When searching where to go at a certain time or when to go a specific place, you probably will see the word off-season come up a lot. People like to suggest that you visit popular tourist destinations in the off-season for two main reasons: the off-season is a great time to avoid the crowds, and travelling is cheaper in the off-season. But before you go off to book your cheap trip to empty beaches or queue less attractions, consider the following:
The reason for the off-season.
Please, before you book consider why people aren’t visiting at that time. Usually there is a reason to visit a certain place whether it be nice weather, festivals, or other events. Make sure you consider whether it is worth saving a buck on your big getaway if it also means missing the reason a lot of people visit, and for you it definitely may be. Lots of people are willing to gamble on having good weather on a beach vacation or want to see Japan but don’t care about cherry blossoms, just make sure you consider what you are missing. When Rachel and I visited France in February, we quickly realized that Canada isn’t the only place that is cold in the winter (Surprise!). We visited in February and got to see snow, rain, slush, wind, cold, and guess what…
There are still crowds.
Bear in mind, you probably aren’t the only one looking to save big on that vacation. While in France, we still managed to find crowds and long lines wherever we went, the only difference was that now we were cold and uncomfortable while waiting in line. There very well could have been fewer people than in the summer, but sometimes that just means more people have to fit in smaller places to stay warm. While visiting Versailles, we shuffled through the palace with a dense crowd of other people which would cause claustrophobia for many. However, upon exiting the palace, there were no crowds in the vast gardens because they were cold and the fountains were shut down for winter. We had a great time but felt that we would have had a better experience had we visited in spring or summer.
Off-season vs anytime that isn’t peak season.
If you are looking to travel in the off-season for the purpose of avoiding the sweaty crowds and to get that perfect picture with nobody in the background, consider when peak season is and plan to visit either just before or at the beginning, or right at the end or just after. Destinations often slowly build up and down from their busiest times. If you plan a trip right at the beginning or end, you may be able to enjoy your visit with far fewer people without sacrificing the reason that people choose to visit at these times. For example, Rachel and I hiked Cinque Terre in September which was right on the tail of peak season. We still saw people but spent a lot of time with nobody in sight, we managed to have a peaceful hike while enjoying what we consider ideal hiking temperatures (25-30 degrees Celsius).
After France, Rachel and I decided that we want to make the most of every vacation and don’t like to miss out on the things that make each place special. Sometimes this may cost more or may mean that we have to enjoy the best the world has to offer with other people, but we find it worth it. In the end, don’t be ashamed to book the vacation you want, and trust us, we know what it is like to travel when every dollar counts. Sometimes you just can’t visit at the ideal times for many reasons. Just be prepared for the unexpected, but isn’t travelling about adventure anyways?