Imagine this: It’s August, and you’ve decided to take a last-minute trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. Unfortunately, so has everyone else. You can’t find a hotel room in Bar Harbor, and your day at Sand Beach is ruined because the oceanfront is jammed with tourists. All of the whale-watching trips are booked, and at area restaurants, wait times for that buttery steamed lobster you’ve been dreaming about are at least an hour long.
You’ve hit an exceptional vacation spot right in the middle of tourist season. You’re going to have to crowd in with a lot of people, and you’re going to pay premium rates for accommodations, food and attractions. Smart travelers save money and enjoy a more relaxing experience by taking in vacation destinations in the off-season. To get the best deals on last minute vacations that are available in the area that you want to visit, choose exceptional destinations when not so many tourists are around.
In spring, many college students head out for their spring break vacations. Areas with beaches may be crowded, so avoid the Caribbean or the Gulf Coast of the United States during spring. You should also avoid resorts near the equator, where warm temperatures tempt travelers who are weary of winter.
Some off-season ideas include for spring:
- Vancouver. Enjoy outdoor sports including white-water rafting, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. Also, enjoy the health-conscious eating choices and the chic, high-fashion boutiques that have earned the city the nickname, “North Hollywood.”
- Grand Canyon. Avoid the summer crowds and visit the Grand Canyon during the spring. For camping and hiking, head for the North Rim, which will be virtually deserted at this time of year. Hit the tourist spots like Bright Angel Trail on the South Rim while crowds are thin.
- Switzerland. Many tourists love to ski the Alps during winter, but off-season tourists can enjoy the vast network of hiking trails that become visible as the snow melts.
Summer is the season for beach-goers and lake sports. Many national parks in North America are also crowded during the summer. Try these destinations instead:
- Caribbean Islands. Sure, these islands have beaches, but they are free of northerners seeking warm temperatures during the summer months. Since the climate is the same year-round, you’ll enjoy the same atmosphere at a lower price.
- Telluride, Colo. Hit gorgeous ski spots like Telluride during the off-season to enjoy spectacular views. Kids will love the alpine slide and the chance to ride the ski lift without waiting in line.
- Goa, India. Head to the state of Goa in India. You’ll get in on some rain and wind, but you can also enjoy a number of festivals that celebrate the earth’s fertility.
Travelers love to go leaf peeping during the autumn months, so you’d be wise to steer clear of New England and other leaf lover destinations. Consider these off-season alternatives for fall:
- Miami, Fla. Who’s afraid of hurricanes? Traveling during the Atlantic hurricane season can mean significant discounts on hotel rooms along the U.S. Gulf Coast. You may save as much as one-third off of many hotel and resort prices.
- Galapagos Islands. The water is colder during autumn, but the breathtaking views and astonishing wildlife are just as visible for a lower price.
- Iceland. Head north to Iceland in autumn to enjoy sea kayaking, golf and hiking. Because the krona has dropped in value compared to the euro, Icelandic vacations have significantly dropped in price.
Everyone wants to ski during the winter months, so expect to find crowds in Vermont, Colorado and other popular skiing destinations. Try these picks for a change of pace during the winter months:
- New York City. Travelers come to The Big Apple less often in the winter, which gives you a better chance of scoring great Broadway tickets.
- Berlin. Berlin hosts over 60 Christmas markets during December, including the largest market at Spandau Old Town. Enjoy roasted chestnuts, sizzling bratwurst, gingerbread and mulled wine.
- Lhasa, Tibet. You’re going to experience cold temperatures in Lhasa. You’re also going to enjoy cloud-free and breathtaking views of the Himalayas. If you get cold, bathe in the Yangpachen Hot Springs.
About the Author: Gunther Forde never pays full price for a vacation. When he’s not working at his day job, he specialises in finding fantastic, little-known and reasonably priced destinations.