The summer months of June-August are the zenith of travel in the United States thanks to warm weather and school summer breaks. Everyone with kids is taking a vacation during this time, and the result is higher prices and tons of crowds (in addition to often scorching temperatures).
If you are lucky enough to have a bit of flexibility in your schedule, there is one solution for avoiding the summer travel morass. Travel during shoulder season instead. This is the period between high and low season when the weather is generally better and the crowds are not at their peak. This can be a smart move for both your budget and your sanity. Here are some of my favorite shoulder seasons destinations.
Charleston is a beautiful city full of Southern charm, history and great food. This, plus its proximity to the beach, makes it a popular summer travel destination. However, during the summer months, temperatures in the deep South can get unbearably toasty. Daily highs in the low-90's will quickly put a damper on any sightseeing.
You may actually have a better time visiting in early spring or mid to late autumn when the temperatures drop (but still stay quite pleasant). This is the perfect weather to explore historic Charleston on foot and enjoy the city's top-notch cuisine, which is great year round.
San Diego is such an amazing city, with its plentiful beaches, nightlife scene and great Mexican food. Then there is the world famous San Diego Zoo. Unfortunately everyone else knows this too and summer months are quite hot and crowded, especially for families visiting the famous zoo.
Plan a visit during March- May or September – November to avoid the crowds but still enjoy San Diego's famous sunshine. It may be too chilly to go swimming but you can still enjoy the city's many other charms.
Yellowstone is one of America's most beautifully strange and physically gorgeous destinations, and it's also the most popular National Park. If you visit during June, July or August the park will be flooded with families on summer vacation. However, if you can swing a visit during September or October, you can enjoy the park with far fewer crowds. Temperatures may be a bit nippy, but the beautiful fall colors will make it more than worth your while.
Austin, Texas is one of the US's hottest destinations right now, thanks to its quirky culture and fun atmosphere. There's tons of live music, festivals and landmarks like the Texas Capitol Building. The last thing you want however, is to get stuck under the heat of a blistering Texas summer. If averages in the mid-90's sound a bit excessive to you, steer clear of June-September and instead plan to visit in the late fall or early spring (or even in the winter), when the climate is much milder.
Even the locals try to avoid Washington in the summer when the weather becomes swampy and domestic and foreign tourists alike flood the main attractions by the busload. Visit during nearly any other time of year and you'll have space to breathe as you explore the Smithsonian Institutions, the Monuments and DC's many vibrant neighborhoods.
For the most pleasant weather, aim for April and May or September and October. If you're going in spring though, just avoid cherry blossom season when the crowds come out in force.
What’s your favorite shoulder season destination?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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