August is a great time to start thinking about travel plans for the rest of the year, and into the next one. We know, we know—you’re still focused on summer and not quite ready to start planning for the winter. But now is the window when smart travelers can get good deals and choice accommodations in certain destinations. That’s why we offer this monthly series on when to book various trips—to help you get the most value for your money and the most worthwhile experiences for your time.
Below you’ll find a list of the places you should be booking trips to right now. Follow our advice and you’ll still have a range of accommodations to choose from, the best guides won’t already be taken, and our Trusted Travel Experts will have enough time to work their magic and optimize every aspect of your trip.
(Don’t miss the rest of our series on what trips to book in each month of the year. If you prefer to know which destinations are ideal for traveling to in any given month, see our Where to Go When series, and don’t miss our comprehensive guide to the benefits of booking early.)
During Berlin Art Week—which takes place this year from September 12 to 17—the city runs amok with artists, curators, and collectors. It’s a great time to visit Auguststrasse, the original core of Berlin’s artistic community in the early 1990s and now home to some of the city’s most prestigious galleries. On the private and small-group tours arranged by one or our Trusted Travel Experts, you’ll learn about the area’s history from a local curator or arts writer, and also get insider access to some of the galleries.
Why book in August? Berlin Art Week is overshadowed by better-known exhibitions in other European cities; that doesn’t mean that the art is lower quality, but it does mean that you can plan a last-minute trip and still get your choice of hotel room just a month prior.
Milan’s Fashion Week takes place this year from September 20–25, with fashion shows featuring Missoni, Versace, Moschino, and Armani. Though the official calendar hasn’t yet been published, with Andrea’s expansive network of contacts, she can get you invitations to the shows you want to see.
Why book in August? Fashion-industry insiders don’t book far in advance for the shows, so there’s still time to arrange a V.I.P.-style trip. If you wait till next month, though, it will be very tough to find a room and impossible to get near a catwalk.
China’s subtropical Guizhou province, with its colorful tapestry of minority villages, is host to a number of festivals each fall, including the musical Lusheng festival in October and the vibrant Miao New Year in November; it is Miao tradition to clear the streets and make way for long banquet tables heaving with fresh produce to celebrate the year’s bountiful harvest.
Why book in August? Since Guizhou is well off the beaten track, you don’t have to plan a year ahead to attend these authentic festivities—but by September, all of the best hotel rooms and guides will already be reserved.
Fall is the most ideal period to visit Shanghai: As the peak season cools down, the airfare and hotel rates become more attractive and the weather is much more pleasant to enjoy outdoor activities such as exploring Zhujiajiao. Also known as the “Venice of Shanghai,” Zhujiajiao has beautiful waterways with countless traditional houses, ancient streets, and stone bridges. One of our Trusted Travel Experts offers a half-day private walking tour that can be customized to focus on Zhujiajiao.
Why book in August? Since high season has ended, you can plan a trip relatively last-minute and won’t have trouble finding a hotel room or savvy local guide for fall.
For: November to early January
Olive harvesting in Crete is a tradition that has remained almost untouched throughout the centuries; nowadays, you can join locals as they harvest from their trees, discovering the indigenous Cretan olive varieties and following the process that begins at the orchard and ends with a bottle of glistening golden oil. The crowds are thinner at this time of year, giving you an opportunity to experience true Cretan culture without the stresses of high season. And the mild weather also makes it a pleasant time to explore the island’s archaeological sites and natural scenery.
Why book in August? You can’t just walk up to any olive farm in Crete and expect to help; our Trusted Travel Expert has relationships with a few farmers who will open their orchards to you at this busy time of year, so availability is tight. Likewise, since this is the off-season for the typical Cretan beach vacation, the resorts are closed and accommodations are limited to the boutique hotels that stay open year-round.
Central Italy (Rome, Tuscany, Umbria)
In the small towns and even the major cities of central Italy—Montepulciano, Perugia, Rome, Florence—Christmas continues to have a homespun, traditional feel, without the crass consumerism that surrounds the holiday here in the U.S. Many towns, and the larger piazza in big cities, have enchanting Christmas markets where you can buy artisan crafts and handmade decorations.
Why book in August? To fully soak up the holiday ambiance, you’ll want to stay in a city apartment or smaller hotel where you can stroll through town right from your doorstep; since this narrows the options, it’s wise to book now for the widest choice of accommodations.
Note: If you’re looking for a countryside villa to celebrate Christmas in, read The Rewards of an Italian Villa Vacation in Winter.
New Year’s is perhaps Brazil’s biggest celebration outside of Carnaval, and the locals’ infectious party spirit is a major draw for travelers. Rio celebrates with one huge beach party all along Copacabana; revelers dress in white and make offerings of flowers to the sea, jumping over waves and of course knocking back a few caipirinhas. There are also free concerts and one of the world’s largest fireworks displays. More low-key parties take place in almost every beach village in the country; jet-set crowds and international DJs soak up the laid-back vibe in Trancoso and Florianoplolis.
Why book in August? Rooms at the country’s top hotels are still available over New Year’s—but that won’t be the case for long. Right now, our Trusted Travel Expert can also procure tickets to exclusive private parties overlooking the festivities in Rio.
Hikers flock to Chile’s flagship national park, Torres del Paine, in the southern-hemisphere summer, when the weather there is at its finest. If you want to be in Patagonia with penguins and glaciers over the holidays, or early next year, you’d better act fast.
Why book in August? The park’s three high-end lodges have just 101 rooms between them; by September, they are often fully booked for those peak travel dates.
February is the most popular month to visit Myanmar: The weather is cooler and dry, ideal for both trekking to see hill tribes and visiting the major sites of Bagan, Mandalay, and Inle Lake.
Why book in August? The country’s top hotels are not big, so they fill up quickly; if you want a room with a view of the sunset on Inle Lake come February, you’d better book now. Additionally, the country’s top guides are really limited in number and, thus, are in very high demand. They often prefer to work with large groups rather than individual travelers. By booking early, you can be assured that you’ll have access to the most experienced guides.
Spring break is a great time to take the kids on an educational journey to the Galapagos: They can paddle with marine iguanas, play with sea lions, and tread next to bobbing penguins. Some ships offer specific family-friendly departures during spring-break weeks, and those fill up especially quickly.
Why book in August? This far in advance, the right travel specialist can match you to the ship that best fits your traveling style and specific travel dates (the latter being particularly important when working with school schedules); plus, you can still snag the inter-connected or triple cabins that are most convenient and economical for your family.
Contact Wendy to find the right travel specialist for your needs and to get the best possible trip.
Witnessing a Bhutanese festival is a bucket-list experience, and spring planting season is one of the best times to travel there; it’s also when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in bloom, making the countryside an incredible riot of colors. One of Antonia’s favorite festivals—and perhaps one of the most colorful—is Gomphu Kora, held in late March this year at a small temple in eastern Bhutan.
Why book in August? Only two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Air, fly into the country, so you need to reserve now to get the flights you want for next spring. Bhutanese hotels also tend to be quite small; if you want to attend the Punakha Tsechu in March, for example, the very best hotels nearby have only eight and 11 rooms respectively.
Northern Territory, Australia
Peak safari season in Australia’s “Top End”—the uppermost section of the Northern Territory, home to Kakadu National Park and the city of Darwin—runs from July through September. Here you’ll find abundant wildlife (wallabies, crocodiles, buffalo, and prolific birdlife), a rich indigenous culture and its accompanying rock art, and stunning outback scenery.
Why book in August? Since the region’s much-buzzed-about lodges have only 10 to 20 rooms each, you need to book a year in advance to get the accommodations you want.