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The Best Travel Secret Ever? Off-Peak Travel.

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This post is part of Yakezie blog swap #17. Members of the Yakezie Personal Finance Blogging Network pair up and exchange guest postings on a common topic. The topic of this blog swap was to discuss the best budget travel idea. Jana is the owner and writer of Daily Money Shot, a personal finance site (and one of my favorite blogs!) that discusses money at the intersection of life, family, pop culture and everything in between. If you are interested in what I had to say about budget travel, make sure to visit Daily Money Shot. I am talking about how to be food wise when travelling

There are two skills I’ve had throughout my life: swimming and traveling. I’ve known how to do both for so long, I actually can’t remember not knowing how to do them. I can’t say that knowing how to swim has paid off for me in any big way (except the one time I got stuck under a banana boat) but knowing how to travel has.

I’ve been fortunate that, in my life, I’ve done a great deal of traveling. As a result, I can pack a suitcase like a champ, I can navigate an airport without ever getting lost, and I am a master at falling asleep before the plane ever takes off.

However, booking my own trips has always been a sore spot for me. I spend a great deal of time researching flights and other transportation, comparing hotel room rates…everything you would expect a seasoned, frugal traveler to do, I do. But the more I book my own trips (travel agents make me angry. Sorry, travel agents), the more I realize there is one aspect of traveling that makes all the difference in the world.

That aspect?

Traveling in off-peak times.

The first time I realized what a difference traveling off-peak made was 10 years ago. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I were planning a trip to Disney World. He had never been and I love it so that’s what we agreed upon. We started looking at dates and prices. We knew roughly how much we wanted to spend and when we wanted to go. But once we started pricing vacation packages, we realized we would save about $500 and be able to stay an extra day if we went during off-peak dates rather than when we wanted to go.

The second time I realized what a huge impact traveling off-peak made was in 2009. My in-laws offered to take us to The Outer Banks (in North Carolina). We were in the throes of debt repayment and hadn’t been on vacation in 3 years. We knew that driving 7 hours was not exactly optimum but to have a free vacation? Yes, please!

Anyway, the house was gorgeous…4 floors, gourmet kitchen, a pool and hot tub, 1 block from the beach and an elevator in the house!!! My in-laws paid $1500 for the house for the week. The regular price? $5000 per week. The only difference? Our travel dates. Because we were going in late April instead of prime vacation time for a beach house, my in-laws saved $3500. That is no joke.

In addition to saving beaucoup bucks, there are other benefits to traveling off-peak:

·         Less crowded. Less people means not having to wait for 3 hours for a table at a popular restaurant, not having to fight for a spot at the beach or standing in line for 90 minutes to go on a roller coaster.  This, for me, makes for a much more relaxing vacation.

·         Cheaper flights/travel. Flights are also less crowded. This means less chance for a chatty seatmate, or even worse, a seatmate who doesn’t understand personal space boundaries.

·         Easier access to tours, sightseeing, etc. Since there are less travelers, it’s easier to get booked on an excursion last minute and major sites aren’t crowded, giving you time to enjoy them at a more leisurely pace.  The prices may also be reduced in order to attract business.

If you are going to travel off-peak, just make sure it’s appropriate. For instance, off-peak season for the Caribbean islands may coincide with hurricane season. That’s probably not a wise choice. The same goes for traveling to Canada in January (sorry, Canada. I love you but you’re cold in winter). However, if you’re willing to accept those circumstances, then you’ve opened up a whole world of travel for yourself.

What’s the greatest benefit you’ve gotten from traveling in off –peak seasons?

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