Off-Season Travel Guide

Photo by Jack Wallsten

For those of us that don’t have a summer break every year, sometimes we have to get creative with travel dates that correspond well to our work and personal schedules. Off-season (or low season) travel usually starts when the weather at our destination is less than ideal, or during the time when everyone is back to school. Peak season (or high season) is when a destination is most popular to visit. This can be a beach destination in the summer, or a ski resort in the winter, for example.

Why should you travel during the off-season?

There are many pros and cons to off-season travel. We weighed the options for you.

Lets get started...

The Pros To Off-Season Travel --

Price – This is the biggest perk to traveling during a less popular time. Flights are cheaper when the weather is colder or when less people are traveling. Hotels will want to lure you in with discounted rates. Here are some great tips on how to book a cheap flight using Skyscanner. 

Fewer Crowds – You ever hear of those museum or tourist stops that have lines for hours? Well my trip to Italy was full of museum visits and tourist traps, none of which I had to wait more than 3 minutes, and that was to get through the security screening. Seeing as much as I did in such a small time frame would have been impossible in the summer when lines would have wrapped around buildings.

Beat the crowds! - Photo by Benson Kua

Beat the crowds! - Photo by Benson Kua

Short lines aren’t the only benefit. A couple years ago I flew to Europe and my intercontinental flight was relatively empty. I was able to spread out and get a whole row to myself to stretch my legs and sleep. Booking off-season flights may mean that you will have the same luxury!

empty flight

Photo by Gino Sta.Maria

Visiting during the off-season can make you feel like you’re the only tourist in town! But if you do encounter other tourists, chances are high they are like-minded travelers that are there for the same reason as you!

Friendlier Locals – Without the typical tourist crowds, locals may be happier to share their city with you!

Flexibility – Popular tourist spots, transportation and hotels tend to book up quickly in the peak season. If you’re traveling in the off-season, chances are high you can walk up to a hotel and get a room. Or book a last minute flight somewhere!

The Cons To Off-Season Travel  --

The cons of off season travel

Photo by Marcelo Quinan

Weather – Weather can be the biggest con to off-season travel. Off-season weather usually means cooler temperatures, rain or snow.

If you live in sunny southern California like myself, winter wear is just not something found in your closet. It can be difficult to get excited about traveling somewhere where the temperature is less than ideal. You will have to pack more layers, large jackets, and other accessories for the cold/rain/snow. If you’re used to cooler temperatures, your ideal vacation idea might be anywhere with a warmer climate. So traveling during off-season may not give you that luxury.

Weather concerns

Photo by Chen Kirin

Closures – Off-season travel can also mean that popular attractions, restaurants, and services may actually be closed for a break. Certain roads may be closed during the winter due to erosion from winter storms, or restaurants are closed because the dining space is all outdoors. Tourist information centers may be closed or have limited hours of operation. If you’re visiting a bustling metropolis in Europe, you may not encounter much of this, however if you are looking to stay in a small town, it may be more or less closed during this time.

Delayed or Cancelled Flights – If the weather isn’t great, you may find yourself in a pickle with a cancelled flight due to limited visibility, etc. Flights can also be cancelled due to a lack of passengers on the flight. This could completely alter your itinerary. The good news is that you should have a good chance of getting on the next flight out because there are fewer people traveling at the same time.

Delayed or Cancelled Flights

Photo by Roman Boed

Destination specific inconveniences – If you’re planning a trip to a ski resort, winter is a popular time to visit for a reason. If you visit in the summer, you’re not going to get the chance to ski or snowboard, but may find the resort has plenty of weather appropriate activities designed to peak your interest.

If you’re headed to an island for a beach vacation, just keep in mind that a combination of the weather and resources available to you may vary significantly from season to season. You may find that the island is pretty much closed for business in winter. Another inconvenience of off-season travel? Limited daylight hours. You may only have a few hours of sunlight available each day before it gets dark.


Do your research! Learn all you can about your destination before you book your travel arrangements. If you can’t see half the sights you wanted to see, is the trip going to be worth it to you? Is booking that cheap flight worth enduring the extreme cold? Are you visiting a big city that isn’t really affected one way or another by the seasons? Or are you visiting a small town that may be completely shut down for winter?

While there are both positive and negative aspects of traveling during the off-season, your decision ultimately comes down to what is most important to you. Weigh your options carefully!

Your Turn...

Have you ever travelled somewhere during the off-season? What was your experience? Was it positive or negative?

Leave your tips for other travelers below!