500,000 $1,000,000
Emergency medical evacuation $500,000 Unlimited Unlimited
Trip cancellation $5,000 $10,000 $15,000
Trip disruption $3,000 $5,000 $8,000
Baggage loss damage $3,000 $5,000 $8,000
Baggage delay $1,000 $1,200 $2,000

Covid-19 extension 

Features (For all premiums) Extension
Cancelling your trip due to Covid-19 $2,000
Postponing your trip due to Covid-19 $2,000
Shortening your trip due to Covid-19 $2,000
Trip disruption due to Covid-19 $2,000
Medical expenses overseas due to Covid-19 $150,000
Emergency medical evacuation and sending you home due to Covid-19 $150,000
Overseas quarantine allowance due to Covid-19 $1,400

With Covid-19, it is even more crucial to protect yourself in such unprecedented times. Income travel insurance offers protection against unexpected Covid-19 emergencies.

Some examples include cancelling your trip, overseas quarantine allowance, and medical expenses due to Covid-19. All per trip and yearly plans will automatically include the following Covid-19 benefits.

Travellers can enjoy Covid-19 benefits for the first 90 days of each trip for Standard per-trip policies.

So when is the best time to book your trip?

Unfortunately, there's no concrete formula that can help you make sure you book the lowest price possible. However, there are some guidelines that may help you save up to $400 on your next trip.

First, booking in advance is definitely your best bet for saving money on airfare. You should aim to book a trip between three and six months and try to avoid flying during Singapore's long weekends if you are flying regionally.

Additionally, consider alternatives to peak tourist seasons at your destination and stay in less tourist-trodden cities. This will not only help save you money but also give you an opportunity to explore a city that you may otherwise have never experienced.

ALSO READ: How much more expensive will travelling be post-Covid-19?

This article was first published in ValueChampion.