With the busiest Travel Season of the year well behind us, the colder temperatures of winter have led many of us into a “hibernation” of sorts, emerging from the warmth of our homes only when necessary, and counting down the days to that glorious weekend at the end of May that signals the unofficial start of Summer.
And yes, often the antidote to shorter days and icy temperatures really is thinking ahead to summer and planning vacations (don’t get me wrong, depending on how popular the destination you want to go is, now is absolutely the time to reach out to your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Advisor to plan your Summer Adventures. In fact, planning at least 4-6 months ahead is generally a good time frame to aim for, though cruises and specialty vacations should be booked further out). But what about the in between time? The long months of January, February and March that stretch on seemingly forever sometimes?
Welcome to the Off Season, my friends (there are other Off Season months throughout the year, too, don’t worry, we’ll discuss those throughout the blog), where prices are lower, crowds are slim, and opportunities for extraordinary experiences are aplenty.
What does traveling in the Off Season mean, exactly? Generally, it means traveling to any given location at a time that someone at some point deemed “less desirable” to be there than other times. But “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” as they say, and you’re about to discover why the “Off Season” might actually be the MOST desirable time to visit your chosen destination.
Here are just 5 of the many Perks you’ll get to enjoy while traveling in the Off Season:
The Off Season is Less Expensive
As in any industry, the principles of supply and demand exist in the Travel World, too: the months when the most people are traveling, such as during the Holidays and during the Summer, are when you’re going to see the most expensive rates for everything from Resorts to flights to gas prices. Typically, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter months are when people tend to travel less, so the cost of travel related expenses goes down with the demand.
Other Peak Travel Times besides Summer and the Holidays tend to be during school breaks, such as President’s Week in February, when many schools throughout the United States close, and Spring Breaks (which can vary throughout March and April, depending on location). If you’re able to travel while school is in session, you’re more likely to get a better deal financially. September and October in the United States are also often considered Off Season, though September can be Peak in Europe because of the weather.
What months are considered Peak or Off Season vary considerably depending on where you want to go, as do the price jumps between them, and navigating what is Peak or Off Season where and when can be confusing, which is where your favorite Love of the Magic Travel Advisor comes in, of course! If you are wondering what times of year are considered Peak or Off Season for your chosen destination, all you have to do is ask!
Off Season is Less Crowded
Along with lower prices, lower demand obviously means that less people are visiting any given place in its Off Season. And crowd levels are definitely something that can have a significant impact on the quality of your vacation. Just think about Times Square on New Year’s Eve versus Times Square on some random Tuesday in May; there are obviously literally millions of people who choose New Year’s Eve for that once in a lifetime experience, but they know what they’re in for in terms of crowds (or they’ll learn real fast), whereas a post-Broadway Show stroll through the iconically neon square may actually be much more leisurely and enjoyable on an almost-warm Spring night.
There are strategies around dealing with crowds, such as Front of the Line Tours for many museums and attractions throughout Europe, and of course Genie+ and Lightning Lane Purchases at Disney. But there is definitely something to be said for taking in the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower without being elbowed and shoved while trying to get that perfect selfie, or for being the only person breathing in the cold saltwater air on an empty beach that is packed with people in the summer (sure, you may not be wearing a bikini, but you might be wearing snowflakes in your hair for the first time on a beach, and I can tell you from personal experience that I’d take the snowflakes any day, empty beaches in winter are my happy place).
It also seems that the “Less Expensive” and “Less Crowded” factors go hand in hand, which is a perk in itself. Even though Disney is a hugely popular place year-round, there are definitely months when the crowds wane, which saves you even more money because purchasing extras like Genie+ or Lightning Lane Passes may not even be necessary with the lower wait times.
As always, it depends on YOUR family’s priorities and choices; if making sure you are able to swim in the Resort pools and go to Water Parks is a priority for you at Disney, the Off Season months of January, February and March may not work for you (though September might!), but if waiting for less time in line for attractions is your priority, Off Season could be the perfect time for you! Your Love of the Magic Travel Advisor will know all about the crowd levels at Disney, and any other destination you’re considering, too!
Off Season has More Availability
Tour availability, Theme Park availability, Dining availability; these are just the tip of the iceberg when considering what experiences may become available to you when you are open to Off Season travel.
– That Theme Park View Resort Room you’ve always wanted to stay in? It’s not only more likely available in the Off Season, but it’s probably more affordable, too!
– An Overwater Bungalow? Off Season may finally offer some openings.
– Reservations at your top choice restaurant? You can probably actually get them, and at a decent time as well!
– Tickets to an Award-Winning Broadway show? The Off Season may have open seats.
– The most sought-after Excursions from your favorite Cruise Line? You have a better chance of getting your first choice during the Shoulder Season (Cruises typically only have Shoulder Seasons, since truly “Off Season” in terms of cruises may mean the water conditions prevent sailing, such as in Alaska when certain waters freeze).
– Tasting Reservations at the most coveted Wineries? Definitely easier to get when the crowds of Summer and Harvest Seasons are at bay.
– A Shakespeare Play at the Globe? A Tour of the Tower of London? Much more availability in the Off Season (Traditional Outdoor shows at the Globe usually start in March, which is still considered Off Season for London, but there is also an authentic replica of an Indoor Theatre at the Globe complex as well, where shows run through the Winter by candlelight).
– Empty trails and unobstructed views at National Parks? Only possible in the Off Season (though some Parks do close in certain areas depending on Winter weather, so being aware of that possibility while planning is helpful).
Again, it all comes down to YOUR family’s preferences and priorities, but at least knowing what the Off Season can offer allows you to choose between better availability versus more temperate weather conditions, or traveling during school vacations, or whatever your specific considerations may be. It’s definitely better to know and make an informed decision, and your Love of the Magic Travel Agent will certainly be able to provide you with the Pros and Cons of visiting your chosen destination in the Off Season.
Off Season Offers More Authentic Experiences
As much as the first three reasons on this list usually sway me to travel in the Off Season, it’s these last two that really cement the decision. For as much as certain vacation destinations come to life during the height of their Peak Season, it’s often during their Off Season that those same places settle into the most authentic versions of themselves.
First, Off Season is when you’re more likely to run into locals who have extra time to chat and share their favorite stories of the place you’re visiting that they call home year-round. Maybe one of the local artists shares his stories of the town’s Winter Solstice traditions, and even gives you a peek at the sculpture he’s creating for it. Or maybe after chatting with the restaurant owner on your first night in town, she gives you her own curated list of attractions not to miss in the area that turn out to be some of the best hidden gems you’ve ever come across. These happen to have been some of my own Off Season experiences, and you are likely to have similar experiences of your own when you venture out into the Off Season.
In addition, the Off Season can offer some of the most authentic experiences available at a destination. For example, although the Winter months of November through February are considered the “rainy” Off Season in Hawaii, those are actually the ideal months to either watch, or even take part in, some of the world’s best surfing (though if you’re not an extremely skilled surfer, attempting to do so during these months is not recommended because of the danger it poses to inexperienced surfers). Also, on the other end of the spectrum, is Iceland; while the Summer months provide almost 24 hours of light for maximum exploring opportunities, the Off Season “dark” months of Winter offer the best chance to see the magical Northern Lights.
And the list goes on: Winter in New England looks straight out of a Normal Rockwell painting; February in Paris might be the most romantic trip you ever take; even Disney offers perhaps its most authentic Disney experience in January and February, during the Festival of the Arts, since the whole Disney phenomenon grew out of the Art of Animation!
Off Season travel gives you the opportunity to see a place at its most real, not dolled up for all the tourists, just its most authentic self, full of the locals who love it for exactly that.
Off Season Travel has a Positive Impact on Both Local and Global Economies and Environments
And speaking of those locals, anyone who lives in a place that draws tourists in for a season probably has a love/hate relationship with both Tourist Season and Off Season. Many people who live in Vacation destinations rely on tourists for their own livelihood and even survival, and the Off Season months can be extremely challenging financially. By traveling during the Off Season, you’re supporting local businesses when they need it most.
In some destinations, only certain businesses close for the Off Season, such as ice cream shoppes, outdoor restaurants, and souvenir stores that cater to mostly beach needs, but that just means the businesses that do remain open need your patronage even more if they stay open year round. Plus, by supporting those year round businesses, you’re more likely to run into locals with great stories and advice about the area.
As local economies grow and prosper, so too does the global economy, so your support in the Off Season is felt most immediately and importantly by the local community that you’re visiting, and eventually world wide as well.
In addition to strengthening economies, choosing to travel during the Off Season benefits the environment, too. While Peak travel seasons may swell the economy, they also put a strain on the environment with higher amounts of traffic and population volume. Traveling in the Off Season helps to spread out the impact of things like high volume traffic in National Parks, and pollution from exhaust, thereby bolstering vacation destinations both economically and environmentally, which is definitely something to feel good about.
Ready to Plan?
Off Season clearly has benefits for you as the traveler, but also for the world at large, too. Traveling at a time when you can save money, take advantage of smaller crowds, enjoy more availability and authentic experiences, and support the economy and environment at the same time actually seems like the best time to travel when you consider all that!
So, are you ready to plan your Off Season Adventure? Whether it’s to Europe or Disney or the Pacific Northwest or the Caribbean or the Big Apple, I would love to help you plan your next trip to take advantage of all the Perks traveling in the Off Season has to offer. Email me at email@example.com to start planning today!