One of the most important aspects of booking travel, particularly ‘out of the box’ adventure Antarctica travel is knowing when to book. As travel counselors (and my does it feel like counseling sometimes!) we get this question all the time - “When is the best time to book...?" for each and every destination and trip type that we work with.
It’s our job as travel counselors to help each particular person find the very best balance between trip wants and needs, budget and timeframe of travel. Ideally, this would allow for maximum savings on cruise or tour fare and all those other costs like air and hotel that can add or deduct costs on every trip based on their time of booking. As such, there is no one absolute best time to book- the answer is different for every individual traveler and destination.
Nearly every destination that we work with is subject to high and low seasons, and typically these revolve around two things. One is the best time to travel weather wise and in regards to sights and wildlife as this drives demand. The second aspect, no less important, is demand drive by holiday time periods when many travelers have vacation days to incorporate such as Christmas & New Year etc. To keep things simple, we’ll pick one of top destinations, and discuss the specifics of when to book Antarctica travel and specifically and Antarctica cruise.
The Antarctica travel season revolves around the austral summer, from early November through early March, when sea ice breaks up and snowfall and storms decrease. The most desirable and in-demand timeframe is mid-December through January, when the weather is most reliably at its best and many Antarctic penguin species hatch their eggs and the chicks are in the rookeries.
In South Georgia & The Falklands, King penguins hatch their chicks year-round, but November is great for weather and conditions as well as the battle of the elephant seal 'masters' during breeding season.
With Antarctica cruises, you’ll find discounts scarce when compared to the large cruise ship industry. Demand is high for Antarctica cruises and tours, and while some companies will discount to fill every berth, many of the higher quality ships do not offer last-minute discounts at all, but instead offer early booking incentives which often align with the lower air fares.
Early Booking Incentives
The clear advantage to booking early is choice. You get your choice of Antarctic cruise itinerary, as well as cabin category and adventure options (and some of these do sell out so if that is important to you then you’ll want to book early). And as stated, there are Early Booking Discounts in place that can help you save on your cruise fare. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be a discount offered later on for the very same cruise (and if there is you won’t be eligible forit 99% of the time), however- keep in mind that booking early allows you to secure your airfare early and this can save you quite a bit of money, especially if you are able to use airline miles or points.
If you can make arrangements quickly, and you love the thrill of the bargain hunt, then you’ll want to take advantage of approaching ‘season’ or mid-season discounts- also known as last minute travel.. These can range from 10% up to 50% off full fares, but your choice of departure dates and cabin is of course limited and you never know what you’ll wind up with. Airfare increases, eating into your cruise savings, and sometimes flights to Ushuaia can be full prior to your cruise, making it necessary for you to arrive days ahead of your cruise, adding several nights accommodation cost to your trip.
Finding The Right Trip
To find the best itinerary, we suggest you decide what is most important to see and hone in on the programs that deliver this. Then you’ll want to rank trips breaking out cost against the number of days exploring (vs days at sea), against what is included and not included in the types of ships you desire.
With so many things to consider when booking Antarctica travel or an Antarctic cruise, we feel it is always good to connect with travel veterans, read reviews, and research companies. Many Antarctic cruise specialists charge nothing for their services and save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars and hours of research. They can also add tremendous value to your trip with insider 'been there, done that' tips. If you contact them far enough in advance- sometimes two years even prior to travel, they can provide you with advice ahead of time that will assist you in answering the question of the best time to book your Antarctica cruise.