When is the Best Time to Travel? When You Can! The Key is to Travel Smart!
“Shoulder Season” Travel…This Isn’t What I Had in Mind!
Shoulder to shoulder…in lines…in crowds…at the airport…at the attraction…at the concession stand…at the museum…at the coffee house… to eat…to get tickets…to check in…to check out… to pick up your car…to get the shuttle… to get information… to talk to (fill in the blank) and, of course, to use the restroom, for cryin’ out loud! Sweating, navigating crowds, tripping over strollers and roll-a-boards, and all of these tacky annoying … okay, tourists… this isn’t what you came to see or do on your vacation!!
You’re probably traveling during high season and it’s called high season for a reason. It’s when the vast majority of people are traveling as well. So it’s no wonder that there are crowds, lines, higher prices…it’s the price we pay to go during the most popular travel times and if you go to popular vacation destinations, well, it’s called “popular” for a reason, isn’t it? So, why are we surprised when Disney World is jammed during summer vacation or that we can’t find a reasonably priced resort in Hawaii over Christmas?
As a rule high season is typically any time school is out – between Memorial and Labor Day and any holidays (including winter and spring vacation). Shoulder is just that, it’s the shoulder between high and low season. It’s the sweet spot – when we’d love to go if we can.
Why You Want to Travel During the Shoulder Season, If You Can
By choosing the shoulder season to travel, i.e., when the vast majority of the world isn’t traveling, you can expect:
- To save $$ with lower fares/rates.
- Better availability.
- Smaller crowds.
- Fewer kids/students.
- To get more for your travel dollar.
However, sometimes you just don’t have a choice. If you want to get away, it has to be when you and whomever you’re traveling with can synchronize your schedules and pull it off. In addition, depending on your destination(s) and what you want to see/do, the optimal time can vary as well. Sometimes it turns out that you have to travel during high season and if you must:
10 Ways to Make the Best of High Season
- Plan ahead and book early.
- Save time and money with vacation packages.
- Avoid crowds by going to attractions, sites, museums, etc. early or late in the day. Look into “passes.”
- Check out more “local” places/neighborhoods for restaurants, etc.
- Research when your destination is at its peak of popularity and try to plan around it as much as possible (example: August is typically when Europeans vacation – good news/bad news.)
- Consider tours and cruises – let someone else deal with the logistics.
- Consider alternatives such as house –trading and vacation rentals to stay in more residential neighborhoods and having the option to do some meals yourself to save $.
- Find small groups with common interests to travel with (e.g., walking tours, eco-tours, etc.).
- Have no illusions about what to expect.
- Know what you’re in for and decide to enjoy yourself anyway!
Traveling during the shoulder or off peak season is no secret and is, in fact, extremely popular. With the growing population of retired boomers and empty nesters, couples and singles with no kids, flex-time workers and widely varying school vacations, the shoulder season travel will continue increase.
Remember that since low and high season can be different for different destinations, what is considered the shoulder can vary as well ( e.g., Alaska, Mexico, Australia, South America, the Caribbean, etc.). And if you want to see or do something that happens at a particular time of year, then that’s when you want to go and odds are a lot of other people want to be there, too.
But, there are some cautionary notes, too. The best deal won’t ensure the best trip. You don’t want that shoulder/low season trip to be your low point! Research what shoulder/low season is for your destination. Shorter days, unpredictable weather and more limited hours may not be worth the savings.
Sure, Paris is less expensive in winter, but you could end up wearing your woolies a lot and be disappointed that many amenities and major attractions may be closed. And Mexico is a bargain in August, but it’s their rainy season…
The bottom line? The best time to travel is when you can! All seasons have their advantages and disadvantages. You have to weigh those for yourself and consider what is important to you. The key is to travel smart! And, remember, timing is everything!
Send Me a Postcard! Please comment below.
How do you “time” your vacations? Share your secrets!