For those constrained by the school calendar or strict work schedules, the peak travel months of June through August may be the only realistic window to vacation at popular destinations like Europe, Disney World, or Hawai’i. For those with a little more flexibility in their availability to travel, however, avoiding these months can mean a world of difference in the quality of experiences and the overall value of vacation time.
This may be the most obvious benefit to traveling during the off-peak and shoulder seasons (the winter months and then spring and fall months, respectively). When the majority of families are returning to school schedules, travel industry businesses—airlines, hotels, rental cars, group tours, etc.—begin offering discounts to attract travelers during the slow months. Businesses that wouldn’t normally be open to negotiating deals during peak seasons, when demand is high, might now be open to well-mannered haggling.
In general, hotel rooms can be as much as 50% off, and the cost of flights are significantly lower.
Shorter wait times
Ever been to a gorgeous natural wonder or historical monument only to have your view blocked by throngs of people and giant tour busses, or people constantly wandering into the photos you’re trying to snap? Avoiding peak travel season means fewer people at popular destinations, shorter wait times, and unobstructed views. You may even be able to book a tour, restaurant, or room at a swanky hotel that might otherwise be totally booked! Frequent off-peak travelers have also noted how locals and service industry employees are more likely to give tourists more attention and better service outside of busier travel months.
If a road trip across several countries is your vacation style, traveling outside of the busy season will also allow you to book activities and accommodations last minute, giving you the freedom to see where the road takes you without worrying about finding a room at overbooked hotels.
Visiting a country and new culture in the winter or rainy months gives you the chance to observe or participate in unique seasonal festivals that few others have. You’ll also have the opportunity to try unique seasonal foods and perhaps purchase souvenirs that wouldn’t otherwise be available.
With all of these perks to off-peak travel, there are several considerations that should not be overlooked. If you have your heart set on a specific experience, make sure it’s offered while you’re traveling. Some tours and sites shut down for part of the year due to weather. Remember that destinations in the southern hemisphere may have reverse peak travel seasons to the northern hemisphere. In Australia, for example, the winter weather months are June–August, while cyclone season occurs September–November, the rainy season is March–May, and summer happens December–February.