From Oktoberfest in Munich to cherry blossom season in Tokyo and Kyoto, FIT specialist Avanti Destinations has rounded up the best times to book ahead for popular events and destinations worldwide, based on its internal booking data.
Popular Festivals and Special Events
Popular festivals and other cultural celebrations, as well as sporting events are quickly sold out and should be booked 9-12 months in advance. In Europe, these include: Munich’s Oktoberfest (September 21-October 6, 2019), Oberammergau’s Passion Play 2020 (dates in May-October 2020), Scotland’s Military Tattoo (August 2-24, 2019), Normandy’s D-Day 75th anniversary (June 6, 2019), Cannes Film Festival (May 14-25, 2019), Monaco Grand Prix (May 23-26, 2019) and Women’s World Cup soccer matches in eight different cities throughout France (June 7-July 7, 2019).
In Central and South America, clients should be booked at least one year in advance to experience: Easter Island’s Tapati festival celebrating Rapa Nui culture (early February); Peru’s Inti Raymi celebration (June 24) of the Incan sun god and winter solstice in Cuzco; or Panama’s celebration of the Cristo Negro (Black Christ) in the colonial town of Portobelo the second week of October, ending October 21 with a carnivalesque parade.
In Asia, Thailand has popular festivals in mid-November, including the Floating Lantern Festival in Bangkok and Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai, during which there is limited availability especially in riverside and boutique hotels.
In some cases, if accommodations are not available for these events, agents can suggest some alternatives that provide an equally rewarding and authentic experience.
Cherry blossom season, for example, in Tokyo and Kyoto is always popular. Luckily, the trees bloom at different times in Japan, starting in January in Okinawa and extending to early May in Hokkaido. Clients who decide late in the season that they want to experience the beautiful springtime event of Sakura can still be booked into cities like Sapporo and have an exceptional experience.
Similarly, other beer festivals besides Oktoberfest take place at different times in towns throughout Germany, especially Bavaria. These other festivals are just as much fun, perhaps even more fun since there are fewer crowds at festivals in Berlin, Stuttgart, Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Hamburg than at Munich’s famous fest. Attending lesser known beer festivals can also give a client bragging rights, because only savvy travelers know about them.
There is a long list of popular destinations that should be booked six to 12 months in advance for travel taking place during peak season. Booking early not only ensures a wider range of accommodations to choose from, but also makes it possible to have the best private guides.
“We’ve seen a big increase in agent requests for private guides, but there are a limited number of these available in even large destinations,” said Paul Barry, Avanti’s Executive Chairman, in a written statement. “Booking early means your clients can get one of those high-quality guides, who often provide insights and information that make the experience particularly memorable.”
Irish castles and B&Bs – Both of these types of properties, offered by Avanti, are popular with American and other travelers. Summer is the season when castles are booked far in advance for weddings. Dublin, too, has limited accommodations and should be booked four to six months ahead of time. Avanti recommends avoiding the weekends at castles, when occupancy is highest.
Iceland – This small Nordic nation is a tourist hotspot, and accommodations in Reykjavik and the south are limited and usually fill up far in advance. For better availability, recommend clients stay in Akureyri, the country’s second largest city in the north, which has spectacular scenery, as well as plenty of culture.
Norway – Oslo, Bergen and the Norway in a Nutshell route are booked up early during peak summer months, but destinations such as Trondheim, Tromso and the Lofoten Islands further north share the same -- even better, in the opinion of some -- landscape and rich cultural heritage without the bigger tourist crowds.
Italy – The charming Cinque Terre villages fill up early. Try staying instead in nearby Viareggio, Santa Margarita or Portofino. The Amalfi coast is also heavily touristed, but clients can either stay in Naples and do day trips along the coast. Or agents can suggest different appealing regions in southern Italy that are relatively undiscovered, such as Puglia or Sicily or Basilicata. If much of Italy is booked during peak season, Avanti advises agents consider recommending a trip Uruguay. Clients will find miles of vineyards, scenic coastlines, design hotels, and quaint cobblestone streets winding through historic towns.
Croatia – The exquisite Dalmatian coast of this small country has been immensely popular for several years and has limited accommodations both on land and small island-hopping cruise ships. Book clients wanting to experience it at least six months in advance.
Greece – Rooms with views of the caldera on Santorini disappear fast. Avanti offers hotels in smaller villages or on the opposite side of the island. Less touristed but no less wonderful are the island of Paros and seaside towns of the Peloponnese coast, such as Nafplion.
Switzerland’s scenic trains – Because some of these trains do not operate year-round and are very popular, booking tickets for peak season must be done early. This applies as well to Avanti’s newest rail-based FIT packages, such as Deluxe Switzerland, Swiss Panorama and Glacier & Bernina Express. To receive a complimentary upgrade on the Grand Train Tour of Switzerland package for travel this year, bookings must be made in February.
Patagonia/Torres del Paine – Because the number of hotels is severely restricted in the National Park and peak travel season is mid-November through February, clients who waited too long might consider staying in the town of Puerto Natales, which offers many unique and beautifully designed hotels and easy access to the park.
Costa Rica during spring break, Easter or Christmas – The Monteverde Cloud Forest and Arenal area fill up quickly for North American holiday and break times. Agents can recommend other locations in Costa Rica, such as Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast with its wildlife-filled canals, or Dominical for less crowded beaches than Guanacaste, or the cloud forest of the Central Valley. Next door to Costa Rica is Panama’s Chiriqui province, with many of the same natural environments, wildlife, and adventure activities, but far fewer tourists.