Late-summer getaways, warm-weather vacations for the coming winter, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you need to book a year out: These are the destinations 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.)
A Last-Minute Maldives Getaway
For: July and beyond
The recent openings of several new luxury resorts have left the Maldives in an unfamiliar quandary: For the first time since tourism appeared on the islands in the 1970s, there are more rooms than travelers. Though in July and September you might experience an hour-long afternoon or evening rain shower a few times a week, this is prime surfing season and the best time for spotting manta rays and whale sharks.
Why book in July? It’ll take the island’s hoteliers a few months to balance out supply and demand—but for now, there is a lot of availability at great rates. Flights have never been cheaper, either: We’ve seen round-trip airfare from the U.S. for less than $1,000 per person.
You’ll find more last-minute ideas in our article, “It’s Not Too Late to Book An Awesome Summer Vacation.”
Summer in London
London is ideal in August (see The August Travel Deal You’ve Been Waiting For) because the lack of business travelers drives down hotel rates, the weather is mild, and everything is open but the crowds are gone—so it’s easier to get great seats to the city’s renowned theater events, for example. The U.S. dollar was already strong against the pound before the vote to leave the European Union sent the British currency plunging even lower, and it’s even stronger now.
Why book in July? It’s your last chance to snag some of the best deals of the year—such as four nights for the price of three, or guaranteed room upgrades—at the city’s top four- and five-star hotels.
Whale Sharks on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast
For: August or Early September
For a few months each year, whale sharks congregate along Mexico’s Caribbean coast, feeding on plankton. These gentle creatures are not actually whales at all, but the world’s largest fish, weighing as much as 20 tons, with a length of up to 40 feet. They will even let you swim near them; and unlike many other sea life encounters, this is one that happens naturally, without the animal confined to a cage. You can arrange such an excursion from Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, the Riviera Maya, Tulum, or Cancun.
Why book in July? You still have access to the best accommodation, guides, and boats before the whale sharks swim away from the Mexican coast in early September; if you wait until August to make arrangements, you’ll have to settle for mediocre outfitters.
Fall Fashion Week in Paris
For: September and October
From September 28 to October 3, the city will be awash with models and fashionistas—it’s quite a sight. Join a small-group walking tour focusing on Paris’s couture fashion history between runway shows, or go shopping with an industry insider, with stops personalized to your style and budget.
Why book in July? Book now, while everyone’s still focused on the summer season, to ensure a room at a trendy hotel (the Ritz is finally open after years of renovation).
Bhutan’s Festival Season
For: September, October, November
Fall is the height of “tsechu season,” or festival season, in the tiny country of Bhutan; each district holds its own colorful tsechu, full of dancing, Buddhist blessings, and socializing that draws locals from near and far.
Why book in July? Only two airlines, Druk Air and Bhutan Air, fly into the country’s sole international airport (Paro), so seats are extremely limited. July is your last chance to get the fall flights you want, without having to compromise on logistics. Moreover, many of the top hotels are tiny, so those convenient to the most famous tsechus are often sold out by September.
Thanksgiving on St. Barts
November is one of the best times to be in St. Barts: Many shops and restaurants have just reopened after hurricane season, so everything is fresh and new, but prices are still up to 40% lower than during high season—even over Thanksgiving.
Why book in July? Come the end of summer, many people start making Thanksgiving plans. Savvy travelers have their choice of villas or hotel rooms for the holiday by booking in July.
Peru’s Inca Trail
November is the last chance to trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu before the wet season hits. It is magical to approach the ruins on foot, getting your first glimpse of them from the Sun Gate, as many Incans did. On a private trek, it’s possible to arrange for tents large enough to stand up in, inflatable mattresses, and even a massage therapist. If you’re not up for a multi-day hike, you can take the train most of the way from Cusco and hike the last seven miles along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
Why book in July? Permits typically sell out four months in advance, so by August you’ll have to choose between hiking and camping in inclement weather, or holding off until next year.
Christmas in Los Cabos, Mexico
If you want to be in Cabo over Christmas or New Year’s, July is the latest that you will still be able to find space in a villa or hotel for your preferred travel dates.
Why book in July? Because if you wait until August (or even later), you’ll likely be stuck picking among accommodations that don’t quite match your requirements—a long hike to the beach, perhaps, or not enough bedrooms to fit your group comfortably.
Christmas in Costa Rica
Christmas kicks off the dry season in Costa Rica, so it’s a great place to take your family for an eco-friendly holiday surrounded by nature. While you’ll feel good about helping preserve the country’s environment, your kids will love the abundance of available activities, including hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling.
Why book in July? By August, the top-rated eco-lodges are selling out for the busy December period. Since most families have a fixed window to travel during the school holidays, waiting to book will mean compromising on your accommodations.
New Year’s in Cartagena, Colombia
Each year, the crowds grow bigger and more glamorous as Cartagena rises higher up the list of worldwide hot spots in which to celebrate the New Year. There’s salsa dancing on the 17th-century city walls, parties all around the city, and of course a fireworks display at midnight.
Why book in July? Cartagena is a popular New Year’s destination for Colombians and foreigners alike. If you wait until August, you’ll have a hard time finding quality accommodations, guides, and boat charters for trips to the Rosario islands—a lovely escape from the city.
An Arctic Odyssey
For: July and August 2018
Explore the vast landscape of the high Arctic: Ride ATVs across the tundra, paddleboard alongside beluga whales, fish for Arctic char, and go fat-biking over sea ice. Your basecamp for the trip is a luxury wilderness lodge 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle owned by renowned polar explorers and accessible only by charter flight. The wildlife here is rich, from muskox and polar bears to seals and migratory birds.
Why book in July? This lodge may have the shortest season of a hotel anywhere on earth: It’s only open in July and August. Not surprisingly, it often sells out a year in advance.
Italy’s Palio di Siena
For: July 2018
The Palio di Siena—a centuries-old, famously colorful horse race with bareback jockeys representing each of the city’s contrade, or districts—is held twice a year: on July 2 and August 16. More than just a 90-second-long race, the multi-day Palio festivities typify the pride and spirit of community felt throughout the city.
Why book in July? Seats for each of next year’s Palios go on sale as soon as this year’s event for that date is over. If you book as soon as the July Palio winds down, we can reserve an exclusive vantage point (such as a balcony overlooking the Mossa spot or the Curva di San Martino) for next year’s July race.