Travelling during the shoulder season – the period between low and peak travel season – can have many advantages for budget-conscious travellers. During high season, you not only pay top dollar for your flights and accommodation, but beaches are crowded, queues are longer, the main tourist sites are packed and sightseeing can get exhausting under a blazing sun. So if you choose your travel dates wisely and book during the shoulder season, you can still enjoy good weather with uncrowded resorts whilst paying considerably less compared to the popular travel months.
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What exactly is shoulder season?
The shoulder season falls at the beginning and end of the high season; when rates for many hotels, flights and package holidays are reduced. Visiting a place in the quieter shoulder season can be far more enjoyable than braving it with the crowds. The weather should still be good, something you can’t guarantee if travelling during low season, but you’ll get better value when avoiding the peak tourist period. When the shoulder season is will depend on where in the world you are going.
When is it?
The key to shoulder season travel is to avoid school holidays and obvious busy times (such as festivals) and to travel as close as you can to peak season. It can be advantageous living in the southern hemisphere, where holiday periods are different and annual leave is more flexible for many workers.
For example, if you’re travelling to the Mediterranean, consider mid-May and June or late September-early October (avoid half-term weeks when British families flood the resorts). During shoulder season the weather is still warm, especially in southern Europe, the locals are more relaxed and you’ve far more chance of getting a table at a popular café or having a beach (more or less) to yourself.
Or for winter holidays, ski resorts in the northern hemisphere open in late November, but see little traffic until the Christmas week. In early or mid-December you’ll find cheaper flights and accommodation and less crowded slopes, shorter lift queues and often discounted ski hire and lift passes. Alternatively, try travelling at the tail end of the ski season (check when Easter falls to avoid the school holidays) when resorts are winding down.
Do your homework
For long-haul destinations, it’s wise to find out about the various ins and outs of low seasons – there’s almost always a catch. A cheap Caribbean holiday may not be as much fun during the huge storms in June and July, but if you look for islands off the “Hurricane belt” you can find a great deal and still enjoy good weather.
Check the seasonal patterns in your destination and try to travel just before or just after the peak periods. Fiji’s busiest season is between June-August when Australians and New Zealanders flee the winter, but you can get bargains during the shoulder periods in March and November. Even in the wet season there are regional variations, so you can head to drier parts of the islands.
Do your homework on local festivals, big sporting events and holidays – prices in the US rise over Thanksgiving and remember changeable dates for events like Carnival and Easter. If you’re not going to join in the fun, it’s not worth paying a premium. As for Christmas and New Year, there’s little chance of a bargain fare.
A cheap fare for all seasons
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