Last fall my wife and I took a cruise to celebrate our honeymoon. We were actually married a year before we took our honeymoon, but we had to delay it because my wife was in the military and deployed less than three weeks after our wedding. But it was well worth the wait!
The extra year between our wedding and the honeymoon actually turned out to be a blessing, even though our forced separation was not. We had more time to adjust to our married life and used the time to save for and plan our vacation. We decided to go on a Mediterranean cruise, which we took in late September and early October. The timing was perfect.
Reasons to vacation in the off-season
Save Money when booking. My wife and I looked at Mediterranean cruises at several times throughout the year, and finally settled on late September/early October. We chose this time because the tickets were much cheaper, there was more availability, and we wanted to make sure we would still have nice weather. We contemplated going around March/April, but realized the weather would still be a little cool, and possibly rainy. The months following that were much more expensive because people were no longer in school and were vacationing during the peak season. By booking later in the year, we saved over $1,000 per ticket.
Avoid crowds. Almost as important as saving money is avoiding large crowds! Most Americans build their vacation schedules around the school year and take vacations during March and April for Spring Break, May-August for extended summer vacations, or around Christmas and the New Year for winter trips. Many Europeans also have a similar holiday schedule, and some countries, like Italy, take almost the entire month of August off. These are the most crowded, and expensive, times to go on vacation. Planning your vacation around this means fewer people (especially children), more space, and a more enjoyable experience.
Greater availability. Fewer travelers means more available airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and other travel related items. Some tourist attractions require booking tours several months in advance during peak seasons, but reservations can often be made a few days in advance during the off season. It is also much easier to find local services such as tour guides, restaurants, taxis, and more.
Steep discounts. Fewer people means less money being spent at local businesses. Some places will slash prices in order to gain your business. This is common at restaurants, souvenir shops, and popular attractions. Some places even have different price lists depending on the season. Use this to your advantage – the best time to haggle on the price is when the store is empty!
Vacationing in the off-season isn’t perfect.
The main reason people take vacations during the high season is because the weather is usually nicer, children are off from school, and it is easier to fit it into your normal schedule. But if you are able to travel in the shoulder seasons, you may have a nicer experience – and at half the cost!
photo credit: protego.