12/27/2012 10:00 EST | Updated 02/26/2013 05:12 EST

Travel Deals A Gamble For Last-Minute Shoppers During High Season

CALGARY - The short, dark and cold days can drag down many Canadians' moods as the holiday season passes into the frigid days of January.

At the same time, holiday spending binges are weighing on credit card balances — making that much needed getaway a difficult proposition for some.

But with a little foresight, flexibility and good timing, those white sandy beaches might not be so out of reach after all.

Mexico is Flight Centre's top destination for Canadians, with the Dominican Republic and Jamaica also growing in popularity, said spokeswoman Allison Wallace.

"That is where the demand is, so that is where your best options will be as opposed to off the beaten track," she says, adding Mexico and the Dominican are "your best bet for pricing."

"Hawaii does not have all-inclusives at all and the harder to get islands in the Caribbean will have more expensive flight options."

Tropical vacations are generally more expensive during the high season, from just before Christmas to around the end of April, says Sean Shannon with

"It's basic supply and demand — back to economics 101 theory," he said.

"You still can get some pretty good value even in high season if you spend the time and look at some of the deals."

When it comes to waiting for a last-minute deal to present itself or booking a vacation package months in advance, Shannon said there's no golden rule.

"The game of last minute bookings, especially during high season, is a little bit like playing roulette. You can play the game and it can win for you, or it can lose for you," he said.

"A lot of times I say to people it comes down to your risk profile."

Wallace said last-minute deals are "extremely rare" during peak season and it's a good idea to take advantage of early booking bonuses in the late summer and fall.

"If you know you’ll be travelling during peak season, book ahead. I recommend at least three to six months out and if you see prices starting to rise it means the flight is filling up," she says.

Bundling a flight, transfers, meals, booze and accommodations in an all-inclusive deal is a great way to save money, but travellers should make sure they understand what they're actually buying.

Activities at the resort such as scuba diving may not be included, says Wallace, adding drinks, gratuities and airport transfers might also "get out of control" if one isn't careful.

Shannon says all-inclusive travellers might just need to keep their expectations in check. For instance, the house wine or beer might have to suffice instead of a long list of premium booze.

"Like everything, there's usually some trade off there."

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