What is shoulder season?
When you’re planning a trip, one of the first things to think about is when you’re going to travel. Do you look at the climate in your chosen destination and opt for the warmest, driest time no matter the cost? Or do you book during the off peak season and keep all of your fingers and toes crossed that the weather will hold out for you?
Choose the shoulder season by scheduling your holiday immediately before or after the high season.
Shoulder season gives you the best of both worlds. The weather is usually reasonable, the crowds are thinning out, hotel rooms are freely available and best of all it is possible to save pounds over fares to the same destination only a few weeks earlier. You might find things a bit calmer too as locals are more relaxed and there are less people to get in the way of your exploration.
As climates vary according to the time of year the world over, so do the best places to take advantage of shoulder season. But with a bit of research it’s possible to find great off-season travel adventures, no matter where you plan to go.
There’s a pretty penny to be saved by travelling the world during the off peak season. But for some, the risk of poor weather just isn’t worth it. And travelling during peak season? You’re bound to be one of thousands of tourists – and let’s face it, no one wants to be part of the tourist trap if they can help it.
So if you’re lucky enough to have some flexibility around when you travel, making the most of shoulder season is the ideal way of getting away from the crowds, taking more time to get to know the residents, and the local hidden gems that lie in wait, whichever continent you plan to visit
Where to go for the best low season holidays
The best times to benefit from off peak travel will depend on where in the world you want to go, so we’ve put together a shoulder season guide by continent:
Europe – Shoulder Season in the Med
Shoulder season in south-central Europe runs from around April, as the temperatures begin to rise and the outdoor café culture comes out of hibernation. And continues until early June when summer holiday season begins. Plenty of time to explore.
Later in the year, there will be great out of season holidays to be had in the resorts around the Med, the temperatures will still be perfectly comfortable as late as October when most of the tourists have gone home. A great excuse to get some late season sun before the winter.
The Americas – Low Season Caribbean Getaways & US Adventures
March and September offer great off-season holidays in Hawaii – the surf is still reasonable, but the prices will have crashed. While low season travel deals can be found in California in June just before the temperatures soar.
Ski season in the high altitude mountains of the north can continue, with great quality snow, until well into April. By booking your ski passes during this shoulder season you can bag yourself a bargain on what is usually an expensive holiday. And you might even find there’s a little more space on the slopes.
And take advantage of shoulder season in the Caribbean and Mexico during early June. Room prices will have plummeted while hurricane season is still some way off. You can also bag low season holidays in this area by choosing islands that are out of the hurricane belt, but tarred with the same reputation as their seasonally windy neighbours.
Shoulder Season – The Best Time to Visit Africa for Safari
September is the perfect time to book a shoulder season safari. With rainy season tailing off and temperatures stable in their teens, safari lodges offer out of season holidays to fill their rooms before the main tourist rush begins.
And it’s not only the great price that you benefit from, the foliage is less dense at this time of year, and there are less tours, meaning you have an even greater chance of spotting the big five.
If you’re planning a safari, check out our insect repellent clothing to keep those biting mosquitos at bay.
Asia and the Far East Shoulder Season Go-Tos
If you’re not worried about seeing the Cherry Blossom festival at the beginning of April in Japan, time your travels for the shoulder season that falls immediately afterwards. You’ll find that off peak season prices have begun, but the summer humidity has not yet kicked in.
And Thailand can be sweltering in April and May, but come June you’ll find pleasant temperatures and pleasantly surprising prices before the tourists arrive en masse in July.
Shoulder Season – Australian Outback Adventure
If you dream of visiting Alice Springs and the Ozzie outback you could do worse than waiting for the temperatures to cool off a little in April. Winter sets in from May to late August (yes it does get cold in the outback). Prices rise in May – said to be the best month to visit – so look for the best off-season travel deals just before this.
Be flexible about when you choose to travel and carefully research the shoulder season in the destination you want to visit. Only then can you can make sure that you access the very best of the country, escaping the crowds and getting to know the subtleties of your chosen destination first hand.
Off peak holidays, when timed right, really can offer some of the best and most authentic travel adventures. But remember, weather can’t be guaranteed if you travel outside of the peak season, so make sure you’re prepared. Take a lightweight waterproof to make sure you can continue your adventures whatever the weather.
If you’ve been on an awesome shoulder season trip share it with using the hashtag #mycraghoppers.