There seem to be certain “must-see” destinations (especially if you’re a travel blogger or social media personality) that people flock to at pre-agreed-upon times of the year. April? Cherry blossoms in Japan or Washington D.C.. Late summer? Tulip farms in Holland. Autumn? Who even are you if you don’t go to New England- or, more specifically, Vermont? And, of course, in winter? European Christmas markets are a must. All of these destinations peak at particular times for good reason: they are at their most beautiful; who wouldn’t want to see them then?
Off-season travel offers different benefits. Of course, you’re likely to miss out on the sort of banner things that make these destinations highly sought-after. It all depends what you want out of your trip; if you want to go to Vienna for the Christmas market, go to Vienna around Christmas time. If, however, other priorities rank higher, off-season travel may just be the way to see a destination without some of the aggravations and hassles that come with peak time trips. Here are just a few of the bonuses of travelling during this period:
This applies to your biggest expenditures: plane tickets and lodging. Using apps like Hopper or Skyscanner can help you keep an eye on flight prices and alert you when prices are likely to be at their lowest, and you can also use it to do a little cost comparison for different times of the year. If your dates are flexible, it may mean the difference between…
Using the Hopper app to look up tickets from Washington D.C. to Paris, France at the end of January… (screenshot: Hopper)
Many businesses will run specials and discounts during the off-season in a bid to attract travellers precisely like yourself- those who may be considering a trip but need something to tip the scales. It may be in the form of additional amenities, discounted prices, or 2-for-1 type deals, and it can often be steep enough that it makes travel at that time worth it. If five nights at a hotel cost you the price of only three days, you’re getting those two days free and can put that money toward other vacation expenses, or a longer stay. It can also be a great way to see major attractions in a city for a fraction of the cost; many offer seasonal “bundles” that provide admission to a number of different sites at a reduced rate.
My personal favourite. I love saving money, I love getting deals, but what I really love is not being crammed in on all sides by other tourists. I know, I get it- I’m a tourist too- this isn’t a case of the pot calling the kettle black. We’re all at a destination to see it. I just really love seeing it with fewer people around. I may be partial as a introvert, but I find experiences with crowds stressful, anxiety-inducing, and patience-testing. I do not feel that having more people there makes it more fun, or adds to the experience, as a general rule. Visiting a place at a less popular time allows you to take in more of it at your own pace, and I think that’s wonderful.
Yes, travelling to Germany in February means you will miss Oktoberfest. The biggest and most obvious con of going somewhere in the off-season is that you will miss some of the things the destination is most known for, like the height of its beauty or unique cultural events. Of course, some of these factors are subjective: places look and feel different from season to season, and what might be widely regarded as the “best” season to one person may not be the same for you. As mentioned before, if the purpose of your travel is specifically to see a place in a particular season, or participate in a special event, then you’ll clearly have to plan your trip around that. But destinations exist and thrive at other times in the year too, and you may find distinct reasons to love them. Maybe a polar bear plunge is your thing, or the World Bog Snorkeling Championships. If you’re open to these unique experiences and think they may enhance your trip, off-season travel is certainly worth a go.
How do you feel about peak vs. off-peak travel? Have you done it? I’d love to know in the comments below or in a message!