Taking a trip in the shoulder season, the period of travel between low and high seasons, offers some serious advantages to holidaymakers with an eye on their wallet but who still want to enjoy the best a destination has to offer. Travelling in high season doesn’t only mean you’re paying the top bracket for your holiday. Beaches are fuller, lineups longer, tourist attractions more crowded. But tickets are at their cheapest in the low season for good reason. Monsoons, hurricanes and just inappropriate weather (it’s fairly obvious that there’s no point going skiing in the Alps in the middle of summer, even if it is cheaper than February) can make the bargains available seem less than appealing. But choose your holiday time with care and you can enjoy good weather, un-crowded resorts and still pay considerably less. Enter the shoulder season.The shoulder season is a little known term for a fairly straightforward concept. If you avoid visiting a destination at the same time as the rest of the world, prices are cheaper and your holiday is bound to be more enjoyable. The shoulder season falls at the start and finish of the high season, and many hotels, flights and holidays are reduced in price to tempt people to travel at slightly different times. The weather should still be good, something you can’t be sure of if travelling at low season, but you’ll pay less for avoiding the most popular times.
A general rule of thumb for picking a shoulder season is to avoid school holidays and the “obvious” times to travel, but to keep as close to high season as you can. Ski resorts, for example, open in late November, but see little traffic until the Christmas week. Head out in early or mid-December and not only will your package or flights and hotel be cheaper, but you’ll find the slopes less crowded, lift queues shorter and, usually, a substantial reduction on the cost of ski rentals and lift passes. Alternatively, consider later March or April (be sure to check when Easter falls to avoid the school holidays) when the resort is starting to wind down. An added bonus of travelling at the end of the season, particularly if skiing, is the prevalent sales in shops as they try and get rid of their stock before the end of the season.
For a Caribbean beach holiday, consider late November or early December. The weather is still beautiful (although it could be a bit windier) and you’ve far more chance of having a beach all to yourself as most people are busy at home before the Holidays.
Also be aware of festivals and local holidays – no matter where you’re thinking of going prices will rise over the Christmas week and New Year. If you’re travelling to America, prices will rise over Thanksgiving. March break in Florida could be scary for someone seeking peace and quiet. And remember events like Carnival and Easter. If you’re not going to join in the fun, then it’s not worth paying the extra money.