We know you’re busy figuring out your summer travel plans, but now’s the time to be firming up your winter holiday trip too. We’re not kidding: If you’re hoping to use frequent-flier miles or find a decent coach airfare for late December, it’s important to check seat availability in June, and many hotels in popular December resort destinations will be sold out by the end of the month. Haven’t even started making summer plans yet? Never fear: We’ve got that covered too.
(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 Summer Escape to Newfoundland
For: August and September
Ever since Wendy went there one August several years ago, she’s been urging other East Coasters to flee to Newfoundland in late summer, as an antidote to the crowds, heat, and beach traffic that choke the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. You get a foreign island with dramatic sweeping landscapes, lighthouses and fishing villages galore, roads to yourself (well, you plus a few moose), a distinct local culture, and incredibly friendly people, all without having to schlep too far from home. (You can fly there via Toronto or Halifax from many U.S. hubs.) A must on any Newfoundland itinerary is the Fogo Island Inn, a fascinating five-star philanthropic experiment that Wendy says has the most soul of any hotel she’s ever seen—and, by some miracle, the Inn actually has availability in late August this year. Read why Wendy loved it here. (Transparency disclosure: Yes, the Fogo Island Inn is an advertiser. But Wendy visited and fell in love with the Inn and its people, community, and concept long before this website was conceived.)
Myanmar’s Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival
For: September and October
One of the most popular festivals in Myanmar is the Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda Festival on Inle Lake. Set in a sublime location, it’s a riveting spectacle that includes the ceremonial rowing of Buddha images around the lake, boat races, martial arts, and Shan dancing. This year the festival arrives early: September 23 to October 8, with boat races on September 27 and October 8. While many travelers like to stay on the lake, the town of Nyaung Shwe is a smart alternative with a wider variety of restaurants and places to walk around in the evening.
Why book in June? If you haven’t made reservations yet, don’t wait or it may be too late to find rooms at the highest-quality hotels near the festival.
Christmas at Disney
At Disney Parks, dining reservations become available 180 days in advance. Everyone wants that holiday dinner in the castle with the princesses, or the fine-dining restaurant seating timed to watch the fireworks; some options are so popular, they fill up within a day. So if you’re planning to be in one of the parks during December, then June is the time you need to start reserving those special activities.
Why book in June? You might get lucky and snag a reservation later, but paying attention in June means that you can be first in line for Christmas dinner reservations.
Paris and London For the Holidays
Savvy travelers are already booking their families’ December getaways to Paris and London, two cities that sparkle even more than usual during the holidays, what with all the Christmas markets and festive lights. Go early in the month for Christmas shopping, or ring in the New Year London-style (the fireworks show over the Thames is one of the best in the world). By staying in an apartment, you can slip easily into local life, enjoy shopping for meals at neighborhood markets, and often house a family more affordably than in a hotel.
Why book in June? Plan now, while there is still a good selection of suitable apartments and space for you at the most festive events, whether it’s The Nutcracker at London’s Royal Opera House or a soufflé class with the former chef of the American Embassy in Paris.
Egypt in December
Temperatures in Egypt are perfect in December, when the summer’s crushing heat has given way to warm days and cool nights in Cairo, and Upper Egypt’s desert is a dry 85 degrees. Plus, the government is now allowing travelers to visit the tombs of Queen Nefertari and Pharaoh Seti (both of which are closed to the general public) much more affordably than they could in the past: This special insider access—which Trusted Travel Expert Jim Berkeley can obtain—currently costs approximately $300 per person, down from a whopping $6,000 a few years ago.
Why book in June? While fewer Americans have visited Egypt in recent years, it’s still a popular winter destination among Europeans, and Egyptians themselves love to spend time in Luxor and Aswan over the holidays. Book now while there is still good availability on Nile cruises and at the five-star hotels.
The World’s Biggest Ice and Snow Festival
For: December and January
Each year in the frosty northern Chinese city of Harbin, more than 10,000 workers haul ice from the frozen Songhua River to make magnificent sculptures that are more than 100 feet tall at the world’s largest Ice and Snow Festival; last year the record-breaking creations included a full-sized steam train. Apart from the festival, there’s plenty to see in Harbin: Russian and Jewish influences imbue the city’s architecture, food, and culture, from the Byzantine-style St. Sophia Cathedral to the Jewish Culture Museum (which is housed in the largest synagogue in East Asia).
Why book in June? People come from all over the world for the festival, so the high-end hotels and English-speaking guides—including the rare few who are well versed in the region’s Jewish history—book up far in advance.
Bhutan’s Gomphu Kora Festival
For: March 2018
“Go around Gomphu Kora today, or tomorrow may be too late,” warns a local song in Bhutan. This charming temple, located in the less-touristed eastern part of the country, is where the famous Buddhist teacher Guru Rimpoche vanquished a fierce demon; it is said that circumambulating the temple helps to cleanse you of your sins and grants merit for your next life. Tribal people from all over eastern Bhutan, as well as the Dakpa tribe from India, make a pilgrimage to celebrate the yearly Gomphu Kora Festival, which is scheduled to occur in 2018 on March 25 and 26.
Why book in June? The festival takes place near the town of Trashigang—which has extremely limited hotel space. If you wait any longer to book, chances are you won’t be able to find a room nearby.
Summer Adventures in Iceland
For: July and August 2018
Tourism to Iceland has skyrocketed over the past couple of years: Where else can you hike through moonscapes, dive into volcanoes, walk atop glaciers, and hop into geothermal pools? Summer is the prime time for many activities, since the temperatures are mild and the days are long.
Why book in June? In Iceland demand still far outweighs supply when it comes to accommodations, all-terrain vehicles, glacier guides, and other elements of the country’s tourism infrastructure. That’s why you have to book a trip now to be assured of reserving the best-qualified guides and the most comfortable accommodations in the locations you want to visit.
Summer at an Italian Villa
For: July and August 2018
Imagine spending a week or more at a villa in Italy—lingering over long meals at a farmhouse table al fresco, enjoying a passeggiata in a nearby village, getting to know the wine makers next door…. You can still find a good variety of villas for groups of two to ten travelers, and for larger groups inland (the small selection of exquisite homes that fit 12 or more along the water typically book 12 to 18 months in advance).
Why book in June? Come September, next year’s villa rates go up—and in August it’s difficult to communicate with the villas’ Italian owners, who are often on vacation. If you start your planning in June, you’ll have your pick of villas to find the one that’s just right for your group.
Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.