Why Timing Is Everything When Saving Money on Travel


Nearly half of Americans say they won't be taking a vacation this summer, according to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. The top reason: cost, named by 49 percent of those who'll be staying home.

Traveling in low season may just be the answer to this nation without vacation conundrum. By traveling outside of summer and public holidays, or by going abroad during the less popular times of year, you can save a considerable amount of money on your total travel bill. Here's how.

First of all, what is peak season?

Typically peak season refers to the time of year when the most tourists (foreign or local or both), descend upon a popular travel destination. In many countries, peak season falls around Christmas, New Year's, Easter, and over some summer holidays.

The exact dates of peak season will depend on where you're traveling to, what festivals are on, and what the majority religion is in the country. For example, Easter is extremely busy in the Philippines, while there isn't much rise in tourism in Muslim countries during the Christian holiday.

Similarly, Brazil is extremely busy during Carnival in February, but the date of Carnival is different in many South American countries and it's different on Caribbean islands as well. It's best to do a bit of research to find out exactly when "offseason" happens in your selected destination.

Pros and cons of offseason travel

Of course, there are a few cons to offseason travel or everyone would travel then, so it's important to cover those here. While many people might worry that they'd be constantly drenched if they travel during rainy season, that's often not the case. In many places, heavy rainfall does occur in the off-peak months, but typically it falls for an hour or so and then goes away.

If you're really worried about weather, you may consider traveling in the "shoulder season," which is a good middle ground between high season and low season. (See also: Best Times of Year to Travel Anywhere)

Pros of low-season travel:

  • Cheaper prices.

  • Fewer travelers.

  • Some great local festivals happen in the offseason.


  • May not be optimal weather.

  • Some sights and hotels may be closed.

How to save on accommodations

Hotels, hostels, B&Bs, and vacation rental apartments all tend to jack up their prices during the most desirable travel periods. Take, for example, a three-bedroom home listed on Airbnb in Manzanillo, Mexico. If you book this particular apartment in July, when it's not peak season, it's only $166 a night, while the same apartment booked over Christmas this year will run you $330 a night!

This isn't just on Airbnb, either. I've personally been traveling over the Christmas season for nearly eight years straight and I've always had a hard time finding accommodation deals for that time period. Typically I end up spending at least 50 percent more, simply because I'm getting close to Christmas. (See also: 10 Surprising Ways to Save Money on Hotels)

How to save on flights

We all know that hotels aren't the only ones jacking up their prices during the holiday and peak seasons. Airlines have been doing this for years. According to a study by CheapAir.com:

"Over the course of the entire holiday booking period, travelers paid an average 50 percent more for a flight during the holidays than for the same flight during a non-holiday time. That means a $300 ticket during off-peak time cost $450 during the holidays."

That's no joke! I've personally paid as much as 60 percent more on my airfare, simply because I was flying during a public holiday or during a festival. Traveling in the offseason could save you a lot of money on your airfare. (See also: 10 Flight Booking Hacks to Save You Hundreds)

How to save on food

Believe it or not, even restaurants give discounts in the offseason. I have been in some towns where nearly every restaurant offers a "local discount" during the offseason because there are so few tourists that it is the only way they can make money during the slower months.

During a trip to Thailand in 2014, I watched many restaurants on Railay Beach change their menus over to get ready for the peak season. All of the prices I had come to know (and love) suddenly went up by as much as 20 percent. As peak season starts, many restaurants will hike up their prices, so traveling off-peak can save you money on food as well! (See also: How to Eat Street Food Safely While Traveling)

Offseason is a fine season for travel

When I first started traveling frequently back in 2008, I was always checking the weather to make sure that I was planning my trip for the perfect time of the year. The only problem with that theory was that everyone and their dog had the same idea and my trips cost me a lot more than they had to.

Today I use the offseason or the shoulder season as much as I can and I'm able to travel for far less. So can you. Next time you plan a holiday, consider going when fewer others do. The amount you save could mean that you can go on a longer trip, or maybe budget in another holiday throughout the year.

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