When do you travel? It’s a question I never really put much thought into. Well, not until recently. I know that most people of adult age have restrictions on their life. They have kids in school or vacation restrictions placed upon them at work. If they are traveling utilizing points from credit cards or other promotional accounts, well then, there are definitely blackout dates to be contended with. These situations and others like them tend to push people into travelling during what the travel industry likes to call peak season.
In my opinion, the term peak season is a bit of a misnomer. Peak season isn’t really a season. It is bracketed by seasonal constraints and though. Peak season is a general term for the time when the most people travel to a certain place. It has environmental factors, such as summer time weather if in the Mediterranean or the time of the monsoons in South East Asia. These are the things that people look at before they travel. Add on the constraints of when someone or their family can travel, as stated by the problems above, and that basically makes up the peak season for any given place.
Most people tend to travel during peak season. If it is not peak season, it will be around one of the major holiday events. The travel companies know this. Airlines tailor flight prices around these times (they tend to go up in price.). The package companies and major hotel chains do the same. It just life in the fast lane. This is also why, if you read any amount of blogging or travel advice books at all, almost everyone will tell you to travel during the off-peak times. I too, offer you this advice.
Now, to answer the initial question, I travel whenever I can get reasonable plane tickets somewhere. Having been in a situation that allowed me to travel pretty much at will, I have become accustomed to traveling whenever it suited my needs. Normally, my needs revolved around my bank account.
Going off-peak has many advantages. Things are generally cheaper. Plane tickets and hotels for sure, but other things as well. (Think trinket stores.) There are fewer other tourists to have to deal with. People are generally friendlier and more forgiving of cultural or language issues, because there are fewer tourists aggravating them. Restaurants and museums will not have lines or the need for reservations. And on, and on. Now there will probably be one major downfall. The weather isn’t going to be nearly as nice as you may want it to be.
I’m going to ask, is this such a major inconvenience? No, seriously, are you going to have a ruined vacation just because it rains part of each day, or because you need to wear a jacket and some gloves? I say categorically, IT WILL NOT.
I spent the weekend in Rome, in February. Why? Cheap plane tickets. I had an excellent time. I had to wear a coat, but it was still pretty mild and the trip was awesome. I mean, if you can’t enjoy yourself in Rome, you’re probably going about things wrong. I wandered across Europe and Ireland in September (Technically the shoulder season, but still out of the main tourist push). It was great. There were fewer crowds, and the people I met were definitely friendlier. I was in Key West, Florida, in July. It was hot, but definitely fun. All the bars downtown were half full and happy that I was there hanging out. Even the guy that drove the local tram was saying he liked it better when it wasn’t during the rush.
I appreciate the constraints of the real world. I deal with them often. I would suggest that you look into traveling off-peak next time. Any place that you will want to go will have a busy season and a not-busy season. Look at the money saving to be had by showing up during the not-busy season. You may save enough to consider a longer stay or a second trip somewhere else. Even if the difference just covers something like all of your tips and cab fare, that’s a good thing too. Any savings is good these days. I’m not saving you must, just that you may want to. Check it out. See what you can save. See what upgrades are available because it’s off-peak (there usually are for hotels). If it does nothing but help you plan, it’s a good thing.
Now, go on. Get out there.
The main intersection sigh in downtown Ballyvaughan, Ireland. September, 2009. I think there may have been three people in my hotel. And, there was always a seat at the bar.