It’s probably of little surprise that summer months are the most popular season for travel. The kids are out of school, the sun is shining and the time is right to make memories. But in recent years, international travel during winter months has become popular in its own right, too. Folks are jetting off in record numbers to soak up the culture (and sun) of other countries, no doubt hoping to avoid snowstorms — and those awkward annual Secret Santa exchanges with the in-laws — back home.
But if you’re looking to go on vacation and want to save money, it’s neither peak nor off-peak travel seasons that you should be considering, according to GOBankingRates’ Smart Money Squad member and travel pro Sally Elbassir. Instead, she recommends “shoulder season,” a magical few-months’ window between peak and off-peak times. The “Passport and Plates” writer shared her insights on this lesser-known travel season, and why it should be your new go-to for vacationing.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to visit certain cities several times, both during the peak season and shoulder season,” said Elbassir. “I’ve always found that traveling during shoulder season is so pleasant because there aren’t as many tourists there, the weather is still really good and I don’t feel like I’m paying exorbitant amounts for flights and accommodations.”
Elbassir noticed what a difference seasonal travel can make when she visited Barcelona, Spain. On her visit during peak season, airfare set her back $1,000. She wasn’t able to find a place to stay in the crowded city and had to settle for a hotel outside city limits. Further, popular sites and attractions were overrun by tourists like herself.
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Six months later, however, Elbassir visited during a less popular month and found just what she was looking for.
“My flight ended up costing me around $650 rather than $1,000 round trip. I paid around two-thirds of what I paid in the summer,” she said.
What’s more, it was a more pleasant experience overall than her previous visit.
“The weather was a lot better. I mean, it was a little chilly, but it was not the extreme heat that I experienced during the summer. I was actually able to find accommodation in the middle of the city, in the Gothic Quarter, which is a really popular area in the heart of Barcelona, for much less than I paid in the summer,” she said.
“And because there were a lot less tourists around, I was able to visit all the tourist sites I wanted to without waiting in long lines as well,” Elbassir said.
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Traveling to a country during its less popular months doesn’t mean you’ll have a subpar experience. In fact, you might very well enjoy yourself more than you would otherwise. Shorter lines, fewer crowds, lower prices and surprisingly pleasant weather is enough to turn anyone into an off-peak adventurer.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Why You Should Be Booking Your Next Trip During ‘Shoulder Season’