Reminisce back to your last summer trip. It’s hot, it’s crowded, it’s expensive. You probably didn’t mind (or pretended not to) because you were finally on vacation and were so happy to have a break. What if I told you it didn’t have to be that way? That “vacation” could be an actual vacation. Mind blown, right? There is an alternative and it is called “Shoulder Season”.
Let’s break this down. Travel Seasons are typically divided three ways:
Peak Season (mid-June through August)
Shoulder Season (both April through mid-June and September through early November)
Off Season (November through end of March)
Now, no two countries are alike. Keep in mind what country you are traveling to and whether they have rainy seasons, hot seasons, etc. You would hate to get caught in rainy season unprepared in Costa Rica (completely guilty of this, still gorgeous though).
Why shoulder season? What makes it so special?
Shoulder season is the perfect combination of “peak season” and “off season”. While still having enough daylight to enjoy a new city you will have much more pleasant weather and smaller crowds. However, there are still enough people for a fun night out on the town if you crave a social scene.
My Two Main Reasons For Choosing Shoulder Season
Ding Ding Ding! I think I found a winner right here. Flights. Accommodations. Tours. Food. It’s all cheaper.
It is no secret that airfare prices change all the time. (more detail here) During both the summer and winter holidays prices are remarkably higher due to the increase in tourism. So what about in between? During shoulder season prices drop like clockwork. This is because far fewer people are traveling during these times. Reasons for the decrease in travel are usually work or school related. However, if you’re smart about it, you can work around this. Students or Teachers, use your “Fall Break” to travel. You could easily have a free week (or longer) vacation using this time. Work full-time? Save up your vacation or sick days and use them during what I personally see as “peak time” to travel.
*Make sure when planning flights your departure date leaves during shoulder season or else you’ll end up paying higher prices anyway.
It’s Less “Touristy”
Hate crowds? Me too. I cringe when I think of visiting famous destinations like the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower, and not being able to enjoy it due to swarms of tourists. Imagine being able to enjoy a “tourist ridden” place, minus the tourists. The best way to beat the crowds is to go when there aren’t any. This can also allow you to truly experience cities in their “natural habitat”. Hawaiians aren’t always hula dancing and Italians aren’t lining up on gondolas to get to work. With less touristy activities around, you’ll get to experience a more realistic day in whichever place you are traveling to.
I was recently on the island of Brac in Croatia. It was late October and it seemed as if we were the only people on this island. I asked one of the locals if it was normally this peaceful, and he immediately laughed and shook his head “no”. He informed us that during the summer there are an average of 20,000 people visiting the island. However, once the high demand of summer dies out the city goes back to normal with the 1,500 people who live there. In fact, most of the locals we met were leaving because there was hardly any work left without tourism. Being able to get to know the people of Brac and see what normal life looked like was far better than any “tourist” experience I could have had.
Why do you travel? Is it for culture, to meet new people, to network? Whatever reason you have, you can accomplish your travel goals in any season. So why would you not want to save money and make your travels more enjoyable? Keep shoulder season in mind when planning your next trip.