The Best Travel Secret Ever? Off-Peak Travel.

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?

32 thoughts on “The Best Travel Secret Ever? Off-Peak Travel.”

  1. I’ve been traveling off peak like that for probably 20+ years. It is amazing the great deals you can get and I’ll bet I’ve been able to travel 3 times as much by using the off peak strategy. Funny you mention Disney too. I’ve been there several times when my kids were younger and each time we saved big time and avoided the crowds by visiting during September. The parks are less crowded, but they still operate pretty much a full schedule and the weather is great.

    1. I completely agree with you. The shortened park hours really don’t make a difference when the lines are exponentially shorter. We just got back from a trip to Disney a few weeks ago (we took our 5 year old for the first time) and going off-peak made all the difference!

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    1. Same here. I can’t imagine not travelling off-peak at this point. Another bonus is that most of my co-workers take off during peak travel times (Christmas, spring break) so my office is even quieter and then, when I go, I get to go on vacation while they’re all at work. It works out very, very nicely for me.

    1. Jana. @ Daily Money Shot

      I don’t know. It is kind of a roll of the dice with airfare. I have found that if I stay over a weekend, the flights are cheaper. That’s been pretty consistent for me.

    2. The day of the week that you look for flights makes a big difference – I have written a post on this recently. It has been proven that airlines cycle their prices on a weekly and monthly basis. I have found the cheapest time to buy is on a Tuesday or Wednesday mid-month!

  3. I like how less congested it is. I like to actually experience a place for what it is and meet local people, not a bunch of tourists. I also like the slower pace. In high season, there is such a fast hustle and bustle that it isn’t very relaxing.

    It is also easier to get time off just like Jana mentioned.

    1. Jana. @ Daily Money Shot

      Meeting tourists is fine with me until they get too pushy and rude. And having an easier time getting the days off is nice.

  4. Shoulder season is the way to go for me. Off peak sometime means seriously crappy weather, each destination is a little different. I like the slower pace too. Now that we have a kid, it is going to be more difficult to travel off peak.

    1. Jana. @ Daily Money Shot

      Once my daughter starts school, it’s going to be a whole different story with traveling.

  5. I’ve never been able to do this because I like to hit the worlds’ beaches during the hottest months. I have had a desire to see certain places in the winter, like German Christmas Markets. Great ideas here.

    1. Jana. @ Daily Money Shot

      Traveling at peak times does have its perks, there’s no denying that. It’s all about personal preference.

    2. I just found out about the German Christmas Markets a couple months ago and they look wonderful. I’ve added them to my travel bucket list and will definitely get there some day.

  6. The one awesome thing about my old job (despite the shifts, the fact that it’s practically a 24/7, 365 days a year operation) is that I could be a lot more flexible about holiday time, and not just over the traditional Xmas/NYE break. Off peak travel rocks. I’m planning to have an offpeak wedding and honeymoon.

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  10. Haha, I too take advantage of free vacations offered by my parents… but when we’re paying on our own – like our upcoming trip to Disney this summer – I make sure to travel off-season. Hence why we’ll be in central Florida… in August…

    1. Isn’t August a hurricane month? If it is, maybe it is taking odd-season travel a little too far. 🙂

  11. You’re right. The price difference can be significant. I try to travel off peak but many times due to school schedule, it is difficult. Unless of course you take the kids out of school for several days.

  12. Good Cents Savings

    This is a great tip! And you might not be sacrificing as much as you think by traveling at a less popular time – I love our little beach town in the winter and there’s something magical about the mountains in the summer (when all the skiers and snowboarders want nothing to do with them.)

  13. Nice Post – I agree with OffPeak travel being the best – not only are the flights cheaper, but the restaurants, activities etc are so much better too! I think you have to get it right though – bad idea to go in bad weather seasons etc.
    I have been to Thailand a few times (I am from the UK), 2 of which were off peak (in June), The weather was pretty amazing for most of the time, the place was a lot quieter and we did a LOT more! highly recommend it. I would go so far as to say that I would avoid peak times altogether, unless there was no alternative 😀

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