Trying to find the best time to travel can depend on a variety of things: work, schedule, kids, school, etc. It seems that most settle for the major holiday times to enjoy a getaway, and places set up around travel understand this. For me choosing the time of year to pack up takes on some slightly different considerations. I enjoy off-season travel more than peak for varying reasons, some philosophical and others more practical. I do realize that some places require peak season travel because of weather and other factors. Barring factors such as these, I will generally choose to travel during the off-season mainly for the following three reasons.
low costs create more opportunities
The easiest and for some the best reason, cost of travel during the off-season is generally cheaper. I’ve only hit a few spots that were not discounted during their slower season. (Let’s face it, if prices don’t drop there’s usually a good reason for it.) In the off-season, your hard earned money will go a little further. Saving cash opens up opportunities to experience a variety of local activities, eat different foods (believe it or not some restaurants will carry two menus or run specials at a greater discount), and possibly hit nearby locations/cities.
I have found that the locals seem a little more at ease when their streets are not overrun with outsiders. They and everyone else know that the local economy depends on tourism, but it can get stressful I’m sure. And if you go at the end of the peak season, you’ll see it. If you can catch them just before the tourist season kicks off, it’s usually the best time to actually learn about a place and the people that inhabit it.
Hint: Travel a few weeks to a month prior to peak season. Places are generally gearing up for the season, but not burned out from over-smiling at the tourists that fill their shops.
crowds: good or bad
Crowds can be fun and create energy and excitement that offer a whole new experience. This same crowd can also become too much all too quickly. I love being part of a crowd in a concert, but when everyone is leaving, the crowd has potential to be mob-like. This is how I feel about crowds of tourists. It can be exciting to be part of them at one point and within minutes it can all go horribly wrong. People pushing and trying to get in the same space. Long lines at restaurants and cafes. People get on edge quickly, and if it’s summertime, all the more reason to stay away. People do weird things when the weather gets hot.
the goal of traveling well
I think the desire to avoid the crowds and tourists, even though I am one, stems from one idea and hope: I want to travel well. I don’t want to only be a tourist, but engage people and see a place for what it is. I want to adjust to the locals and not make them accommodate me. I want to hear their story and what’s beautiful about their town not only settling for a place because someone else told me to go there. My experience has been that off-season travel allows for this experience. No matter what time you explore or meander ;), my hope is that you are able to journey well.