If you’re lucky enough not to have to worry about the cost you can skip this page. All I would say is book early to maximise your choice – yachts start booking up to a year in advance. The only exception would be if you wanted a new boat as some yacht operators don’t finalise their new purchases until 4-5 months before the start of the season (around the turn of the year for the Med).
Myth has it that if you leave booking until the last minute, the operators will be so keen to get their last yachts off the quay that you’ll get your holiday for a song. Here are several reasons why it often doesn’t work out like that (and a few circumstances when it might)!
- Many yacht operators don’t own all their yachts – they manage and run them on behalf of owners or investors who are often guaranteed a minimum sum per charter. The operators need to make some profit and any tour operator or agent will want a cut too. (Tour operators rarely own all their yachts either; some act as yacht operators, managing other people’s yachts, others work with local charter conpanies, hiring in yachts either en masse, or on demand)
- Even if the yacht is owned by the yacht operators, they won’t want to let it go too cheaply or this risks undermining the owners/investors who provide the rest of their fleet, or undermining their own market. Even if they own all their own fleet, there are always costs in letting it leave the quay, from wear and tear, cleaning costs and charter licenses.
- Flight prices usually go up faster than yacht prices come down. Saving 20% on the yacht price isn’t such a great deal if the flight prices have doubled in the meantime. Usually the only time flight prices fall is if a charter airline has odd seats left over either inbound only or outbound only (mismatches, usually arising from the mixture of one week and two week holidays sold).
- Flights sell out. I’ve had some great yacht offers which were useless as I couldn’t find a way to get clients there (other than via Timbuktu at extraordinary cost).
- Yachts sell out. There may seem to be numerous yachts available on the internet but many of these are the same boats being offered through different operators, or boats that never existed in the first place.
- Yachts also show as available on many websites when they’re already booked. This may be because the supplier would like you to think he has more yachts than he really does, or is slow updating his records. Just as likely it’s because most suppliers websites don’t have true availability checking.
- You’re particularly likely to come unstuck if you want a larger yacht as these book out earlier, or if you want a yacht from a smaller more remote base. For example almost all yachts in Skiathos come from Athens based operators. They are unlikely to move an extra yacht to Skiathos just for you – it’s a hard 1.5 day trip which means they lose a weeks charter either side of yours, in addition to the cost of crew and fuel to undertake the move.
Obviously, the likelihood of yachts or flights selling out in low season is less than in high season, but even then, late booked flight seats can be pricey as there are often fewer flights running than in high season.
Here’s an alternative strategy – book early! Many of the Mediterranean bareboat operators will give you 10% off for bookings before the end of the boat show period (mid January). Or check with me for the latest prices as discounts do arise during the season. I don’t rate some special offers because I don’t think some are that special (I take the view that 20% off a yacht that was 30% overpriced in the first place isn’t a special offer)! But good deals do come up.
The other option for a cheap deal is if you are looking for a package in low season. Tour operators buy flight seats in bulk and especially in low season may find they have more than they can readily shift. This is because the airlines insist they take the same number of seats across the season. So if they need 20 a week for high season, they have to have 20 per week for low season too. Close to departure they may find themselves with too many seats left over and so slash the package price to recover at least some income for the flight seats. This doesn’t just apply to advertised packages – they will often be happy to sell you a bareboat or skippered charter matched up with flight seats (and often transfers too).
There is one final option that may suit those that can go at the drop of a hat. From time to time, people have mishaps and can’t take their holiday. If this happens close to departure the holiday will be fully paid for and the travel insurance may reimburse the original booker.
This leaves a fully paid for yacht (and quite possibly flights). Anything these can be sold for is pure profit. I was once left with an 8 cabin yacht and six flight seats I couldn’t give away because the situation occurred 24 hours before departure. So if you can get away in a hurry let me know and you just might get lucky!
So in conclusion, if you can go at the drop of a hat, are flexible about where you go and what yacht you end up with, and are looking for a low season date, you may get a deal by hanging on.
Otherwise, waiting for a last minute deal may end up costing you more. It’s all about how much you’re willing to compromise and how much you want to risk getting either the wrong holiday, the right holiday but at a higher price, or no holiday at all.