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When to book flights

My husband and I will be celebrating our 35th anniversary in May and have signed up for the 14 day Best of England tour from Sept. 8 to Sept. 21. This will be our first Rick Steves' tour, and we're very excited about the trip. I am looking for some advice on when to purchase airline tickets. Our tour hasn't filled up yet, and I was wondering if we should wait until it's full before we buy our airline tickets. I don't want to buy tickets and then find out that the tour has been cancelled. (I'm a bit of a worrywart!)
Thanks for your help,
Mary

Posted by
5697 posts

Mary, my guess would be that the chance of the tour being cancelled is much less than the chance of having to take a flight that is more expensive and/or less convenient by waiting to book airline tickets. Build in a little extra time before/after your tour, too!

Posted by
1068 posts

I think it all depends on your tolerance for uncertainty, but in my experience (5 tours so far and one more coming up), few RS tours get cancelled. I buy the tickets when I think I've found a good price. Enjoy the tour!

Posted by
506 posts

I have never heard of anyone worrying about buying air tickets because of a tour? But airlines are another problem. I really don't think there are any better times. They have all consolidated so you are not going to get some super duper price these days. I always buy my tickets at the end of January every year for International and seem to always get the best price no matter what time of year we are going. So for now I would just get your tickets bought. I only go through the airlines directly. It worries me to have a third party in this day and age and hoping they will help me out if something goes wrong. So I would just look at the prices on all the airlines that you would want to fly and pick the best price. Most of the time the airline that has it's hub in your area is usually the best price and the most flights available. We fly out of San Francisco and last year to London United had not only the best price but a direct flight. But the year before we got a good price and direct flight to Paris on Air France.

Posted by
360 posts

I have never heard of an RS tour being cancelled due to insufficient signups. Maybe others know of that happening. If necessary RS can offer some good discounts as an incentive to get people to sign up. There are many tours listed that have a $200 or $300 discount. I assume this is to encourage people to sign up. https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/discount-tours

I was on a tour that had only 12 members, a bit less than half the normal full tour. The only adaption made was a smaller bus to haul us around, but we still had a full two seats per person, and, of course, it was not cancelled.

If you wait until the tour is full, you might end up paying a much higher airfare.

If you have doubts buy the insurance that will reimburse you if the tour is cancelled. Then sleep well and enjoy anticipating the tour.

Posted by
672 posts

In 21 RS tours, we've never had a cancellation, so I book air fairly early. When we travel with Road Scholar, I wait until their office tells me the tour is a go, because they do cancel tours. You might call the RS office and ask them, but I think they're pretty conscientious about keeping their departures down to a number that they can fill.

Posted by
9478 posts

My experience is the same as Nancy's. I've not had Rick's tours cancelled, but have had Road Scholar tours cancelled. There are also other tour companies who are bad about cancelling.

If you have a question, I would call the RS tour department and ask how many are signed up and if there is a chance of cancellation.

Posted by
174 posts

We went on an Eastern France Tour last year with 14 tour members and the guide and driver. We also had the normal full size bus. This tour was one that had been on sale and still went off at basically half capacity. I would plan that your tour will happen and buy your tickets now,

Posted by
2788 posts

I go to Europe ever year for 12 of the last 13. I book my flights 6 months ahead of time since my schedule is not flexible. I have taken 12 RS tours and have never heard of one being cancelled.

Posted by
1092 posts

I've noticed with my flights from San Francisco to Paris, Italy and Germany through Air France, Delta and Lufthansa that the prices go up the closer to the departure date. I buy my tickets 9 to 8 months out, they seem to be the cheapest at that time.

Posted by
210 posts

Not sure what the cut-off number is, but I was on a tour with 7…..yes, 7……tour members. Talk about extra bus space :-) and yes, it we had a full size bus.

Posted by
360 posts

Generally, buy your tickets about 1-4 weeks after I buy mine. You're almost guaranteed a lower airfare than the one I paid.

Posted by
38 posts

Hi Mary,

We get this question a lot. Though any tour can be cancelled due to insufficient sign-ups this does not happen very often. We try and create tour dates that we have a strong confidence in will take place. And we do not actually need a tour to be full for it to be a go. If the tour is at least half full then that the tour will happen. But sometimes the market demand for a specific tour date is not there. We may only get 5 or 6 people who sign up for it. Then, unfortunately, we have to cancel it because we cannot financially operate a tour with so few people on it. We try and make the call to cancel a tour at least 3 months out. And if we do have to cancel a tour we will contact you and see if we can get you on another tour date. If we can then we will pay for your change in flight fee. We understand the inconvenience of cancelling a tour so we try and do our best to help get you on another tour that will work for you. We also encourage people to get travel insurance ~ for in the case that we do have to cancel a tour and you cannot change to anything else - with travel insurance you would be covered for the cost of your flight. If we do cancel a tour we, of course, would refund everything you paid to us. You can also call us and inquire as to how many people are already on the tour. Hope that helps.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks to everyone who responded to my question. I feel much more confident about booking our flights.