Climb the mountain not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.David McCullough Jr.
Off-season travel is obscenely underrated. As someone who has been to large tourist attractions at their peak times as well as their off-peak times, I can say that traveling during the off-season is ridiculously more fun. No one likes plunging themselves into throngs of tourists to get 5 seconds (or less) near what they paid money to see. No one loves sitting on a crowded airplane. No one loves missing out on sites because the attraction requires you book months in advance. These things rarely happen during the off season.
Remember that what is considered off-season travel will vary depending on your destination, so you’ll have to do a bit of research to find the best dates to travel. There are definitely some downsides to traveling off season, including some attractions not being open to the public, but this isn’t always the case. For this post, I’m just going to focus on the positive because I think we could all use as much of that as possible these days! So read on and enjoy the perks of traveling in the off season! Don’t forget to comment below and let me know your favorites and if I missed any!
If standing within hordes of people, struggling to see what you’ve come to see is your thing, keep on trucking my friend. Travel is all about you being your best self and I won’t take that away from you. However, most of us would have a much lovelier time perusing, spending time looking at the sites we came to witness, and would love to never have to stand in a line so long it should be illegal.
I went to Paris with my parents during peak travel season and it was great, but OH MAN was it crowded. While the Louvre is massive enough to accommodate the masses, most people were huddled around the Mona Lisa, so much so that it was very difficult (and not super pleasant) to try to get close enough to see more than a square on the wall. Am I glad I saw it? Yes, but I wouldn’t go back in the summer. I’ll wait for the season to be over to go back so I can take my time.
Cheaper Flights and Accommodations
Airlines and hotels tend to hike prices up when they know an abundance of people will be traveling. During the off season, many airlines and hotels are trying to get more people to visit and will lower their prices. Since the price of flights and multiple-night stays at a hotel can easily be the most expensive part of a trip, why not save some of that well-earned money and travel when everyone else isn’t?
Ever since I learned of the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM I’ve wanted to go see it. My boyfriend has family there so we could visit and also get to see the balloon awesomeness. Unfortunately, the prices of flights the week surrounding the dates of the festival are nearly double than other times of the year. One day I’ll make it, but (sorry airlines, not sorry) I won’t pay the extra money when I know I can get there for hundreds of dollars less. I doubt I’m alone in that!
One of my favorite parts about travel is the photography. You can capture memories and practice your skills. What isn’t marvelous is the thousands of other people doing the same thing. If you could visit Rome or New York City, or Venice when there are at least half the number of tourists than normal, wouldn’t you? Photography is all about capturing a story. Ask yourself whether you want the stories you tell to be filled with tourists holding up cell phones or selfie sticks OR if you’d want to take pictures when there are only a handful of people.
I was lucky enough to be a part of an archaeological field school in Pompeii. Because I was part of the crew and helping conserve the site, we got access to areas tourists weren’t allowed and could enter the gates before the tourists. Exploring the ruins was an incredible experience not only for the history, but because I didn’t have to navigate thousands of people.
Imagine traveling when you don’t have to worry about long airport security lines, finding a room in a hotel near the sites you want to see, not having to spend half your trip waiting in lines, and being able to book tickets for attractions you just discovered without having to make reservations days, weeks, or months in advance. If that sounds like a pipe dream, you haven’t experienced the glory of traveling outside of the peak tourist months.
On my trip to Peru a few years ago we had the option of waiting a few months for tourist season to begin or go during their rainy season. We chose the one where we wouldn’t have to battle tourists everywhere. We got our first choice of hotels, the airfare was cheaper, and we never waited in a single line. We were some of the only tourists in a lot of the places and my stress levels were never lower.
An important part of travel is immersing yourself in the culture and all that the country, city, etc has to offer. It’s hard to fully experience the true nature of a place when there are more tourists than locals. Some places cater so much to tourists during the peak season that they will have special menus for the tourists that will more closely resemble their home cuisine or the most stereotypical food of the country than what the locals actually eat. Off season traveling allows you to meet the locals, explore off the beat track attractions and restaurants and enjoy the full, immersed experience.
When I was in Tuscany on a trip with my school, we got to experience a lunch at a farmhouse. It. was. incredible. Everything was so fresh and perfectly seasoned I felt like I was dreaming. I asked the woman who owned the farm if she normally eats the meal we were having and she said no. It didn’t make an impact on me then, but looking back I’m mildly disappointed. The experience was wonderful and I still think back on it over 10 years later, but it wasn’t authentic. It was created to be something resembling reality, but catered to tourists. (I know this is how they make more money, but I’m just talking about the experience from an authenticity standpoint and I know I’m not the average tourist when it comes to this.)
It feels so good to get your first choice of airline, hotel, and that attraction or tour you really wanted to book. Traveling during an off season means less people and less competition for tickets or rooms. There will be some trips where you just can’t get to see everything because of lines or full reservations. Try booking early either way to ensure you get to experience every to its fullest, but you’re almost guaranteed a spot if you don’t travel at peak times.
When I lived in England, I wanted to go see the Harry Potter Studios before I moved back to the states. I tried to book during the summer, but sadly the tickets were book through September. Since I was moving back in November, I was panicking slightly, but once tourist season ended tickets were readily available, so I got to visit in October with barely anyone else there!
If you only travel during a certain time of the year, you’ll miss out on experiences that regularly occur during the off season. There are tons of winter festivals, warm beach getaways while your part of the country is buried in snow, and activities that you can only do in the winter. Why limit yourself when you travel? The answer? You shouldn’t.
One of my best friends lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. Everyone thought I was insane for wanting to visit her in January. I’m not a cold weather person, but I loved that trip. My nose hairs froze and I wasn’t warm for days, but it was such a rewarding and fun experience. We went snowmobiling, snowshoe hiking, and watched the Northern Lights, all of which you really can’t do in the warmer months.
All in all, it’s best to never set restrictions on when and where you can travel. Figure out how you want to experience your destination and plan accordingly. Even better, visit the same place at multiple times of the year to see and do everything that place has to offer.