I do almost all my traveling when most people are either gearing up for or recovering from the holidays. I love traveling off-season, but I recognize it’s not for everyone. There are some major advantages of traveling off-season and a few disadvantages as well.
It’s less crowded
The best reason to travel off-season is to beat the crowds. I love seeing the beautiful things the world has to offer, but I don’t want to see them full of millions of people. One of the only ways to do that is to travel off-season. In late fall or winter, there are no long lines to buy tickets to museums or monuments or palaces. Visiting anything, even the city squares, is a lot more pleasant because you’re not surrounded by mobs of people.
As a direct result of fewer people traveling during off-season, prices for everything drop, sometimes dramatically. Airlines are trying to fill flights and hotels want to get booked up. So you’ll benefit from cheaper accommodations, cheaper transportation, and even deals on the city’s best attractions. Tours and entrance fees to certain things may be cheaper during the months when they see less traffic.
The weather is better
I realize that overcast days and icy winds don’t sound immediately appealing. But if you think about it, most vacation time is spent walking around, which is more comfortable to do when it’s cold than when it’s hot. A good coat can work wonders, and most indoor places have heating. So a lot can be done to improve how you feel when it’s cold. But during peak travel season, when the sun is blazing and you have no place to escape the oppressive heat, there’s nothing you can do except walk around looking like a dirty bucket of sweat.
That being said, traveling off-season has some major downsides as well. These are the corresponding disadvantages.
Things are more likely to be closed
You may not be able to do everything you want to do if you go somewhere off-season. For instance, tours may not be available or be limited to account for wintry road conditions. Some cities make so little money from tourism during off-season that it’s not worthwhile to keep certain attractions open during the off-season at all. In some cases, many restaurants and bars close up shop until the tourists return in droves, thus limiting your dining and nightlife options.
Not everything looks its best
Though I love how winter looks – especially if you happen to get snow – sometimes you do miss out on the prettiest time of the year by traveling off-season. Like the spring blooming in Japan. Or a beautiful summer day in the lush green rolling hills of the UK. Some things deserve to be seen at their best time, despite the expense or inconvenience.
Nature-related activities may be limited
The best off-season destinations are big cities that don’t really rest at any time of year. However if your idea of a good vacation is a long nature hike or strolling through botanical gardens, then you might be severely limiting yourself by going at the wrong time of year. Hiking trails may be inaccessible or closed for the season. Some things may be downright impossible to reach because of the weather.
If you want to minimize these disadvantages, you just have to travel off-season wisely. Do your research, and skip off-season travel to destinations that won’t be truly worthwhile during that time of year. In other words, you might want to leave the Greek islands for summer because they’ll be freezing and deserted in February.