CULTURE

When it comes to holiday planning, sooner is cheaper

Specialized websites know it and travel agents have always said so. It also gets the ?likes? flying on Facebook: When it comes to holiday planning, the sooner the better. According to a recent Eurobarometer public opinion survey, seven out of 10 Greeks will be opting for a local holiday destination this summer. But have they booked in advance? When you?re on a tight budget, planning ahead is vital, even if this planning only concerns a few days of relaxation.

Speaking to Kathimerini recently, the president of the Hellenic Hotel Federation, Yiannis Retsos, stressed the importance of booking early: The sooner ahead you plan, the better financial deal you?ll get.

In early May, an online Kathimerini survey took a look at holiday accommodation prices for the June 13-20 period. The survey was conducted through a specialized bookings site and focused on studio accommodation for two at 10 popular local destinations. At the time, the lowest price for a seven-night stay could be found on Corfu (112 euros), while Pilio topped the list with prices starting at 245 euros. At the beginning of this month, Kathimerini repeated the survey, adding another two reservation websites in order to record broader results.

The conclusion reached? Travelers who had planned in advance and had made early bookings for the recent bank holiday weekend ended up spending 15 to 35 percent less than those who left their arrangements until the last minute. This was true of destinations such as Corfu, Kos, Paros, Santorini and Iraklio, Crete. In the case of Rhodes, Zakynthos, Halkidiki, Hania and Pilio, prices were more or less the same.

So, now that August is just a matter of weeks, get busy and plan ahead. As price lists for accommodation go up during the so-called high season, one way to save money is on transportation. Things are more flexible when it comes to ferries, for instance. A number of companies offer 15-20 percent reductions on regular tickets through e-bookings, while companies whose ferries travel to Crete feature offers such as free vehicle transportation. In the field of air travel, a recent offer for local destinations by a Greek airline company was telling: 39 euros for passengers flying into Athens and 59 euros for those traveling from Athens. A few days ago, the company?s CEO talked about how planning in advance always leads to better deals for travelers. Travel agents warn travelers to beware of such offers, however, because they usually do not pay out refunds for cancellations, while changing your travel dates comes at a high price.

Speaking to Kathimerini, travel agency representatives noted that getting better prices for booking early is nothing new in the market and, consequently, is not necessarily the answer during the current financial crisis. Early bookings, they say, especially when it comes to transportation, have always pointed to lower prices for travelers while facilitating the task of the travel agents themselves.

Advance bookings, however, are precisely that. If you book as early as four to five months ahead of your August vacation, the cost of transportation may be as much as 50 percent less than the summer rates. In this light, it is no coincidence that one company urges its clients to book early through a special link on its website, where the advantages of such practices are explained in detail: ?It is a well-known fact that the majority of Greeks make their summer travel arrangements at the very last minute. It also a well-known fact that airline companies have changed their reservation systems and are now offering more than one price for economy-class seats. In practice, this means that the sooner you plan you trip, the easier it is to obtain available seats at the lowest possible price.?

Coupons and competitions

The clock was ticking on GoldenDeals.gr a few days ago: The time left for a special offer regarding a one-night stay in a double-room in a Anavyssos resort hotel was 15 hours, three minutes and eight seconds. The offer included breakfast, coffees, deck chairs and a beach umbrella, not to mention late afternoon cocktails at the hotel?s trendy beach bar. For those booking within the allotted time, the 69-euro coupon (50 percent off the original price) was valid from June 4 to August 31 and included a few other conditions. Some 166 coupons had already been sold online, hardly surprising, given that GoldenDeals.gr has over 27,000 Facebook friends. Furthermore, its offers cover much more than just travel.

Many sites offer deals with imminent expiration dates, including WeekDeals.gr. At press time, the website was offering a 5-euro coupon for a 50 percent reduction on one ferry ticket and a choice of four different ferry companies.

Though Travelplanet24.com offers lower reductions, visitors to the site are encouraged to plan as far ahead as possible because that?s when the best deals can be snapped up. Slightly more chaotic, Greektouristguides.gr works along the same lines, running in the form of online competitions, with special offers blinking on the screen.