How Early to Book for Christmas 2019

Old Nov 26th, 2018, 11:37 AM
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How Early to Book for Christmas 2019

I'm thinking pretty far ahead here, so I don't have the details of my trip nearly confirmed yet. I'm looking at spending a couple weeks over Christmas 2019 in Salzburg, Hallstatt, and Vienna. Normally I start making hotel and site reservations about 3 months ahead of time, but I'm wondering if I need to start confirming things earlier for this trip. I can't say exactly what we want to do, but I'd be looking to book hotels in the <$200/night range and book tickets for some sort of musical performance.

It looks like Vienna opera tickets go on sale in April. However, the best flight deals usually aren't found until 3-4 months before a trip. My travel dates would depend somewhat on flight prices, making it difficult to sketch out an itinerary until the flights have been purchased. I know I can use Booking to make refundable room reservations, but I'm thinking AirBnB might be a better fit for us, and those bookings generally aren't refundable.

Anyone have advice on how to balance getting reservations and tickets for popular sites/performances with getting the best price on flights? For those of you who plan far in advance, do you just decide on dates and then bite on the bullet on whatever the airfare is that works with those dates?
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Old Nov 26th, 2018, 12:11 PM
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For accommodations, you can probe availability picture at your target destinations for 2018 right now to get some empirical data. Whether you box yourself into a corner regarding airfare with respect to the performances depends on how you planned your visit. If you scattered performances all across your visit, then you have locked yourself into traveling on specific dates to specific destinations. If you booked performances such than you can do other things before or after or in between, then you have some flexibility in choosing the dates of your flights.
You don't have to choose between refundable hotels vs. AirBnB. You can book fall back refundable hotels compatible with your performance dates. Once you book your flights, you can book airBnB if it is not too late or use your fall back hotels unless you are ok totally striking out if hotels or AirBnB, that you care to stay are no longer available.
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Old Nov 27th, 2018, 09:56 AM
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If there were a special event I had to buy tickets far ahead, I would, and then plan a detailed itinerary and flights around that. Generally, that might be one night in a city where I'm staying several days, so there is leeway there. Also, airfares never change that much for any place I go based on day of the week within close proximity to each other. I mean I've never seen it change by $200 on the RT price if I go Monday rather than Sunday or whatever. It might change by $50 or so. But I have reasons for wanting to go certain days that I just won't change that much having to do with work. It sounds like you know the general parameters of when you want to go anyway, so if you want to fool around with leaving Sat versus the next day or whatever based on airfare, that can easily wait until later. Just don't book an event for what COULD be your first day or last day or something like that.

There are companies in the world other than Airbnb, I don't understand the obsession with them. They are unethical anyway.
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Old Nov 27th, 2018, 11:08 AM
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memejs -

Greetings from a lovely Air BnB in Switzerland! Booking with Air BnB doesn't necessarily mean non-refundable - some listings have strict cancellation policies, others quite flexible. The one we're in has a 48 hour cancellation policy. And IME very few are non-refundable this far in advance (except for service fees) - do look around.

We're headed to Austria from Switzerland in a few weeks - we booked our flights in August, about three months out, and then both flights were cancelled, one a week after booking, the second about a month prior to departure, forcing us to change our itinerary twice, by a total of three days, so I certainly don't see the benefit of booking any sooner than 3-4 months in advance.

We booked our Austrian accommodation about two months in advance, The only one that is non-refundable is through Booking.com!

FWIW do think long and hard about basing in Hallstatt - from what I've read it's near death in December. I shall find out first hand in a few weeks.
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Old Nov 28th, 2018, 01:32 PM
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Thanks for your comments everyone!

@Melenq8 Do let me know about Hallstatt! I'm thinking we'd only spend one night there, as it's not far off route between Salzburg and Vienna and pictures look so beautiful - maybe a slow day to just eat, lounge, and take short walks to enjoy the scenery. If it's not worth visiting in December though, that would be useful to know.
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Old Nov 29th, 2018, 08:58 AM
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memejs -

I will try to remember to post back. FWIW we plan to visit Hallstatt as a day trip from St Gilgen - we'll be in St Gilgen for five nights and Seefeld for five nights.
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 10:05 AM
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memejs -

We visited Hallstatt today and I take back my death comment.

It took us almost two hours to get there from St Giglen, (which is an hour from Salzburg, so possibly much further 'off route' than you might expect). To get there involved taking two buses, which connected to a third smaller van sized bus, which also served as a taxi (full sized buses cannot use the tunnel that leads into town). We returned via ferry, (five minutes) a train and another bus. The fare was 19.80 Euro each way for the two of us. The ferry was 2.50 Euro each but is going up in 2019 to 3 Euro each.

I just realized I don't know if you plan to drive or use public transport, so the above may not apply to you.

As my attached photos show, our day wasn't ideal weather wise, but we've been in Austria for two weeks and have had the same weather almost everywhere we've been, so this may be usual for December - low clouds, fog, general dullness (and very cold).

Winter days are very short, Hallstatt is surrounded by mountains, so it felt like it was getting dark around the time we left at 2:15.

Hallstatt itself is lovely, but the sheer number of obtrusive selfie-taking tourists was quite off-putting - and this is in December - I can't even imagine what it would be like in summer. As with many places these days, Hallstatt has well been discovered by the Chinese - and there are a lot of them!

I feel bad for the residents of Hallstatt having to deal with the tourist onslaught on a regular basis (and yes I see the irony of that statement).

It's probably lovely when all the day trippers have left, but for me, two hours in Hallstatt on a cold gloomy winter day were sufficient (and I'm a slow traveler!)
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 10:16 AM
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Hallstatt as a daytrip is a bad idea, but staying 1 night lets you enjoy the magic when the daytrippers are gone. Loved it last December in the snow.
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 10:26 AM
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 10:30 AM
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The square at midnight from my hotel room.
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 11:10 AM
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Felt the same way about Rothenburg ob der Tauber, lovely after the day trippers leave. I've spent up to three nights per visit there on multiple trips, despite others thinking it's only day trip worthy. We all have different experiences.

FWIW, the owner of our accommodation here in St Gilgen told us this afternoon that China has built a replica of Hallstatt. Curious, I googled:

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/07/0...o-one-is-home/
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 11:36 PM
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Melnq8, we were in the Salzkammergut (Mondsee and St. Wolfgang)this weekend, too, but thought the snow made the towns look magical.


Yes, Hallstatt in the summer (during the day) is horrible.
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Old Dec 16th, 2018, 11:48 PM
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forfourtravel - I love snow, don't get me wrong, but the constant gloom has been a bit depressing. It's curbed our will to hike as well as making mountain top excursions fruitless, so we've not done much of what we'd planned.

We probably crossed paths with you in St Wolfgang - we were there Saturday to attend the Men's Choir concert - it was a zoo as you well know, but very festive. Kept expecting a tourist to bump into one of those candles and catch fire!
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 12:07 AM
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Was wondering where you were at the moment, Mel, no pics no Flickr yet?
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 12:16 AM
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Melnq8, ah. The gloom settles into Vienna around mid-November, with darkness coming some days as early as 1400, so we're quite used to it. I saw the colorful gondolas going to up to Schafberg and actually mentioned to DH that "a Fodors traveler" might be in one of them! We hadn't planned to go up, and were regretting that we hadn't thought to toss our winter hiking boots into the wagon. In St. Wolfgang we shared a Glühmost and waited for selfie-taking tourists at the water's edge to fall in!

Looking forward to your trip report.
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 12:43 AM
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Apologies to memejs for our little detour here --

Melnq8, I admit that, with as much winter and off-season travel that you do in Switzerland and Germany, I thought you would have encountered that gloom way before now. Yes, it is a winter caution here (sunsets in Garmisch around 16.00 from Dec-Feb, twilight, yes, around 15.00), and why many residents caution visitors to maybe re-schedule their visits. It's certainly one reason why Christmas markets are so necessary, to bring life and to bring people together despite the darkness and cold.

Since I moved here, I've found the darkness to be more unsettling than the cold, and I count the days until 28 Dec, and push with all my might 😂 against the setting sun!

I guess you have spent most of your visits at places of high elevation??

Anyway, hope you find lots of joy and fun for the rest of your trip!

s
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 09:41 AM
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Adelaidean -

We leave for Germany tomorrow, fly home on Thursday. Will plow through photos when I get home.

But one to tide you over in the heat of the Australian summer attached.

fourfortravel - we took the bus to Strobel today, then walked to St Wolfgang - entirely different atmosphere! Peaceful and near empty. I had some baked apple soup (weirdly wonderful) at Hotel Peter followed by a Schaumrolle, dipped in chocolate (but of course). I might have to be rolled onto the plane.

swandav - we're all too familiar with the winter gloom of Germany, but have had some fantastic winter weather in Switzerland in the past. This year the gloom seems to be following us around. We're spoiled for sunshine in Colorado, year round, so it always seems to catch me off guard, although I've learned to choose my bases in Switzerland wisely. My gloom aversion is more about how it affects my photography.

I think I'd underestimated the lake effects - a fog and gloom that doesn't seem to burn off.

So it goes. I'll take the gloom over the selfie sticks any day of the week!
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 02:17 PM
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Beautiful pictures btw. We travel last minute most of the time so never have time to book far out 75% of the time. I did for next trip to Ireland because the owner of the apartment we like told me she would start taking May reservations in Sept. I got in while I could and did the rest of our trip around her.
My brother lives in a ski town and winter accommodations are booked ten months out during holidays. If you go to the city you are interested in and do events for the year you can see dates that are not going to be cheap or available. Sporting events or music concerts.
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 09:54 PM
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Beautiful photo Melnq8! I adore those moody pictures with grey swirling clouds...just dislike the early evenings. You really do seem to make the most of them!

s
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Old Dec 17th, 2018, 10:09 PM
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Thank you swandav!
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