Travel

When To Travel?

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.

 

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Ways to cut some cost

Now that I’ve brought everybody down with the actual price of travelling Europe as an adult, let’s take another look at the actual travelling expense. There are ways to minimize what you pay while abroad. My favorite cost saving idea is timing. I travel off-peak whenever possible. Travelling outside of the natural high-travel period, or off-peak, is a blessing in many regards. First, if you aren’t too far outside the normal travel high-period the weather will not have changed drastically. This is important if you’re chasing the sun.

If you’re chasing architecture and museums, off-peak can be a true blessing. The normal travel crowds diminish significantly once you pass out of the high-travel seasons. Sites will have far fewer people to content with. Hotels and restaurants will also be less populated. This bit is important, as they want to fill space. Off-peak hotel and restaurant prices tend to drop, as to entice travelers. This ….. is good!

I travel off-peak whenever it’s good to do so. You will find a lot of the Mediterranean area of Europe is more temperate than North American travelers would think for. I visited Rome, in February, and the weather was quite pleasant. I pack the big coat and didn’t need any of it. It was a great change from the Chicago winter I had flown out of.

So, you say you can’t travel off-peak? Kids school breaks, or work high periods don’t allow for vacation. That being said, there are still ways to save a little cash. These things are all things that you have read about on other sites. There really aren’t too many NEW ways to save cash while abroad.

The real way to save cash now is to shop well. And by shopping well, that means shopping many website to see who’s really selling things at the lowest price. No one website will always have the lowest price. It’s just the way it is. Frankly, I don’t know how they decide how to price things. I think there actually might be a crystal ball involved somewhere. What I do know is, one website will always be slightly less expensive than another or several others.

I tend to use several sites for airline flights. My standbys are www.aa.com, www.kayak.com, www.easyjet.com, and www.cheapoair.com. I like to fly American Airlines as too keep my travel miles in one place. If you go straight to the actual carrier for any specific flight that you find on a flight search website, it will almost always be cheaper straight from the actual carrier. That cheaper rate may be 10$ or it may be 100$, but money is money.

Kayak is a great site for seeing multiple options for individual flight options. Cheap-o-air is another great option for seeing flight options. They both have easy to use search engines and are very easy to navigate. I use mobile apps for all of the above options as they are all good browsing options.

If you are searching for cheap flights inside Europe, I would suggest you take a look at the Easyjet website. They are limited in the amount of airports that they fly in and out of, but they are cheap. I also wouldn’t let the limited number of airports get you down. The price of the flights are low enough to usually offset the cost of a train ticket from your city to the city that easy jet is flying out of. And really, you traveling, aren’t you?

For full disclaimer I also use www.travelocity.com quite a lot. The site a bigger and clunkier than the ones mentioned above, but it does cover a lot of ground. I tend to keep its use to domestic travel as that’s really where it works best for me.

On the logging front I tend to use www.hotels.com, and www.booking.com regularly. I like staying at the Best Western chain, so I use the Best Western app also. I find that when staying in a new city, it nice to have a known hotel chain. Once again, domestically speaking Travelocity works well here.

If you want to stay local while in any particular city you are traveling to there are options for that as well. Both Frommer’s and Lonely Planet have great references for this. Their guidebooks break down each location’s dinning option and lodging options by dollar amount. They will give you a number of lower cost options, moderate cost options, and higher end options to choose from. This allows you to look at the actual locations and see what your money is buying. This is VERY important, IF you don’t travel much. European standards, and South American standards and their rating systems are different than those used in North America. Understanding how their rating systems work will go a long way to helping you have a better experience when you get there.

As with anything else in life it comes down to doing your homework. You need to search out the travel deals and look at all the options available to you. I can guarantee one thing, if some travel company says they have a great deal for you – It’s almost always a great deal for them. It’s sad but true. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t look at them. I have used several collected travel options in the past. I’m saying that you should understand what you’re buying. You’ll find that shopping it around will provide you with savings options and sightseeing options that you can’t find in packaged vacations.

Get out there and look around. You’ll have a good time!

(Honestly, sometimes just planning a new adventure will give you a great amount of enjoyment.)

 

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A view from the steps of Saint Peters. In February. The Med had good weather.

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