There are many reasons people choose to travel during peak season. School breaks, ideal weather and convenience all play a big part. Everyone wants to escape somewhere warm in the depths of winter and visit Europe on their summer vacation. However, most experienced travelers know that these incredibly popular time periods actually guarantee heavy crowds, higher prices and longer waits. Many actually try to avoid high season at all costs.
If you are lucky enough to have some flexibility in your travel schedule, you can enjoy many of the benefits that come along with peak season travel without the pitfalls. The answer is shoulder season: the golden weeks and months just before and after high season. Here are a few reasons why shoulder season is the ideal time of year to travel.
Avoid the Crowds
Anyone who has waited in line for hours to get inside the Colosseum or the Louvre knows that the biggest downside of traveling during high season is all the other people. It's hard to enjoy a perfect beach in Thailand or the city walls of Dubrovnik when you are being crushed in a sweaty throng of people all vying for the same view.
Come back a few months later however, and you might have that lovely scene all to yourself. A terrific example is Disney World, an incredibly popular destination that is extremely sensitive to peak season. If you visit the park during the summer or at Christmastime, you could find yourself waiting literally hours to do, see, or ride any of the attractions. Visitors who instead come in October or March will find that they actually have the freedom to wander the park without strategically dodging enormous crowds. This leads to a much more relaxing and enjoyable travel experience.
Score Cheap Deals
Hotels, airlines and tour companies are highly aware of the laws of supply and demand. Businesses are more than happy to raise their prices to take advantage of the high season crush. If you are visiting Ko Phi Phi in Thailand in January, you will be hard pressed to find anywhere to sleep, even a budget guesthouse for under $75 a night (an exorbitant price in Thailand). Add in higher priced flights, inflated tour price tags and expensive food and you've got a pricey vacation on your hands.
During shoulder season prices go down with demand. You can easily score a really good deal at even a luxury hotel for far less than you could during high season.
Many travelers assume that high season has the best weather for travelers, but that is not always the case. Much of Europe is a sweltering hot mess during July and August (which makes standing in those long lines mentioned above even more torturous).
September and October are much milder but still warm, particularly in Southern Europe. It's actually a beautiful time to be in Europe: the red and orange foliage makes for beautiful pictures and it's the perfect weather for strolling around pedestrian friendly cities like Rome or Paris. You may find you enjoy shoulder season so much you abandon peak season travel entirely!
What are some other advantages to shoulder season travel?