My husband and I love to travel. Our affection for traveling is due, in part, to our hometowns: he’s from Reading, England, and I’m from the melting pot that is Miami, Florida. After a few months in our current city of Charlotte, North Carolina, we’re itching to get away. After all, traveling is ridiculously fun!
And, of course, it can also be pretty pricey. We have big travel dreams – we’d love to go back to England and stop off in another European country. We talk about checking out China or exploring South America. Inexpensive vacations, these are not. But we have discovered one way to save on travel no matter where we go: we travel in the off-season.
In fact, our favorite time to travel is over the Christmas holiday. We’ve left on Christmas Day and returned after New Year’s (a trip to Europe), and we’ve left after New Year’s and returned in early January (a trip to Wine Country in California). Sure, we miss out on some family activities at home, but it’s a fun tradition for the two of us and a great chance to getaway from the insanity of the holidays. When, exactly, the off-season is varies from location to location, but for most of the colder cities in the northern hemisphere, December and January are no-travel months. Unless you’re like us!
Why do we love traveling during the off-season?
- Everything is Cheaper: Especially if you choose to travel on a major holiday (like Christmas), flights are generally much cheaper during the off-season. Similarly, hotels and rental cars are less expensive and more readily available. Tickets into certain attractions usually carry a mark-up during the high season and may be cheaper when things are less busy – after all, businesses want to entice you to come in!
- Everything is Quieter: Our trip to Wine Country in January was amazing. Sure, the vines were brown and the air was chilly, but there was almost no one else around! As a result of being a few of the lone tourists, we received so much personalized attention. We got to go on extra-long tours, see ‘hidden’ parts of the wineries that the public normally misses out on, and got extra pours from bored bartenders. We never had to make dinner reservations – even at the fanciest restaurants! – and finding a cab was a piece of cake. On the flip side, I once went to Rome during the summer – high season – and it was a nightmare. Even getting gelato from a street vendor was a mission. Generally, traveling during the off-season is so much less stressful. Less crowds, more fun.
- Upgrades are Available: Because everything is quieter, businesses are more likely to give you free upgrades. On our Christmas flight to Europe, we were bounced to two empty rows and allowed to stretch out across the seats. We got free champagne and extra food. When we arrived at the hotel, we discovered our room had been upgraded. If you’re traveling during the off-season, be sure to inquire about upgrades – you may be surprised at how freely they are given out when no one else is around!
A big con to traveling in the off-season, however, is that some attractions are closed for the season or have greatly reduced hours and availability This was a huge drawback. We would’ve loved to go on the wine train tour in Napa Valley, for example, but it was shut down for the winter. If there’s one activity that you absolutely cannot miss, be sure to check the calendar before booking your off-season travel.