Travelling Off Season
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How can you get more from your time away, save money and travel in a more sustainable way? By travelling off season. This is something I’ve done many times in the last ten or so years. Although often it’s been through change rather than choice, it’s always made for a great and interesting travel adventure.
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So, what do I mean by travelling off season?
The travel year is effectively split into four seasons depending on demand. That changes around the world depending on weather and temperatures. High season is when everyone wants to go on holiday. Here in Europe that’s in the summer, July and August. The off season is the opposite to that. That’s when fewer people are on the road and there are great and unique travel opportunities to be had.
Should you try travelling off season?
Travelling off season will save you money
This is a big one. Who doesn’t want to pay less for their travels? Because there are fewer people around, hotels, flights, and your local transport options will want your custom that much more. If you travel in any time but the high-season, you can end up spending half the amount on your accommodation.
You know what that means?
You can put that money into going somewhere further than you thought possible. Raise your expectations and go for more expensive accommodation or entertainment. Or – my favourite one – go for twice as long. Return flights for fourteen days or even a month are often the same as a week.
In the off season, they’ll be fewer people like you around!
Don’t take offence by that. I don’t mean like you specifically; I mean, tourists. I know, meeting other tourists can be one of the good parts of the trip – but in my experience you’ll get to know the tourists who are there much better.
A few years ago, I visited Goa in India during the Monsoon season. That’s in August. It was fantastic. Most of us tourists hung around the few bars that were open and over the course of the few days got to know each other really well. The interesting thing, most of these tourists were from other parts of India and were visiting Goa for a holiday, just like we were. We had many long evenings drinking Kingfishers talking about the difference between our cultures, future travel plans and why British beer is supposed to be warm.
You’ll meet more locals too
Locals playing in Vietnam
On the same trip to Goa, we also got to know many of the locals a lot better. We were the only people staying in our guest house, so we became friendly with the family who ran the place. They told us about some great hidden beaches to visit and how to get the most out of the region. I can imagine, if we’d visited when the guesthouse was full, we wouldn’t have got the same response.
Travelling off-season can give you surprising experiences and unique photos
Travelling off-peak can make your trip more unique
Travelling is all about a unique experience. We might all visit similar places – how many pictures are there of the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal? – but our experiences of it are all different.
Travelling off season means that your experience will be even more unique.
What do you think the Taj Mahal looks like under the brooding storm skies of the monsoons?
What does the Eiffel Tower look like during the January evening snow?
These unique experiences - and the interesting photos - are what makes your travels surprising and different. This is especially true when you visit in the off season.
Travel is much more comfortable when there are less people doing it
I think a great trip is as much about the journey as the destination. Although it’s hard to keep that mindset when you’re in a two-hour queue for the security checkpoint and the airport air conditioning has stopped working.
Things like this are much more likely to happen in the peak season when more people are travelling and smaller provincial airports are stretched beyond their capacity.
Wouldn’t you much rather while away the hours waiting of for the plane in the airport bar?
Compromise with the shoulder season
In travel terms, the year is split into four seasons. The high or peak season – which is often the summer, but not always (I’ll be talking about some great places you can visit in August which are not in high season soon). This is the most expensive and busiest time to go.
The opposite is the low season. This is often when the destination is at its coldest or wettest. And between the two is the shoulder season. These shoulder seasons are when things are slowing down from or building up to the high season. If you want a bit of both, whilst still saving some money and getting a unique experience, then this is the way to do it.
Low seasons have cooler temperatures are better to explore your location
Often, the high season is when destinations are the warmest. This can mean wall to wall sunshine. That’s great if you want to lie by the pool for two weeks, not so good if you plan to get the most out of your time there.
The cold can actually be beautiful too. Pack thick clothes, get out in the frost, and you’ll soon warm up.
Travelling in the off season is respectful to places you’re visiting and better for the environment
Can you imagine living in one of the worlds “must-see” cities? Pushing through hundreds of gawping tourists on your way to work in the morning, or not being able to go to a restaurant because they’re booked solid for months on end. Or having to commute for hours each day into and out from work to live somewhere affordable. That’s the reality for many people in the world’s most popular tourist spots.
Maybe you have to do that yourself?
I have friends who commute for hours into central London when there’s another new hotel, or glitzy serviced apartment block being built right beside their office.
That’s the bad side of tourism and it happens throughout the world.
By going in the quieter time, you’re not only not adding to this problem, you’re making tourism more sustainable by helping local businesses stay afloat.
What if I have to travel during the traditional high seasons of July and August?
Asia can be cheaper to travel too during Europe's 'high season'
Having worked as a teacher in a secondary school for many years, I know this feeling. I can’t bemoan the amount of holiday we had, but it was frustrating to have to go at the same time every year. I did become a little bit clever about where I chose to go, though.
Unfortunately, travelling in July or August does mean you’ll pay a bit more for flights. But in August, much of Asia experiences their monsoon season. In fact, just as Europe is hiking their prices in preparation for tourists, many Asian destinations are battening everything down for the incoming rains. These short but heavy rain showers make for a unique travel experience. I would totally recommend it. And, as I said already, it’s for a fraction of the price.
Another thing to do is to keep your eye on international news.
A few years ago, I spent a week in Istanbul. I got the flights and accommodation incredibly cheap, as it was a few weeks after some unrest in the city.
Of course, I looked in to it. There was no government advice against going and I made sure my travel insurance covered an earlier return flight should I need it.
In the end, it was a fantastic decision. I remember having a beer in an empty rooftop bar overlooking the Blue Mosque in the beautiful sunshine. I was given the best treatment by local restaurants and bar owners whose trade was suffering and never felt unsafe.
I’m not recommending you do something dangerous. But be aware that one bad headline about a place can be disastrous for tourism. And offer great opportunities for a unique adventure experience!
Thanks so much.
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