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Travel What to book and when: The ultimate 2019 vacation planning guide

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Book during Wave Season for the best deals on cruises such as the Symphony of the Seas by Royal Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean

January

Wave Season begins

The period dubbed “Wave Season” by the cruise industry runs from January through March and features a wide range of perks for booking voyages in advance. “It’s also when you will have the best choice of cabin deck and location within a particular price category,” says Susan Catto of Travelzoo.com, a New York-based travel-booking website. ”Cabins with more desirable locations – the ones furthest from noisy public areas or elevators, for example – sell out quickly and are unlikely to be available to last-minute bookers.”

The Wave lottery

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Such is the popularity of hiking to the otherworldly Arizonian rock formation known as “The Wave” that lotteries are held for the 20 daily spots four months in advance. So if you want to visit in May or later, now’s the time to try your luck.

Easter Mass with Pope Francis

With the next major Christian observance slightly less than four months away, there’s no time like the present to fax (yes, fax) the Vatican to request free tickets to attend the enormously popular 10 a.m. Mass in St. Peter’s Square on April 21. Download the form here.

Celebrate the solstice at Newgrange, Ireland.

Brian Morrison/Tourism Ireland

Newgrange Winter Solstice lottery

Over the course of six dawns in late December, 60 lucky people (and their lucky guests) witness sunlight flooding the inner chamber of this neolithic tomb north of Dublin. How many people entered the 2018 lottery for this experience? Oh, just a mere 28,595. The 2019 lottery is now open, with the draw typically taking place near the end of September.

New York Fashion Week early-bird pricing

Until Jan. 6, discounts apply to three ”NYFW experiences” that combine queue-free runway show admission with panel discussions, lounge access, VIP check-in and more. NYFW runs from Feb. 7 to 13.

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Burning Man presale

Start work on your faux-elephant-tusk headdress whenever you like, but based on 2018 timing, you should start looking for tickets to the surreal Nevada Desert arts festival near the end of January. Burning Man’s main ticket sale tends to begin in late March, with the 2019 festival slated for Aug. 25 to Sept. 2.

Infinity Mirrors in Atlanta

If you missed Yayoi Kusama’s stunning (and stunningly popular) exhibition when it visited the Art Gallery of Ontario, it reopens at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, the final stop on its six-city North American tour. Advance tickets are sold out, but according to the High, there will be approximately 100 walk-up tickets available daily through Feb. 17.

Disney World on sale

One of the cheapest times to head to Disney World - and enjoy rides such as Splash Mountain - is January.

Garth Vaughan

There are three periods early in the year when room rates at Disney World in Orlando plummet to nearly half their peak levels: Jan. 2 to 9, Jan. 13 to 17 and Jan. 21 to Feb. 13. The second-greatest price drop, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 14, is notable for Canadians because many children are still out of school during its first week.

Parks Canada reservations

The lodging reservation service for Canada’s 39 national preserves and historic sites covers everything from drive-in and backcountry campsites to oTENTik tent-cabin hybrids and two-person micro-cubes. Reservations open between Jan. 3 and 22; check the website for specific park dates.

Of special note this year is the 50th anniversary of New Brunswick’s beach-blessed Kouchibouguac National Park, which starts accepting reservations on Jan. 17. Then there’s the perennially popular West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, which will begin distributing hiking permits on Jan. 7.

Edinburgh Fringe tickets

As performances, exhibitions and other events are confirmed for Aug. 2 to 26 in Scotland’s capital, the world’s largest arts festival will start doling out tickets on six dates: Jan. 31, Feb. 28, March 21, April 18, May 16 and June 5, when the full programme is slated to launch.

February

Grand Canyon rafting lottery

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If you want to raft down the Colorado River during the centennial of Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll have to do it with an outfitter. Lottery applications for non-commercial rafting permits typically open some time this month, but they will be for 2020 trips. Then again, a 101-year-old park is no less spectacular.

If you want to raft down the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon, you need to plan in advance.

St. Valentine’s silver lining

The bad news: If you’ve forgotten about Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14 you may be headed for the doghouse. The good news: According to a Cheapflights.ca study, February is the cheapest month for booking flights to Paris.

March

Olympic and World Junior tickets

The International Ice Hockey Federation states that tickets for the 2020 World Juniors – in the Czech Republic from Dec. 26, 2019, to Jan. 5, 2020 – “will be sold in several phases,” with the first one “expected to start in spring, 2019.”

The same goes for tickets to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, according to the official ticketing website. The Flight Centre Canada travel agency, for its part, is already “seeing interest” in the Summer Games, spokeswoman Allison Wallace says.

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Half Dome lottery

Using metal cables to climb the final 122 metres of Yosemite National Park’s iconic Half Dome rock formation is so popular that you need a permit to do it. These are distributed via a preseason lottery throughout March (with results announced mid-April), as well as through a series of smaller lotteries that occur 48 hours before daily ascents.

FIBA Basketball World Cup draw

Canada recently qualified for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup – to be held in China from Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 – but ticketing will likely wait until the 32-country field is set, and after groups and games are revealed on March 16.

April

Parking lottery for synchronous fireflies

During their spring mating season, thousands of fireflies flash so spectacularly in Great Smoky Mountains National Park that a “firefly shuttle” has been set up to carry visitors to the remote Elkmont, Tenn., viewing area. Parking passes are required for shuttle access and these are distributed via a lottery in late April.

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A second shot at Glastonbury

If you weren’t among the 150,000-plus music fans who helped sell out England’s Glastonbury 2019 in just 36 minutes, you’ll get another crack at tickets to the world’s largest greenfield festival in April, when returned tickets for the June 26 to 30 event become available.

Tickets for The Masters

Details on obtaining tickets for the 2020 edition of the PGA’s most prestigious tournament, in Augusta, Ga., will be posted in April. In 2018, June 1 was the application deadline for 2019 practice round and daily tournament tickets.

A site within sight of the Grand Canyon

With Grand Canyon National Park celebrating its centennial, accommodations in the jaw-dropping preserve are filling up fast. If you can’t reserve a room, cabin or campsite, you can always try the Desert View Campground, which opens for the season in mid-April and operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

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Lake O’Hara shuttle bus

The steep 11-kilometre hike to one of Yoho National Park’s (and Canada’s) most scenic spots can be avoided by booking a seat on the daily shuttle bus starting on April 20. If you want to sleep over at the Elizabeth Parker Hut, however, you’ll have to try your luck in the fall lottery for 2020 stays.

June

The Queue at Wimbledon

The sold-out Championships, Wimbledon run from July 1 to 14, but anyone hoping to get tickets by joining the Queue may want to show up a day early. With the exception of the London tennis tournament’s final four days, the Queue allocates a limited number of daily tickets for the Centre, No. 1 and No. 2 courts, as well as grounds passes. What is demand like for these tickets? As Wimbledon.com states, stewards wake overnight queuers at 6 a.m. “to dismantle any camping equipment and close up into a tighter formation to create space for those joining The Queue on the day.”

November

Comic-Con registration

Start work on your Wookie outfit whenever you like, but if you want to attend San Diego’s Comic-Con International 2020 – from July 22 to 26 – you’ll need to purchase a badge during open registration, which typically takes place early in November.

For the best deal, buy your ski passes for destinations such as Whistler early.

Leo Zuckerman/Destination BC

Ski pass deadlines

Based on 2018 timing, the multiresort Epic Pass should be available at least until the middle of November. The rival Ikon Pass could be purchased as late as Dec. 13 in 2018.

Black Friday

You know the drill: Pretty much everything is on sale on Nov. 29, including many of the trappings of travel.

December

Wimbledon overseas ballot

Avoid the Queue in 2020 by applying for tickets through the overseas ballet, which typically runs from early to mid-December.

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Cyber Monday

You know the drill: Pretty much everything is on sale online on Dec. 2, including many of the trappings of travel.

Travel Deal Tuesday

The Hopper airfare prediction and booking app coined this term in 2015 after determining that the Tuesday after American Thanksgiving (Dec. 3) offered the most airfare sales of the year.

Buy now or pay more later

Face-value tickets for some of the most travel-worthy events of 2019 are still available (at time of writing):

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