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Home / Money / Calculators /  Ample reasons to take a holiday, and stick to a budget

One of the things to do when you get your new year’s calendar is to quickly look at the list of holidays, which ones fall on working days, and which can be converted into long weekends. Well, in 2014, there are more than 10 such holidays—ample reason to plan your travel now. And that’s what Pallavi Khurana, a Mumbai-based private bank employee, has done. “I especially like short breaks every now and then. This year, I have already planned my holidays. My first short holiday is in March to Goa, and later to Dehradun. I often plan in advance so that I get good deals," says Khurana. That’s a good strategy for everyone—plan early and save money.

To help you along, Mint Money did a quick survey of 10 major travel portals and companies to pick popular 3-4 days getaways. The 10 participants in this exercise were: Cleartrip.com, Cox and Kings, Expedia, Ezeego.com, Findmystay.com, HolidayIQ, Makemytrip.com, Thomas Cook, Wego.com and Yatra.com.

Early bird gets the deal

If you plan your holiday in advance, you get the best picks. Says Shibani Phadkar, senior vice-president and head —leisure travel (outbound) products, contracting, operations and tour management, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, “Booking early ensures optimal value for our customers by leveraging the supply rich inventory, as also early bird and advance purchase airfare deals and hotel stays. Come peak season and one is faced with sky-high rates and hotels fully booked by holiday-makers not only from India, but globally."

Accommodation is usually the most expensive part of a short holiday. Booking early brings down this cost, and ensures availability. Mohit Gupta, chief business officer-holidays, MakeMyTrip.com, says, “Many hotels offer advance booking deals, be it complimentary stay, spa vouchers or meals. Booking early could also help you find a great deal in a luxury property at lower rates. You can also avail discounts on sightseeing if you book a month or two prior to your travel date."

Another reason why you should act fast is that more people are travelling during short holidays. Says Hari Nair, founder and CEO, HolidayIQ: “Data from 2011 to 2013 on HolidayIQ.com shows that the popularity of weekend getaways has grown year-on-year, and this will continue in 2014. Over the past few years, weekend travel has emerged as the most preferred type of travel. In 2013, the average trip length came down to 2.8 days, the average length of a long weekend (it was 3.6 days in 2011 and 3 days in 2012)."

If you book early, you will be able to beat the crowd because even though more people are taking short holidays, most of them do the planning later than sooner. According to HolidayIQ, the average planning period was 46 days in 2011, which fell to 33 in 2013. In 2014, this is expected to become less than a month. Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox and Kings, says, “If you plan early, you can budget your trip better because you get to compare, negotiate and choose from among multiple options available."

When loyalty counts

If you are a regular traveller and are particular about a certain hotel brand, you can cash in on the loyalty programme. Says Jackson Fernandez, managing director, Wego, India: “Many prominent hotel chains treat customer loyalty very seriously. Booking in advance makes sense if one is sure to not change the itinerary; many hotels do not offer a 100% refund. Early booking discounts on rooms are particularly helpful during peak holiday times. Many hotels don’t actively promote such discounts and it is up to the consumer to find them."

Fancy flights

For 2-4 days getaways, people generally look for nearby destinations. However, if you want to go further and have to take a flight, then nothing can beat advance planning to save money. Noel Swain, executive vice-president, supplier relations, Cleartrip.com, says, “Airlines on an average fill 30-35% of their flights 30 days and more in advance. Booking as early as 90 days in advance could mean that one pays just half of what it would cost if one were to book 3-7 days in advance of travel."

In holidays, even short ones, that require taking a flight, the airfare often beats accommodation as the most expensive part. So, book early to beat sky-high airfares. Vikram Malhi, general manager, South and Southeast Asia, Expedia, says, “Usually airfares are much more economical if you book 1-2 months in advance."

Before booking hotels or air tickets, check all major portals to get the best deals. Airlines often offer discounts—recently, all airlines cut fares by as much as 50%. Keep a track of these deals to make the most of them. A holiday is truly relaxing if it stays within your budget.

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