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7 reasons our travel experts recommend traveling in shoulder season

Travel has well and truly bounced back since the pandemic, with travel demand at an all-time high. But it’s not all roses and sunshine – the pressure on the recovering travel industry has been suffering from understaffing, flight cancelations, and increasing inflation. Yet, amidst this turbulence, a savvy escape route emerges: Shoulder season. 

What is shoulder season?

Skip the long airport queues and lack of options when you choose to travel during a slightly off-beat time. Shoulder season will vary from place to place, but generally it’s the quieter sweet spot just before or after summer (or winter in ski destinations) – usually the spring or fall months.

Let’s look at 7 reasons why travel experts recommend traveling in the shoulder season, and the best destinations across the globe that shine during these in-between months.

Cheaper airfares

Choosing the shoulder season for your travels will give you access to better airfare deals. Lower demand means lower prices with the airlines, and traveling during an off-peak period will leave more money in your wallet. Flight analysis by Nerdwallet in 2021 discovered that traveling off-peak could save you up to 23 percent on airfares!

Of course, you know if you try to travel home during Thanksgiving or Christmas you’ll be faced with high fares, and the same goes for trying to reach Italy in summer. If you time your trip for May, June, September or October you can strategically turn the joy of travel into an affordable adventure.

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Skip the traffic jam crowds

Picture yourself stuck in traffic. Beep beep! You know if you left work half an hour earlier you would have missed the rush. Or if you stayed for after-work drinks your driving commute would be cut in half. Travel works in much the same way. If you avoid the peak season, you can avoid the crowds. 

Nobody wants to stand in a queue while on holiday. But if you visit during the peak season you’ll be queueing for bathrooms, coffee, landmarks, and museums. Travel during the shoulder season buys you more time to have fun, relax, soak up the scenery and finish that holiday read. 

City of Athens at sunset in Greece

Good weather 

Traveling in the shoulder season is a weather gamble that usually pays off. Peak season often offers perfect, sunny and warm weather without a cloud in the sky. So as the season shifts towards winter, you might face cloudy days and occasional showers, but for the most part the weather is still good.

If you’re visiting southern Europe during the shoulder seasons you’ll experience mild weather that’s perfect for sightseeing. With the summers getting warmer, trying to explore the Acropolis in Athens or Pompeii in Italy is no fun if it’s over 30ºC (86ºF). 

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Better prices than in peak season

Shoulder season savings aren’t just limited to airfares. Lots of travel sectors work on a supply-demand pricing system, and by traveling off-peak you save money on rental cars, train tickets, hotels, and touring. Yes, you can often find better deals on Trafalgar tours during the shoulder seasons as we’re able to pass on the savings of traveling during quieter periods. That’s a win-win!

Less competition for reservations and tickets

If you’re willing to travel across the world to visit a certain museum or restaurant, then chances are others will too. During the peak season it might be impossible to get a ticket or seat. But during the shoulder seasons you have the chance to be more spontaneous and less organized.

Of course, if you’re on a trip with Trafalgar we often have fast access to bucket-list sights, like a guided tour of the Louvre Museum. 

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Find unique local events

In the shoulder seasons, you can find the charm of spring fairs and harvest festivals in quaint villages and towns across Europe and South America. Here you’ll gain a glimpse of local life and see families gather to celebrate the season, as they have done for centuries. 

Some destinations, especially those that rely on tourism, also strategically design events and experiences to fall outside the peak season to attract visitors and keep the streets alive with a festive and fun atmosphere. 

RELATED BLOG: How to travel hack the world’s most famous museums

Avoid off-season closures

While we’ve spoken about peak season travel being too busy with big crowds and big waiting times, we have not mentioned the opposite – low season. Sometimes demand falls so low that tourism operators shut up shop.

Visit a summer destination in winter and you might find nothing to do. Likewise, if you visit a ski destination in summer, you may not even find an open coffee shop! Plus places with extreme weather conditions, like some US National Parks, aren’t able to keep icy trails open or offer shuttle bus services during the depths of winter.

During the off-season you’ll have fewer options as hotels will close for renovations and airlines will cut back services. This is why shoulder season travel is the way to go. You’ll benefit from mild weather, quieter sightseeing, and cheaper rates.

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Where to travel during shoulder season?

Everywhere! Okay, we’ll be more specific. 

Morocco is an incredible country to visit and it shines during the shoulder season – while the summers are the too hot, the winters are surprisingly cold, so spring or autumn is the best time to go. The same applies to the ancient wonders of Egypt

Switzerland is another top shoulder season destination. Visit after the busy ski season, yet before the summer hiking season to witness the hills alive with birdsong and few other tourists.

And our third pick is USA National Parks. While it’s nearly impossible to visit some parks during the summer with crowd numbers high and access passes are sold out, during the shoulder seasons you’ll find fewer hikers and still enjoy access to all sights. Due to snow and ice, some USA National Parks have to close certain trails, gates and services.

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Tell us where you’re planning your next shoulder season trip in the comments below…

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