From last-minute New Year’s deals in Istanbul to tropical overwater bungalows that sell out a year in advance, these are the vacations that you should be booking right now, before it’s too late. If you wait any longer, chances are you’ll have to compromise on your accommodations, your private guides, and the extra magic that our Trusted Travel Experts can sprinkle over 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.)
Turkey for the Holidays
Istanbullus love the trappings of Christmas, and they have turned New Year’s into a similar celebration, beautifully decorating the city with lights (particularly in the Nisantasi neighborhood) and “New Year’s trees.” There’s a huge fireworks display on New Year’s Eve, a night when families get together to exchange gifts and share a special meal. Cappadocia is also magical in winter, when snow covers the fairy chimneys. Another reason to consider Turkey over the holidays: Airfare is incredibly low at this time of year. If you’re apprehensive about the safety of travel to Turkey right now, here’s Wendy’s take on it.
Why book in November? Right now, you can still snag a hotel room in the city over the holidays; but come December, those rooms will be snapped up by locals who plan to celebrate and don’t want to drive home.
India’s Holi Festival
For: March 2017
Holi is a Hindu spring festival during which revelers throw brilliantly colored powders and water onto one another. It’s always fantastic to be in India during a festival, and this one is a favorite (provided you’ve brought some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty). This coming year, it will take place on March 13.
Why book in November? “The Diggi Palace in Jaipur hosted a Holi party as part of our wedding celebrations, and it was so much fun that they’ve done it every year since,” says Bertie Dyer, our Trusted Travel Expert for India. “Book now to reserve a room, and we’ll join you for the festivities.”
Spring in Hangzhou, China
For: March 2017
The cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou are well known in China for being slices of paradise on Earth. There’s a famous Chinese saying that translates to, “There is heaven above and there is Suzhou and Hangzhou below.” In March, spring is in full swing and the rich natural landscape flourishes. Hangzhou’s West Lake will be surrounded by verdant weeping willows and sweet-smelling peach blossoms. It’s also when Longjing tea leaves are harvested, and you can take part in this local tradition by picking tea in the nearby fields. Suzhou is famous for its traditional Chinese gardens, where you’ll see colorful displays of pear blossoms, canola flowers, tulips, and cherry blossoms.
Why book in November? Hangzhou and Suzhou are popular spring destinations for domestic travelers, so book now to make sure you get the most comfortable hotels and a guide with special access
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Australia
For: March to July 2017
The Ningaloo Marine Park, off the west coast of Australia, is one of a handful of locations around the globe where humans can swim with whale sharks—and here the experience is regulated by the Department of Parks and Wildlife in order to be as non-invasive as possible, and safe for both the humans and sharks. This species, the largest living fish, can grow to more than 40 feet long and weigh as much as a school bus. Their name—and their 350 rows of teeth—might seem fearsome, but they are actually quite gentle, feeding on macroalgae, plankton, and krill. Tour operators employ spotter planes to locate the whale sharks, ensuring that you’ll get the chance to swim alongside these marvelous beasts (and also dugongs, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, tropical fish, and humpback whales in June and July). Part of the cost of your experience goes to the conservation of these animals.
Why book in November? Whale sharks only visit the region from March to July, and the tours that visit them are limited to 20 swimmers, with only ten in the water at any given time. Plus, the best accommodations in this remote part of the world are quite limited.
Southern African Safaris
For: May 2017
May is the insider’s secret to Southern Africa: It’s when the parks are less crowded, the weather and wildlife viewing are at their prime, and yet the rates are lower. In May, Namibia reaches its perfect balance between the heat of summer and deep chill of winter, and if you are very lucky, it’s possible to catch the beautiful Greater Flamingos congregating around water lingering from rainy season. Many of Zambia’s camps only start opening in May after the summer rains , so they offer additional free nights during this low season.
Why book in November? Book now to secure the top-notch locations in the ideal sequence to make the most of flight schedules and wildlife sightings.
A Villa in Provence
For: June to August 2017
A rambling property in the Provençal countryside is the ideal place for a multi-generational family reunion. There’s plenty to keep everyone happy, from hiking and cycling to wine tasting and just lounging by the pool.
Why book in November? By the end of the month, the best properties—those with lots of equally sized bedrooms, plentiful bathrooms, top-of-the-line furnishings, views, and usually air-conditioning—will be gone for the peak summer dates. Elect a point person for your family and have them narrow in on a few favorite villas early in the month; then your whole group can decide on the right one when you gather for Thanksgiving. If you wait to book, you’ll need to have flexible dates or be ready to accept the houses that are left.
An End-of-Summer Escape in French Polynesia
For: August 2017
August in French Polynesia is lovely. Sea breezes keep temperatures in the low 80s and the humidity down; it still rains, but in 30- to 40-minute bursts, and then the sun comes out again. The lagoons can be a bit choppy, but that’s great for kite surfing, catamarans, and outrigger canoes.
Why book in November? Since this slice of paradise is actually part of France, it gets lots of visitors in August, when many Europeans take long vacations. The best overwater bungalows sell out far in advance for this time of year, as do the flights (there are only one or two a day to French Polynesia from the U.S.).