Now is a great time to start thinking about where you’re headed for the major holidays of 2018: Spring break in Peru? New Year’s Eve Down Under? To stake your spot at the head of the line, plan early. Here are a few ideas for trips that are best booked now, in January.
(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.)
The Netherlands in Tulip Season
With Easter taking place relatively early this year and a great number of public holidays in May, the best time to visit the Netherlands is April. This way, you can avoid the crowds and still enjoy the flowers that will be in bloom all over the country—particularly in the fabulous Keukenhof Gardens. April 27 is a national holiday, King’s Day, and it can be fun to be part of the festivities and witness a parade in a rural setting.
Why book in January? Tickets for the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam become available two months ahead and sell out quickly; book your trip in January so that you know exactly when you want to visit this remarkable site and can snap up tickets as soon as they become available in February.
Peru for Cusco’s Easter Festivities
In Cusco, Easter celebrations last for an entire week—known as Semana Santa—starting with Palm Sunday and followed by the Señor de los Temblores festival on Holy Monday, when Cusco’s most venerated image of Christ is taken out in procession and the entire city participates. (Booking through Marisol Mosquera means that you’ll watch the festivities from one of the coveted balconies overlooking the main square.) April is also a beautiful time to visit Machu Picchu, since the rains have just departed and left the hillsides at their greenest.
Why book in January? Easter is high season in any Catholic country, so this is your last chance to find availability at hotels and on flights.
Cuba in Springtime
Spring is delightful in Cuba: The weather is perfect—relatively dry and not too hot—making it a great time to combine Havana’s wonderful architecture, burgeoning art scene, and rooftop dining options with a day trip to the Vinales Valley, where the tobacco is in full bloom.
Why book in January? You really need to plan two to three months in advance in order to secure rooms at the best centrally located hotels, as well as access to the most experienced guides and insider experiences (all accomplished while adhering to the framework of the Support for the Cuban People travel requirements).
Croatia Before the Summer Cruise Crowds
For: May and June
Summer in Croatia is to be avoided, due to heavy crowds—especially hordes of day-trippers from cruise ships—and the highest prices of the year. In May and June, you’ll find lower hotel rates, great weather, and significantly fewer tourists.
Why book in January? Now is the time to reserve rooms at the best boutique hotels, some of which have only eight rooms.
Sicily’s Ancient Greek Theater Performances
For: May and June
Every year from the middle of May through the end of June, Sicily’s ancient Greek Theatre of Siracusa—which was first built in the 5th century B.C.—hosts modern performances of the ancient Greek tragedies. The theater is part of an archaeological park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; you can explore its ancient limestone quarries, temples, and orange and olive groves before the performance.
Why book in January? Four months out, you’ll still have access to the prime tickets (those closer to the stage and in more shaded areas of this outdoor theater) and to the cultural guides best equipped to help you contextualize the plays in their proper time and place. You’ll also have your choice of accommodations in nearby Ortigia’s historical center.
A South Pacific Cruise in Peak Summer Season
For: June or August
Sail from Tahiti to the Marquesas aboard the National Geographic Orion, discovering islands that have changed little since the era of European exploration. With departures on June 21 and August 16, this voyage affords a rare opportunity to experience ancient traditions of Polynesia, hike through verdant valleys and limestone grottoes, and snorkel or dive among some of the most pristine reefs left in our oceans, led by top-notch naturalists, lecturers, undersea specialists, and photographers.
Why book in January? Book soon and receive free round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Papeete; with only 50 cabins, this ship will fill quickly.
Austria’s Summer Music Festivals
For: July and August
Sure, it will be crowded, but come summer the days are long and the weather is great, and there are music festivals—especially opera—all over Austria. You can usually find good hotel deals, except in Salzburg during its six-week classical music festival (one of the biggest in Europe).
Why book in January? Six months out, you can still lock in the most charming hotels and the guides with special insider access; delay longer and you’ll be stuck with mediocre options for both.
Hawaii for the Holidays
Hawaii has recently soared in popularity as an end-of-year holiday destination—so much so that many top resorts and rental homes are already fully booked for late December: They save their space for their holiday guests who return year after year. If those returning guests should cancel—and sometimes they do when deposits come due in March or April—then a few rooms may open up to new travelers at that time.
Why book in January? If you want an in-demand five-star resort, get yourself onto the waitlist now, so that you’re at the top of that list when a few rooms open up in March or April. For other hotels, book now to get the room type or rental house that suits your needs. Our Trusted Travel Expert has an excellent relationship with the Four Seasons Maui and other such highly coveted properties, meaning that your chance of getting an optimal room is increased.
China’s Ancient Rituals in the Birthplace of Tai Chi
The birthplace of tai chi and the center of Chinese martial arts, China’s Wudang mountain range has drawn Taoist philosophers to its peaks for centuries. On September 9 each year, many Taoist priests converge there for worship rituals of fasting and offering, praying for national prosperity and peace. Wake up early and watch robed priests flow through the tai chi movements that have been performed in these mountains for centuries; you can also join in the rituals, making your own offering for peace and prosperity. In addition, autumn sees the best temperate weather for hiking among the sacred peaks.
Why book in January? This off-the-beaten-path destination has only a couple of hotels, so you’ll have to make your reservations early in order to be part of this ancient practice.
A Tahiti Yacht Charter
For: September and October
Chartering your own yacht in French Polynesia is like staying in a moveable overwater bungalow—with a staff devoted entirely to you. You can go shelling at deserted beaches, snorkel in remote locations, stop in local villages, stargaze from a blanket laid out in the netting of your catamaran, even catch your own fish for dinner. September and October, when the trade winds aren’t too strong, are the best months to do this.
Why book in January? While there are many crewed boats to choose from in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, there are only about 50 available to charter throughout all of French Polynesia; that means you need to plan well in advance to get just the right boat for you.
Mexico’s Hottest Spot, Tulum, for Christmas
Christmas may have just passed, but it’s now or never for planning this year’s holiday escape to Tulum, the hippie-chic beach town on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. There are plenty of flights into Cancun’s airport, which is about an hour and a half away, and nearby you’ll find Mayan ruins and Sian Ka’an, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its rich biodiversity.
Why book in January? As each week goes by, the boutique hotels here rapidly fill up for their busiest time of the year, and by February you may well have to settle for the waiting list at your favorite property. Not only that, but the most well-connected local guides get reserved far in advance too.
An Antarctica Expedition Cruise for Christmas
Spend your holiday on an epic voyage to the seventh continent. The sleek and modern Le Lyrial will be departing Ushuaia, Argentina on December 23 with an expert team of naturalists and lecturers aboard, headed to the most spectacular and wildlife-rich spots in the Southern Ocean: Mingle with majestic king penguins in South Georgia and rowdy rock hopper penguins in the Falkland Islands, and discover the most pristine landscapes in Antarctica.
Why book in January? This luxury expedition ship’s 100 cabins will go fast as travelers finalize their 2018 holiday plans; plus, if you book soon, you’ll save $4,000 per person in certain cabin categories.
New Year’s Eve Down Under
Sydney is the first major city to ring in the New Year—and one of the most popular places to celebrate it anywhere on the globe. A massive fireworks display goes off over the Harbour Bridge not once but twice, the first at 9 p.m. for families.
Why book in January? Accommodations and special-event tickets (for harbor cruises, opera house performances, and the like) generally go on sale a year in advance and disappear quickly. Get those major items in place now, and you can reserve tables at harborside restaurants or other fireworks vantage points as they become available later in the year.
Contact Wendy to find the right Trusted Travel Expert to plan your best possible trip.
French Polynesia’s Remotest Islands
For: December 2019
The Aranui 5 is a combination freighter/cruise ship, one of the last such vessels left in the world; its journeys give travelers an overview of the region while resupplying local communities (see: How to Island-Hop Your Way Around French Polynesia). Its last sailing of 2019, from December 14–27, will spend a day at the Marquesas Art Festival, an important event in Polynesia that only happens every four years.
Why book in January? The Aranui’s regular itineraries typically sell out a year in advance, and this unusual voyage will likely be even more popular.