Kate Simon: You'll have to be quick to book for Christmas

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The Independent Travel

There may be 146 shopping days left till Christmas but it's never too early to get those presents sorted if you follow the logic of Selfridges, which opens a special festive concession in its London store tomorrow.

Shopping early is certainly important when it comes to booking somewhere to spend the festive season. In fact, you may already be too late to secure the perfect bolthole because many have already been taken.

According to Hoseasons, one of Britain's largest holiday home providers, many of us snap up somewhere special to sit around the Christmas tree almost as soon as that year's wrapping paper has hit the rubbish bin. Geoff Cowley, Hoseasons' managing director, says: "The best time to book Christmas accommodation is as early as possible. The large properties often book well, because people look for accommodation to house the whole family."

But booking early isn't just essential for ensuring you get the place you prefer; it's also the way to get the best deal – late offers are few and far between. Charles Millward, chief executive officer of holiday cottage company Rural Retreats, adds: "There are occasionally price reductions shortly before Christmas if properties have not yet been booked, but this only applies to a few each year."

Mr Cowley adds: "The best bargains are to be found in the smaller properties for couples or immediate family."

The need to book early also applies if you're thinking of venturing abroad for Christmas. British Airways confirms that its tills start ringing for Christmas fares as soon as flight bookings open the previous January. Favourite destinations for the festivities include Barbados, Dubai, Orlando, Mauritius and Antigua. Wait too long to secure a seat to any of these locations and you'll end up skimping on the gifts just to afford the ticket.

Of course, many of us have still to book our summer holidays. Take a tip from a report published last week by Abta, the travel industry association. It has just launched an annual parliamentary holiday survey, which this year has found that 56 per cent of MPs compared with 50 per cent of peers will leave home shores this year. And despite knocking off for 12 weeks in the summer, only 7 per cent of MPs expect to have two or more holidays this year and 13 per cent are truly tightening their belts and won't venture much further than the back garden for a little R&R.

While we know David Cameron is off to Cornwall, and possibly also following Michelle Obama to Marbella, most parliamentarians are keeping their holiday destinations to themselves – Abta is sworn to secrecy about who is going where. But if you are still determined for a debate over the sandcastle with your local MP about why the banks aren't being made to pay for the financial crisis, the places you're most likely to find them hiding out is Scotland, Yorkshire or the Med.

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