It’s September so, ideally, you’ve already booked your holiday travel but, if you haven’t you should get on top of that as soon as possible. While there’s the temptation of waiting for last-minute deals (and sometimes that works out), you risk getting locked out during the busiest time of year.

You might feel overwhelmed just thinking about this when the summer is still winding down but it really is best to start getting those ducks in a row now because November and December will be here before you know it.

Pick Your Dates

A few factors go into picking the dates when you should be traveling. Of course, you need to make sure your plans align with the schedules at work and school but, on top of that, slight tweaks can make a huge difference in terms of cost.

Use a site/app such as SkyScanner to play around with dates to see if altering your itinerary by a day or two can save you money. You might be truly amazed by how much the prices can vary within a short window.

Consider the Options

Traveling during the holiday season is special for many reasons and one is that people have more stuff than usual so be sure to double check each airline’s carry on and baggage policies before confirming your flight.

Additionally, if you live in a smaller market, check the flights from the nearest major city and see if it’s worth traveling from there instead. You may need to drive a little longer to get there but, you can save money or get a direct flight to your destination, the investment could pay off.

Book the Extras

If you’re flying somewhere, think about what you might need when you get there. Should you reserve a rental car and, if so, will you also need GPS, insurance or child safety seats? Snag those items early in the season to avoid limited availability.

Also, if you plan to see a show, take a tour or visit an attraction, be sure to purchase those tickets in advance. Not only do you avoid the risk of them selling out but you could also score an early bird discount.

Set Alerts

Before booking a flight, renting a car or reserving a hotel, set up alerts on apps such as SkyScanner and Hopper so that you are notified as soon as a good deal becomes available. Even if you only watch for a day or two, you will get a better feel for the market.

Also, some sites allow you to opt in to receive notifications if the price of your rental car drops, for example. You may then authorize the provider to change your reservations to take advantage of the better bargain.

Have a Backup Plan

Anything can happen so it’s always a good idea to plan for the unexpected. One of the best ways you can do that is to purchase travel insurance. Not all policies are created equal so be sure to shop for the one that best meets your needs.

Also, take pictures of your identification and have cash on hand in case your wallet is lost or stolen. Watch the inclement weather warnings and carry extra snacks in case you are delayed. During that time of year, it’s pretty common.

It’s tempting to procrastinate when it comes to planning travel for this time of year but it really is wise to get started as soon as possible. When you book early, you can look for great deals and get better organized — and who doesn’t need a little extra money or peace of mind around the holidays?