Woman with backpack standing in front of temple.

Newsflash: travel is awesome. (And let’s be honest, that’s not news.)

But travel is also expensive. Even if you’re light on your feet, airfare alone can cost hundreds of dollars… and if you’re looking for a posh experience complete with private rooms and maybe a restaurant meal or two, it’s easy to completely eclipse your budget.

There are plenty of blog posts and articles out there about how to save money on travel; in fact, we’ve even written some ourselves

But with one easy change, you could substantially lower the overall cost of your trip without any additional work. 

That easy change? Traveling during shoulder season.

What is Shoulder Season, and Why is It Awesome?

Even if you don’t know the term “shoulder season,” you probably already know it exists. It’s the time of year when a location sees a decrease in tourism, as opposed to “peak season,” when it’s absolutely overflowing with visitors.

For instance, in North America and much of the Northern Hemisphere, summer is peak travel season. But much of the rest of the year, including the long winter days of January and February, is shoulder season: a time when travel and tourism are at a lull, which means local hospitality professionals are eager for any business.

Because the slow season means fewer visitors means less revenue, many tourist-focused enterprises, like hotels and campgrounds, offer lower prices during the shoulder season. Many hotels, bed and breakfasts, and even Airbnb owners offer lower prices during the shoulder season because they want to incentivize customers by any means necessary. After all, earning a lower rate is still better than not having any business at all!

Additionally, many tourist attractions lower their rates during the offseason for similar reasons, and thanks to lower demand, you can usually score cheaper flights as well.

Finally, keep in mind that lower prices aren’t the only perk for shoulder season travelers. The costs are low because there are fewer tourists… which means you have fewer crowds to deal with.

In short, if your schedule is flexible and you aren’t too picky about the weather, traveling during shoulder season can help you get a whole lot more bang for your travel buck.

How to Score Shoulder Season Deals

So now that you know what shoulder season is, how do you take advantage of it?

The first and easiest step is to simply plan your trip during the off-season. However, it’s important to note that the off-season is different for every destination. For instance, North America’s summertime rush is New Zealand’s off-season, since the country’s location in the southern hemisphere means it’s their winter. While you’ll still have to shell out for a lengthy flight, you might have better luck finding affordable accommodations.

On the other end of the spectrum, the metaphorically hot destination city of Dubai experiences some serious physical heat during the summer months, with temperatures often reaching into the triple digits. But if you can stand the heat, you’ll be rewarded with sale prices on this metropole’s opulent accommodations and activities. 

The best idea is to research your specific vacation bucket list spots and see when they experience shoulder season. Then, go about your travel planning as normal — and if you don’t see lower rates advertised, don’t be afraid to ask the hotel or hostel directly. 

For an added bonus, keep an eye on airfare throughout the year, and utilize money-saving services like Skiplagged or Hopper to help you score the very best price possible. Sometimes, waiting just a few days to book your flight can make a huge difference!

Finally, don’t forget that that weather may be part of the reason for the ebb in visitors, so be sure to add some rain gear or extra layers to your suitcase if necessary.

Then, enjoy your more-affordable vacation in peace… complete with stunning Instagram pictures you didn’t have to elbow your way to the front of a mob for! 

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About The Author

Jamie Cattanach is a full-time freelance writer whose work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post and other outlets. Having done a fair amount of international travel, these days she wanders around the U.S. in a 17-foot Casita travel trailer she calls home. Head to www.jamiecattanach.com to learn more.

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