When deciding where to travel, the seasons can play a huge role in choosing our next destinations. The warmer seasons are always the busiest months for travellers, after all, who wants to visit the Greek Islands in the middle of Winter?
Sure, there are numerous places you won’t want to visit in the off season, but the vast majority of destinations can be amazing even when the temperatures are plummeting. Not only that, but off season travel boasts a tonne of advantages which you may not have considered.
Pro: It’s Cheaper
I absolutely, without a doubt, cannot stress this enough. Prices drop drastically during off season! Hostels get cheaper, restaurants do better priced lunch menus, local market goods cost way less, even bars will have better happy hour deals. Because there are less people around, businesses that rely on tourism will drop their prices just to get bums on seats or people through the door.
I have seen hostels go from $50 per night in high season to $12 in the off season. We are not talking small savings here, you can travel with significantly less money.
There are, of course, a few exceptions to this. If you are headed to super off the beaten path destinations where tourism is never really a big thing, the seasons will likely have little effect on price.
Con: Quieter Hostels
This can be considered a pro if you are anything like me and love a bit of extra peace and quiet, but sometimes it can be a bad thing too. I stayed at a hostel in Mossel Bay, South Africa where for a couple of days I was literally the only guest! I got on well with the hostel staff and still enjoyed my stay there, but I definitely could have used a couple of dorm-mates to chat with on the rainy days!
Pro: Shorter Lines and Less People
If you are travelling to smaller cities with less tourism, this won’t be quite such a big deal. But if you are travelling to extremely popular and busy tourist destinations like Paris, Rome or London – long lines and epic wait times are a part of life. Travelling in the off season doesn’t make waiting and queuing disappear completely in the most popular cities, but it does reduce them quite significantly.
I remember seeing an acquaintance post a picture of Notre Dame in the height of summer on social media and being blown away by the sheer number of people surrounding it. There was literally thousands of people crammed together in front of this famous church – even just seeing it in a photograph made me feel suffocated.
I had visited Notre Dame in the previous year but had done so in the middle of winter on a rainy day, and my experience was an entirely different one. The only people there were myself and a small Chinese family. Five people in the winter or thousands in the summer – I know which one I prefer!
Con: Closed Attractions
So while lines for attractions will be significantly shorter in the off season, some attractions become so sparsely visited that they close off completely. In major cities this will be less of an issue, but for remote destinations or anything that is weather dependent, this could be significant.
For example – my home base is in Darwin, and in this small Top End city, we have two distinct weather cycles each year – the dry (high season) and the wet (low season) seasons. In the dry season you can swim in a lot of different waterways and waterholes quite safely, but in the wet season, swimming in many waterways has a significant chance of putting you on the menu for a big saltwater crocodile, and as a result, access to such waterways can get closed off. If you were visiting Darwin to look for some amazingly scenic swimming holes, off season travel just wouldn’t suit you.
Pro: Different Photographic Opportunities
If you are travelling during the off season, chances are, you will be encountering different weather patterns than your high season travellers and thus, can expect to see places looking entirely different than many other travellers. This means that photographically, you can expect to capture some wonderfully different perspectives and shots.
Con: All The Rain
While I will shout my love of off season travel from any rooftop available – I will be the first to admit that doing so means that rain will become a part of your everyday life.
Off season is almost always the time of year where weather conditions are considered by the majority of people to be less desirable. More often than not, such times of year are times where rainfall levels skyrocket.
Whether you be inter-railing through Europe in the winter or budget backpacking through SE Asia in the wet season – pack a poncho, some extra socks, a waterproof phone case and be prepared for all of the rain!
With less than favourable weather comes an increased likelihood of encountering delays. Planes, trains, buses and ferries are all susceptible to mother nature, and as a result, you have greater chances of your travel plans going awry.
However, I will say this. I hate delays as much as the next person, but sometimes they can result in pretty amazing experiences.
Pro: Easier To Hide Your Extra Travelling Kgs
If you are travelling in high season, chances are you will be travelling in the warmer months – which means lighter clothing and swimwear.
If you are anything like me, you’ll put on weight while travelling. I like to immerse myself in each new place I visit, and what better way to do that than by eating? However, maybe I am a little too enthusiastic about this, as my clothes always become much more snug as my trips go on. Luckily, in the off season, temperatures drop and you have an excuse to rug up and hide the result of all that extra ice cream.
Off season travel: put it on your radar.