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By Kathryn Pins
Have a bucket list of places you want to visit? Unsure of how and when you’re going to make it to all of them? Becoming an off-season traveler is a great way to check off that list for a better price and experience. When you choose to travel when others won’t, you can open yourself up to a huge opportunity. I’m going to share my tips on how to prioritize your travel experience and embrace something a little different.
Avoiding the peak season when traveling has many benefits. Depending on the type of experience you want, the benefits can often outweigh the downside of off-season travel.
You could save a lot! If you are willing to use some vacation days and accept some less-than-perfect weather, you’ll find that you can enjoy more than just a cheaper plane ticket. Hotels, hostels and rentals can be less expensive as well. You may also find some discounts on attractions. I was able to cut a trip’s cost in half just by being creative with my timing.
Fewer people can mean less stress. Anyone who has tried to get close to the Mona Lisa in Paris during the summer knows that crowds can be stressful. Instead of trying to fight your way through crowds, just completely avoid them. Your vacation will be more enjoyable because of it.
You can enjoy more opportunities for spontaneity. When things are slower for attractions and hotels, you can worry less about booking things ahead of time. Chances are that tour groups won’t be booked up for days prior to your arrival; you can deviate from your plan and avoid long lines and waits.
Splurge on exceptional experiences while keeping money in your pocket. My favorite part about not traveling in the peak season is that you can upgrade on things you otherwise wouldn’t due to pricing. On a recent trip, we were saving so much on our flight that we decided to splurge on lodging that was centrally located and with a view. We also got a nice price on the room, and it definitely was a highlight of our trip. On other trips, I’ve booked a special dinner or upgraded on attraction experiences because I saved money elsewhere. You can truly maximize your trip by avoiding the peak season.
The off-season will depend on the place. Central America will have a different travel off-season than Europe because of the weather. However, there are a few rules of thumb that will help you get creative about where and when to go on your next vacation.
Avoid holidays and long weekends. This is when a lot of people travel to see family or plan around their vacation days. We’ve all experienced it. Long weekends equal long airport security lines and tourist destinations packed with people.
Embrace cold or hot weather. People like to travel when their odds are in their favor for nice weather. When I took my trip to Europe in January, I’m not going to lie, it was cold out. However, I went on the trip knowing I needed to bring layers and planned the trip so I had plenty of outdoor and indoor time. Instead of fighting the weather, you should embrace it. Budapest is known for their warm baths so I spent a day in one of the oldest baths outside watching the snow settle on the city. I felt like a local, and it was certainly more enjoyable than it would be in the summer! Check out some more winter destinations that are enjoyable and budget-friendly.
Look at a flight tracker site. Set alerts for price drops on destinations that are on your list. You can also do a simple search for the peak season for different destinations. When I take a look at months outside of the peak season, I usually check what the weather is like and if it something I can manage. I’ve found that a couple weeks before the peak season still has great prices and more predictable weather. Europe has a lot of affordable destinations so it’s a great place to start planning an off-season trip.
Stick with the peak season if you’ll be disappointed by the weather or by activities that you’d miss outside of that season. A perfect example is when I visited Iceland. I knew that if I was going to travel all the way to Iceland, I needed to see the Northern Lights. So, I booked my trip when I had a really high chance of seeing them. I did not want to risk it by booking in the off-season. If there is something specific you want to experience, then I encourage you to accept the crowds and prices. You’ll find other ways to maximize your travel budget.
Kathryn Pins is a marketing content specialist at Alliant. She’s passionate about finding and communicating meaningful financial information with Money Mentor readers. Kathryn is a saver who gets more excited about certificates and her Roth IRA than shopping. When she does spend her earnings, it’s on furthering her education, travel, unique experiences, and loved ones.