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When and how to book for a trip?

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We are an american couple planning a vacation to Paris and Rome during the Christmas holidays this year. I am not sure how to go about booking flights and hotels.

We normally use priceline's express deals for our shorter trips in the country, but given that this is a bit further out (half a year, or am I starting to book too early?) I want to find something refundable just incase any plan changes. Even though it is not likely for us to change plans but just incase anything happens we dont want to lose a couple thousands worth of hotel bookings and flights.

So when and where should I start with as far as booking goes? Anything to look out for?

Thanks for all the tips!

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