One of our biggest focuses in our travel is being frugal and saving money (so we can travel more!), and one way we do that is by traveling in the off season to different places as much as possible.
We have had a few off season trips, and they’ve always been great for two key reasons:
- They’re a great way to save money. One major way you can save money is on the flight, since flying to different destinations is cheaper in the off-season, sometimes by more than 50%. When we traveled to Ireland, we went during December, and the flight was half the cost compared to going in July (prime tourist season). Traditional lodging, like hotels, often offer cheaper rates in the quiet season, sometimes by half the price. Other lodging may also offer slightly reduced rates (like on AirBnB for instance). You can also get great rates on a rental car. Sometimes entrance fees to different attractions go down depending on the time of the year. In general, the savings add up if you travel in the off season.
- There are not as many tourists, and attractions are quieter. It’s called the off season or quiet season for a reason. There’s fewer, and sometimes far fewer, people at the destination. Sometimes we have had places almost entirely to ourselves. In Ireland, we visited Blarney castle just after the New Year, and in the several hours we spent wandering the remains of the castle and the extensive grounds, we saw about a dozen other people. That’s unheard of most other times of the year, when there are long lines to kiss the blarney stone and climb the narrow winding staircases. When we went to Yellowstone, we saw some people at the places we went, but it was far from congested or crowded most of the time. Again, a common complaint from people who visit Yellowstone during the busy season in the summer.
There’s something magical about exploring these incredible places at your own leisure, without standing on tiptoe to see or waiting through long lines. They have been some of my favorite travel moments; the quiet of the Aran Islands. The fun hotel we stayed at in Dodgeville, Wisconsin that has themed rooms. Since the hotel was almost empty, they let us look at all of the different rooms and choose which one we wanted to stay in. (We chose to stay in the igloo room.) We were able to get a mostly private tour of the Stanley Hotel, as mentioned in this blog post, because we were there in the quiet season.
Yes, there are some downsides to off season travel. It may be difficult to get time off of work, or if you have children, they would need to miss school, since off season travel is often during the school year. So it requires some flexibility, creative scheduling, or shorter trips. The weather can also a bit more exciting if you travel to places in the off season, usually chillier. But we have always been willing to pack coats. Also, for us, not much can compete with the Wisconsin winters we grew up with, so we don’t mind the cold too much. But in the end, I think by traveling in the off season, the pay off is worth it with the money saved, and the adventure earned.