The best time of year to travel is really anytime.
But the best time per place differs based on peak and off peak travel periods, weather, and a few other elements.
Understanding off-peak and on peak travel periods is important and could save you thousands of dollars. It might seem that the most desirable time to travel would be a peak week, but it’s not. “Peak” or “high season” means the most amount of visitors, so there is less availability and higher prices for accommodation. This makes it significantly more expensive while not having any more to offer. When you know how to work with off-peak periods (also called shoulder seasons) for different destinations, you can get better rates, enjoy less crowds, more availability for tours, and still enjoy awesome weather.
Colorado is a great place to visit at any time of year, but it’s superb during the ski season. Many travelers are stuck visiting during the high season holiday weeks and don’t get the pleasure of having a chance to explore the low season; they have to travel during the same holidays as everyone else in the country, making it difficult to get a good rate. But for those who can travel anytime, there is a hidden season that has incredible best ski-conditions, overall rates, and very low crowds. Every year, we visit Breckenridge and Keystone Colorado during the “hidden seasons.” We visit for three weeks in December and usually a month or two starting mid-April. If you travel during the off-season, you can save anywhere from 50% to 75% on accommodations and flights. We’ve booked flights for $150 (return—there and back) from NY as well as $50 per night rooms that typically go for $250 or more. We have also booked beautiful 5+ bedroom houses that typically rent for $1500/night for under $300/night.
Here is a breakdown of on and off peak travel periods in North America and Europe
Sept – December 15th: Off Peak (Almost everywhere!)
December – April: Florida is pretty much in high season as soon as the north east gets cold!
Dec 15 – Jan 15: On Peak (all over – this is a big holiday season for many people worldwide)
Jan – April: On Peak (tropical climates)
April – June: Off Peak (skiing destinations)
April – May: Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Shoulder Season
May – June: Off Peak Hawaii
May – September: Off Peak Caribbean
May – September: Off Peak Australia/New Zealand
May – September: Mid Peak South America (Rainy or Snow Season)
June – September 1st: Peak season in Europe, Canada, and most of the USA
Working around peak travel times has been game changing for us. If you work around the peak travel locations and time periods and stay home during the holiday weeks—Christmas – New Year, President’s week, and spring break—you’ll save a fortune.
If you are planning to take it slow and take a few months off to travel, I would highly suggest traveling during the early fall. If you travel from September through December, you’ll have almost four months for traveling and will get lower rates. Two years ago, we took a group trip to Europe with friends and visited five countries. Our flight out to Norway was only $150, and almost every flight or rail fee was under $100 to hop around within Europe. We had tons of options for vacation rentals, and if we wanted to stay at any hostel, there was so much availability that our entire group of 14 people was able to stay in the same room. The weather was beautiful, it was sunny and crisp, and some days we could wear shorts and other days we needed a light jacket. Further south in Italy it was still 70-80-degree weather. We had an incredible trip, all because we traveled during the off season. For some reason the early fall is a low season all over, it could be related to so many people getting back to work, school and college. Whatever is causing the low season, it’s an amazing opportunity to take advantage of traveling to some of your most sought after destinations. You’ll have more options for activities, accommodations, rental cars, flight fare etc!
So, if you are wondering, “what is the best time of year to travel?” it might seem to be the summer, because everybody’s off and everybody’s having fun, but it’s probably one of the worst times, cost-wise. It’s definitely better to travel from the end of August through December. If you want to travel during the rest of the year, just work with the peak and off-peak seasons at your travel destinations.
Follow these guidelines if you choose to book during the high season:
Contact vacation rentals at least a month in advance.
Inquire about long-term stays to get the best rate, and if you have to stay less time, you’ll likely still be given a deeply discounted rate.
Do try to take advantage of long-term bookings, even during high seasons – you can likely get a great deal on a 1-3 month stay. The longer term, the better.
There may be a few very last minute deals (such as the day before), but your options will be slim and at that point most people will be trying to get the best rate for their homes.
Look into couch surfing, house swapping, or house sitting opportunities if you are on a very tight budget. There may be a free living opportunities available as opposed to paying high season rates.