When people ask me ‘when is the best time to travel’, my first answer is always ANY TIME! You can’t see places unless you actually get up and go. After their eye roll, my next answer is to research the area you are interested in to determine when is their shoulder season. For less money, potentially fewer tourists, and an overall better value, this period of time can be your new go to time of year.
We’ve all heard about the high and the low seasons but shoulder season has recently begun to get a little more press in travel publications. Simply put, a shoulder season means the period of time between the peak season (high) and off-peak (low). There are many factors that influence the high and the low seasons: holidays, weather, school vacations, accessibility to attractions, etc. This is why it’s crucial to do your homework and figure out when this occurs for each individual location. My recommendation is to take a look at a country’s tourism bureau website.
In my opinion, the low season doesn’t always mean you will enjoy your travels less or that a destination is less accommodating. Most people think about the weather but for me, I’d take a rainy day in a foreign country than a lovely day at home. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that the low season is restricted (though this is rarely the case).
Hotels, resorts, and attractions know full well the periods of high income versus when activity drops off and there is less money to be made. Because of this, they are willing to offer their services at a discount to make a few more bucks before their revenue drops off. The idea is that it’s better to have some money than none (I couldn’t agree more!). When you’re doing the research, don’t be surprised if you see included meals, extra nights for deep discounts, or generous travel packages.
PhotoFly Travel Club LOVES going in shoulder seasons; often times we make sure to book in this season to give our small groups some breathing room. Group travel can get a bad rap because if you’ve traveled during the high season in Western Europe, it isn’t uncommon to see busload after busload of foreign tourists being dropped off in the same, often cramped areas. This is not our idea of enjoyable group travel.
My last assignment as Tour Director sent me to Patagonia, Chile in May; this is their fall going into the winter. This is my favorite time to go! Our group was hiking every day for almost a week and I can’t recall seeing anybody on the trail. We had the national park Torres del Paine almost completely to ourselves. Another example was our tour to Australia in early April. Though the country is absolutely stunning during their summer, it can get very busy. Along with foreign tourists, the summer holiday from school means loads of Aussies are crisscrossing the country. During our trip there, we avoided that craziness and were able to explore the land down under in comfort.
Andrew Skarvinko is a full-time Tour Director for PhotoFly Travel Club. He calls Boston his HQ after several years of traveling and working mainly in east Asia. His focus has been teaching English to the youth in Taiwan, South Korea, and Vietnam with several short term exchanges between longer assignments. Determined to be a global citizen, Andrew uses a blend of humor and spontaneity to immerse himself in the places he travels. In his latest career trajectory, Andrew now uses the skills he has acquired over the years to lead youth and chaperoned groups on educational excursions. From bustling cities to deserted landscapes, his encouraging outlook allows all his companions the opportunity to make the most out of their experience.