When it comes to choosing the perfect time of the year to travel, summer break and the holiday season are definitely the popular choices. However, some travellers want to go off the beaten path, and travel agents and insiders would recommend trips during the shoulder season.
What is Shoulder Season?
The shoulder season is defined as the period before or after the peak travel time of a particular destination. Traveling on this window period has many benefits, such as off-season pricing, fewer people to share the place with, and pleasant temperate weather.
When is Shoulder Season?
• Europe: April and October
The shoulder season in Europe varies by destination. For instance, Italy’s peak season is a little earlier compared to other European destinations, it goes from May to October. While Greece begins its peak season in July and parties straight into September. Therefore, you shouldn’t be planning your vacation on those months if you’re aiming to enjoy the benefits of the offseason. Instead, try to visit Europe in the middle of spring before school lets out, when the whether is warm, sun is bright, and plants are in bloom. Avoid crowds in October and November when kids are back in school and the heat of the summer starts to cool off. Admire the changing leaves and warm rays of sunshine from the comfort of a quiet European café.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands’ peak season is during most of Europe’s shoulder season! Tourists peak during springtime to admire the Dutch tulips that bloom across the countryside. Be aware that shoulder season are not the same for every country. Make sure you conduct the proper research and pack for the weather!
• Caribbean: April to May and September to November
The peak travel period in the Caribbean islands is the total opposite of Europe, with most people going to the area during winter to evade the humid weather and hurricane flags during summer. However, shoulder season for most of the islands is relatively similar, somewhere between late spring and early fall months. Take a shoulder season trip to some of the most popular winter-time cruise destinations in the world and enjoy your solo beach time.
• United States: March and October to December
Depending on your travel destination, the shoulder season in certain places in the U.S. may vary. If you’re going to Disneyland with your family, you would want to dodge the summer months, March Break, and American Thanksgiving. Likewise, if you’re planning a ski vacation in Vail Colorado, the peak season is going to be during the winter holiday months. To avoid a crowded ski slope, March would be the perfect month for wintertime activities.
Why Travel During Shoulder Season?
1. Lower Prices
If you’ve ever traveled during Christmas or Thanksgiving, you probably know that ticket prices are costlier than any other period of the year. While traveling during shoulder season when flights aren’t fully booked offers you the opportunity to fly at a relatively lower price.
Moreover, other than flight tickets, hotel, and transportation fees are much cheaper during the shoulder season. Because of the smaller number of tourists, rental cars and hotel accommodations are more reasonably priced. It’s a business strategy to lure more visitors. Sometimes, they’ll also offer exclusive perks that they don’t need to during the peak season.
If you’re planning to travel to Caribbean islands, don’t hesitate if the only option you have is during the hurricane season. It’s only a matter of smart planning. As long as you don’t go to high-risk places, you can take advantage of this less preferred season and acquire better prices minus the risk.
2. Smaller Crowds
The peak season always draws the crowds. If you want to go on a trip when there are far less people to elbow out of the way, then the shoulder season is the best time to travel for you. This means you don’t have to fight through a sea of people to have a glimpse of a famous painting at museum exhibits or do the activities you planned to do on your beach destination.
The shoulder season lets you avoid families or a big group of friends crowding at the airport check-in line or the entrance to popular attractions. It’s a perfect opportunity to enjoy your travel in peace and appreciate much better the scenic spots with fewer people invading your personal space.
3. Great Weather
In many tourist destinations, fall and spring are two of the most sought for by the general public as far as weather is concerned. Caribbean islands, for example, is usually sizzling during the summer months, but during the offseason, the weather is pleasant. You can take advantage of this period to get a sight of the beautiful beaches and appreciate the golden sunset.
Although, you should be mindful of the activities you’ve included on your itinerary since we can’t still disregard the fact that the shoulder season also means unpredictable weather. Better have some backup plan in case things don’t go as planned. Sometimes, the unexpected events turn out the most fun ones.
4. Better Ambiance
There’s no better feeling when you have the entire place to enjoy for yourself. The crowds, or lack thereof, means a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere. If you’re especially aiming to unwind and de-stress, you would surely enjoy a place that will make you feel special, almost like the entire area is rented exclusively for you.
Moreover, the absence of crowd lets you have the opportunity to converse with the locals to know more about their culture and history. They can also offer recommendations of good places to visit that aren’t in the tour guide or travel websites and may even share with you tips on how to avail discounts. These perks and experiences are not readily available when tourist attractions are jam-packed during the peak season.