How Far In Advance Should You Book Your Gap Year?

Whether you plan to trek to Machu Picchu or visit the famous art galleries of Paris, there are some activities and adventures you should consider booking in advance – if you don’t, you might miss out on the experience of a lifetime.

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Pros and Cons of Booking Ahead vs Cutting it Fine

No surprises here, but some of the most sought-after activities book out months in advance. The Inca Trail – South America’s most iconic trek – only offers 500 permits a day to hike to the top of Machu Picchu. During the high season, these permits can sell out years in advance. The same goes for cruises to the Galapagos Islands or Antarctica.

That said, sometimes, if you wait until the last minute, you can score the deal of a lifetime. If you’re lucky, this could be an eight-day cruise to Antarctica for just 70% of the original price – that’s if you’re okay with waiting around in Ushuaia for a last-minute deal.

Other times, especially in Central America and Southeast Asia, it’s best to wait until the last minute and shop around for the best prices.

Booking for High Season

Every destination in the world has a high and low travel season. If you know you’ll be traveling during high season, you should consider booking your activities in advance – especially if it’s a popular activity like bungee jumping or the Eiffel Tower.

Booking in advance is especially important if you have limited time in a destination. If this is a case, make a list of the top three activities you want to do. If the activity is something you know you’ll regret not doing once you leave, book it beforehand. If not, wait it out and see if you can book it once you’re there.

Booking for Low Season

Low season is one of the best times to travel if you’re looking to save a few dollars. However, low season might also mean bad weather. For example, low season in Southeast Asia means heavy rain. Due to the low demand and questionable weather, it’s best to wait until you get there to book.

Always be sure to check your desired activity runs during low season. For example, in Myanmar the hot air balloons over Bagan only run between the months of October–March, and cost a whopping US $300.

When it comes to booking bungee jumps in New Zealand, you’ll need to book ahead during the Summer months. During Winter, however, it’s better if you wait to see the weather forecast a few days prior, and then lock it in.

You might also get better deals if you shop around, as tour operators are more eager for your business. Some activities, like a three-day, four-night Bolivian Salt Flats tour, will still book out

Starting the trek to EBC. Photo credit: Mark Whitman, Kandoo Adventures

Real Life Examples from a Traveler

I recently spent the past 18 months traveling through Central America, Europe, Oceania, and Southeast Asia. I’ve always been a planner and like planning activities beforehand, but due to the length of time aboard, much of my travel was flexible and spur-of-the-moment.

There was a six-week period of travel up the Australia’s east coast, where I had to pre-book all my activities in advance because I was traveling on a strict timeline. I had a bucket list of things I wanted to do, which mostly revolved around scuba diving.

Since I was traveling through Southeast Asia during the low season, I opted to book most of my activities a few days before so I could shop around for the best prices.

Before you begin your gap year, make a list of the top ten activities that you know you want to do. Once you figure out your rough timeline, research if you’ll be there during the high or low season. If you’re there in the high season, consider booking ahead. If it’s the low season, wait until you get there or a week or two in advance.

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