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1. Sign up for deals

Exactly how far in advance you should book a flight is never going to be an exact science, but research shows two to three months in advance is generally the ideal window for international flights. Don't miss a sale by signing up now for airline newsletters and following carriers on Facebook. If you have approximate dates in mind, set up fare alerts for your ideal flight times on search engines such as Skyscanner and Google Flights, which will notify you when prices drop – or start going up.

2. Check your documents

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If you're travelling in June and your passport expires in August, you could have a problem on your hands. Many countries require that your passport be valid for a certain number of months after your entry or exit date. For example, European countries that are part of the Schengen area – including France, Greece and Italy – require that passports be valid for 90 days after the date of departure. Get more info at travel.gc.ca, under "entry/exit requirements" for each country.

3. Get your shots

When travelling to a country that may require vaccinations, it's recommended you visit a travel health clinic at least six weeks before you depart. If your trip is still a ways out, at least schedule a reminder in your calendar to make an appointment. For the latest advice visit travel.gc.ca.

4. Book rail tickets

Headed to Europe? Book intercity and long-distance train tickets as soon as possible. You'll save money and have a wider selection of travel times. In Britain, National Rail lets you book up to 12 weeks in advance; book last minute and you can easily end up paying more than twice as much. In France, a check of trains to Lyons from Paris on June 16 shows that leaving at 9:20 a.m. will cost €65 ($103) for a 5-1/2-hour journey. But leave at 10 a.m. and it will cost €39 ($62) and take just two hours. Visit seat61.com for booking links.

5. Monitor hotels

Many hotels offer the best deals to travellers willing to make non-refundable bookings far in advance. If you're not ready to commit, consider making a reservation you can cancel without penalty if you're headed to a popular destination, or one where rooms are scarce. Hotels.com has a helpful function that tells you what percentage of rooms on the site are already booked for that time, so you'll know when the supply is dwindling.

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