20 holidays for 2018 that are cheapest if you book now

Sophie Butler
The Telegraph
Go to Japan ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020 - This content is subject to copyright.
Go to Japan ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020 - This content is subject to copyright.

It seems counter-intuitive to think about your 2018 holiday now – before the Christmas and New Year celebrations are even under way. But that’s exactly why you should. Once the festive season is over, the traditional rush to book next summer’s break begins. By the end of the second week – or even the first – in January, much of the accommodation and the most soughtafter escorted tours and cruises will be gone – especially for those destinations which are most in vogue, or where capacity is particularly limited.

So, if you can force yourself to forget about cake, crackers and candles for a few hours and give some time to next year’s travel plans now, rather than in January, it will almost certainly pay dividends. You will have the best choice of holidays and departure dates; you’ll pay the lowest airfares; and agents and operators will have more time to deal with your enquiries. With your 2018 holiday sorted – that’s the time to relax and think about Christmas.


1. A slice of scenic Britain

The best self-catering properties – those that offer a high standard of accommodation to large groups in scenic parts of the UK – book up fast. Popular hotspots include coastal locations, houses in pretty villages and in national parks – and you have to move quickly to snap up the newly-renovated, stand-out places too. 

What to book

The Landmark Trust (01628 825925; landmarktrust.org.uk) has given fifteenth-century New Inn in Peasenhall, Suffolk, (sleeping eight), a full makeover, with new underfloor heating and a wood stove in its medieval hall. March to June weeks are already block booked. Four nights from £602.

16 incredible Landmark Trust properties
16 incredible Landmark Trust properties

2. West Country half term

Child-friendly hotels by the seaside are hard to come by during the school holidays, and interconnecting rooms are in particular demand. At Fowey Hall Hotel, overlooking the Fowey estuary in Cornwall, 30 per cent of the rooms are already sold for the Whitsun bank holiday weekend in May 2018.

<span>The Fowey estuary</span> <span>Credit: GETTY </span>
The Fowey estuary Credit: GETTY

What to book

Interconnecting rooms sleeping up to two adults and two children cost from £147.50 per person, per night with breakfast at Fowey Hall in peak season: Luxury Family Hotels  (0844 482 2152; luxuryfamilyhotels.co.uk).

3. Magical Mallorca

Family-friendly hotels offering a warm, personal welcome and in exceptional settings are also guaranteed to book early for peak summer weeks, with regular guests returning every summer. The four-star Illa D’Or hotel in the northern resort of Puerto Pollensa is a prime example, its sea view rooms are in particular demand. 

What to book

Classic Collection (0800 047 1064; classic-collection.co.uk) offers seven nights, half board, at Illa D’Or from £1,881 in a sea view room with balcony in early August, including flights and transfers.

<span>A footpath in Mallorca</span> <span>Credit: GETTY </span>
A footpath in Mallorca Credit: GETTY

4. Durrell country

Corfu’s verdant north-eastern corner, around Kassiopi and Agios Stefanos, has long been a favourite destination for well-heeled Brits. With up to nine hours sunshine and temperatures of 23C in May, the season starts early. For a choice of properties and departure dates in 2018, you need to book now.

<span>Kassiopi</span> <span>Credit: lukaszimilena - Fotolia </span>
Kassiopi Credit: lukaszimilena - Fotolia

What to book

Indiana (sleeping 11, from £1,408 in May) is a stylish new additions to the CV Villas portfolio (020 3773 9125; cvvillas.com). The price is per week rental only. excluding flights.

5. Canaries

The May and October half-term weeks are in even heavier demand than the summer peak because everyone wants to fly on the same weekends and demand outstrips supply. While booking now doesn’t guarantee a bargain (October 2018 airfares to popular islands are already high), it does guarantee better availability.

What to book

Cachet Travel (020 8847 8700; cachet-travel.co.uk) offers seven nights at the Residencia Las Norias in La Palma (Canary Islands) from £865 per person, based on a family of four sharing a two-bedroom bungalow departing October 20, 2018 with flights and car hire.

Wildlife and adventure

6. Beat the Inca Trail rush

The challenging four-day trek along the Inca Trail to Peru’s mountain citadel, Machu Picchu, is a bucket-list experience for many, but it requires a tourist permit. These went on sale in October and are restricted to 200 per day so book as soon as possible for travel next year.

<span>Machu Picchu</span>
Machu Picchu

What to book

Places on the popular, nine-day Inca Trail Trek departures offered by adventure specialist, Explore (01252 883 835; explore.co.uk) are selling fast (March and May departures are sold out). Prices start at £1,760 including flights.

7. Gorillas in their midst

To see the protected gorilla families in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains you need a pre-booked permit and numbers are limited to around 80 visitors per day in small groups of eight. The permits cost US$1,500 per person and allow viewing for up to one hour. Tour operators can book these for customers and ask for at least four to six months’ notice for peak, dry season departures (December to February and June to September).

<span>A mountain gorilla in the Virunga Mountains</span> <span>Credit: GETTY </span>
A mountain gorilla in the Virunga Mountains Credit: GETTY

What to book

Exodus (0845 287 5248; exodus.co.uk) offers a new, five-day Gorilla Short Break tour starting at £2,649 including flights and permit.

8. The Big Five and beyond

Safari camps in South Africa’s Eastern Cape are already selling out fast for the spring season towards the end of 2018. Private reserves in this malaria-free region are popular because they can be combined with a trip to Cape Town and a drive east along the Garden Route, as well as offering a chance to view the Big Five.

What to book

Audley Travel (01993 838550; audleytravel.com) offers a 15-day Discover South Africa self-drive itinerary starting in Cape Town and taking in a guided game drive. From £3,060 per person, including flights.

<span>A cheetah in South Africa</span> <span>Credit: ©UTOPIA - stock.adobe.com/CORREIA Patrice </span>
A cheetah in South Africa Credit: ©UTOPIA - stock.adobe.com/CORREIA Patrice

9. Grizzly bear banquet

September wildlife tours to British Columbia which coincide with the brief, annual migration of Pacific salmon returning to the region to spawn, include the unforgettable spectacle of grizzly bears catching and feasting on these fish. Places on these departures for 2018 are already nearly sold out. 

<span>Bears feast on salmon once a year</span> <span>Credit: GETTY </span>
Bears feast on salmon once a year Credit: GETTY

What to book

Naturetrek (01962 733051; naturetrek.co.uk) offers three 14-day Canada: The West departures from £6,795 including flights. Tours leaving on September 6 and 12 are already sold out, but there is currently availability on the September 15 departure.


10. Early bird bargains

Luxury cruise operators are currently launching 2018 and 2019 programmes with big early booking discounts. If you’re able to commit well in advance of travel, you can make good savings and take advantage of  “value-added” inclusions, including complimentary hotel stays.

What to book

Scenic (0800 566 8777; sceniceclipse.com) is offering savings on selected Eclipse cruises. An 18-day Chilean Fjords & Falklands itinerary starts at £8,840 per person, departing November 21, 2018 (discounted from £9,065) based on a deluxe verandah cabin and including a two-night stay in Buenos Aires worth £450. Book by December 22.

11. Chart the Antarctic

Spring comes to Antarctica in November and the short season, ending in March, combined with the small size of the ships (some are limited to 100 passengers, the maximum number allowed to disembark on the peninsula at one time) means it’s wise to book this once-in-a-lifetime trip well in advance for end of 2018 departures.

What to book

Discover the World (01737 214250; discover-the-world.co.uk) offers a ten-day itinerary on the expedition ship, M/V Ushuaia, from £3,734 full board. Flights excluded.

<span>A cruise ship in Antarctica</span> <span>Credit: ALAMY </span>
A cruise ship in Antarctica Credit: ALAMY

12. Boutique Galapagos

The best way to see the Galapagos archipelago is on one of the smaller motor-yachts, accompanied by an expert guide. But these are in limited supply, so you need to plan well in advance – even for 2019.

What to book

Telegraph Exclusive Tours (0330 029 9528) offers a 10-day The Galápagos Islands with Charles Clover cruise on the newly-launched Infinity, a luxurious motor-yacht which sleeps just 20 people. Departing May 19, 2019, it costs from £6,595 including internal flights and two nights in Quito but excluding international flights. Charles Clover, formerly The Telegraph’s environment editor, accompanies this tour throughout.

The world's 17 greatest countries for animal lovers
The world's 17 greatest countries for animal lovers

13. Meander on the Mekong

Flowing over 3,000 miles through six Asian countries, the mighty Mekong river is a popular destination for river cruising and demand is growing. The main focus is the stretch between Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and its capital Hanoi, taking in Cambodia’s main city, Phnom Penh with its Royal Palace and abundance of Buddhist temples.

What to book

Viking River Cruises (0800 319 6660; vikingrivercruises.co.uk) already has only limited availability in all categories of cabin on its 15-day Magnificent Mekong cruise, departing Ho Chi Minh City between July and December 2018. Prices start at £4,199 with flights. 

Art and culture

14. Golden age of rail

Already high, demand for an overnight journey on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express between Venice and London is growing. This is thanks both to Kenneth Branagh’s remake of the Agatha Christie film, Murder on the Orient Express, plus the launch of a new carriage with three grand suites in March 2018. It’s easiest to find availability on the return leg.

What to book

A three-night break to Venice, with two nights b&b in a four-star hotel and one night in a standard cabin on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, departing March 22, and April 12 and 23, 2018 costs from £2,548 through Kirker (020 7593 2283; kirkerholidays.com) including outbound flight. Book by December 31. Grand suite packages start from £6,867. 

<span>A journey on the Orient Express is a once-in-a-lifetime trip</span> <span>Credit: MARTIN SCOTT POWELL </span>
A journey on the Orient Express is a once-in-a-lifetime trip Credit: MARTIN SCOTT POWELL

15. Japanese conversion

As host nation for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympics in 2020, Japan – already a favourite destination among Telegraph readers – will be even more in the spotlight next year. Demand for escorted tours of the country’s classic highlights (Tokyo, Kyoto, Mount Fuji and the snow monkeys of Yudanaka) is high, especially for departure dates which coincide with Tokyo’s highly-entertaining sumo wrestling tournaments (May and September).

What to book

Wendy Wu Tours (0800 1445 605; wendywutours.co.uk) offers a 13-day Trails of Japan tour from £5,190 including flights, accommodation and entrance fees.

16. Semana Santa in Seville

Seville’s Holy Week – which takes place between Palm Sunday and Easter Day – transforms the city and the religious celebrations and processions are one of the great historic spectacles in Europe. Everything happens on the streets and in the churches and is freely available to all, but you do need to book your hotel now. 

What to book

In 2018, the week runs from March 25 to April 1. Our selection of expert-recommended hotels in Seville – from budget to luxurious – is listed here

<span>Seville, the capital of Andalusia</span> <span>Credit: ALAMY </span>
Seville, the capital of Andalusia Credit: ALAMY

17. Access all areas in Rome

Expert-led tours which allow access to areas which are normally out of bounds to tourists or private out-of-hours viewings of busy sights are inevitably among the first to sell. Some tours offer entry to Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, undisturbed by the huge crowds which usually pack out the Vatican Museum.

What to book

Archaeology specialist, Andante Travels (01772 713800; andantetravels.co.uk) offers a six-day Rome and the Sistine Chapel tour departing May 7 and September 17, 2018, from £2,595 including flights and special access to both the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum.

Next Christmas...

18. In the Caribbean 

Regular bookers already have plans in place for next year’s Christmas break in the Caribbean. Top rooms and suites are reserved by the same guests year after year, despite some eye-watering prices business is so strong that Caribtours has a team dedicated to Christmas bookings.

What to book

Caribtours (0207 751 0660; caribtours.co.uk) has packages ranging from £3,299 per person for seven nights in a superior hillside room at Blue Waters in Antiqua, to £22,999 per person for 14 nights (minimum stay over Christmas) in an Orchard Room at Sandy Lane, Barbados, departing December 20, 2018, with  flights.

<span>Swap white snow for white sand</span> <span>Credit: GETTY </span>
Swap white snow for white sand Credit: GETTY

19. In the Alps

In top resorts with access to high-altitude skiing, rooms at good hotels in all price ranges are almost certain to sell out. Book now for Christmas 2018 to be sure you get decent accommodation.

What to book

Among the cheaper deals, Crystal Ski Holidays (020 8610 3123; crystalski.co.uk) is taking bookings for a seven-night stay over Christmas 2018 at the popular three-star Hotel Tango in Val Thorens from £1,245 per person with flights, transfers and half board. At the opposite end of the price scale, the Aman Le Melezin in Courchevel (amanlemelezin.com) - newly-reopened opened after a major renovation just before this Christmas, will open 2018 bookings in a few days time. Prices to be confirmed, but currently rooms start at £1,200 per person, per night, half board. 

20. Down Under

One of the busiest and most expensive periods to take a long haul flight down under is the ten days or so from mid-December to Christmas Eve. If you’re planning to travel then, think about your departure plans now. Booking windows for the big scheduled carriers open around a year ahead of departure, which means flash sales and early bird fares will be unveiled shortly after Christmas.

What to book

Flights to Australia and New Zealand. Book through an agent like Trailfinders (trailfinders.com), Austravel (austravel.com), Travelbag (travelbag.co.uk) or Dial-a-flight (dialaflight.com) which have a broader overview of what’s available from different airlines.

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