When is the best time to travel?
Sometimes it can be difficult to decide the best time of year for your vacation. Weather, crowds, hotel prices; so much to consider! We get this question frequently about our own trips, so here’s a few points to consider when choosing the time of year of your next visit!
I think the most obvious answer is picking the time of year when the cost is cheapest. This can include factors such as flights, exchange rates (when applicable), and tourist seasons. We use Google Flights to help navigate the various airlines for good deals throughout the year. If you have the flexibility to leave at off peak times either during the week or during the day, you are often rewarded with cheaper airfare. Lodging accommodations are often less expensive during week as opposed to Friday and Saturday nights. Driving can be a cost saving measure if the distance is reasonable and your time allows. Avoid pesky hidden costs when flying by traveling in a carry on.
Low tourist season often means a lower price tag, especially for places that participate in peak pricing. While the number of tourists may be less, there are trade offs that make this time of year less desirable such as poor weather (winter time, rainy season) or low activity in the destination. We have had many inexpensive trips to Europe in winter after the holidays when tourist season is low but the weather is cold and rainy (bundled up in Paris and Barcelona below!).
As another example, many tourist attractions/places are closed in August in European countries since it is a popular time of year for locals to vacation. Outdoor activities, such as hiking and visiting national parks, are typically inexpensive, if not free. If your destination allows for variability, you can often save quite a bit of money by adding these to your itinerary.
This may be a bigger factor for predominantly outdoor trips versus places where indoor (such as museums) are popular. You want to get the most of the time on your trip. Going to winter activity destinations will be cheaper in the summer but this may not be the best option if you are intending to ski, snowboard, etc. You do not want to travel if the weather is not ideal for the things you wish to accomplish. Typically, this does not impact our trips immensely. When destinations have sightseeing primarily indoors, we prioritize the outdoor items for the days the weather looks best. While we have not traveled to Paris in the spring and Barcelona in the summer, we still had a wonderful time exploring the city for a fraction of the cost in the winter time.
And weather can also change your plans. We were hoping and rain dancing for stormy weather on our storm chasing trip and were lucky enough to see many intense and severe storms- including four tornadoes! Since severe weather activity is never guaranteed, storm chasing trips can have varying experiences.
We were doing an ante-rain dance to keep impeding storms away from Lake Como as it would have canceled our sea plane ride. Fortunately, the sun came out and gave us a perfect experience. It would have been unfortunate to have missed this!
You can plan your trip to use the weather to your advantage but be aware that it can also change the course of your trip as well. Weather can also impact how much you need to pack in your carry on.
Save time off from work by traveling around holidays, though this may come with an increased price tag and more crowded destinations. The Walt Disney World parks are mobbed over the winter holiday season or other national holidays. While summer time can be excruciating the Florida, the heat can scare off families looking for a summer vacation. Sometimes deals may be available for international travel for holidays that are not celebrated globally, such as Thanksgiving and July 4th.
Want to experience something local and traditional? Find a festival! A local event is a perfect way to dive head first into a place’s culture. Across the country there are food and beverage festivals, State Fairs, and specialty conferences that are great ways to take adventure of exploring a new city. Our trip to Asti would have been completely different if we went another time of year. While we visited Florence in the past, our second time was a unique trip because we attended numerous festivals around the city. We have always benefited from taking full advantage of these occasions and continue to seek them out. We are currently looking into attending a state fair in the Midwest to experience something new.
Whenever you can!
Just get out and do it. Whether it is for a weekend, extended weekend, or a two week adventure, there is never a bad time to explore. Even close distances can provide surprising exploration in your backyard. We find every opportunity to fit in something new. As a healthcare worker, any time I can get off regardless of the time of year is good enough for me and we retrofit our trips into those slots. It is very difficult for me to get off in the summer or around the holidays so we make the most of any opportunity. Work with your limitations and no matter how big or small those are- just get started because anywhere can be your next adventure.