Why Travel During Shoulder Season?

Three Benefits of Shoulder Season Travel

It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning an international voyage or a trip to the beach community by the coast. Knowing when to go can make all the difference in a successful trip. You might be surprised by the benefits of shoulder season travel. [Scroll to the end to Download your FREE Month-by-Month Destination Guide.]

Understanding the Travel Seasons

The travel year is effectively broken into three seasons to visit a destination: peak season, low season, and shoulder season.

First, let’s take a look at peak season. That’s when most people visit popular destinations. The airfare and hotel prices are usually higher than other times of the year. The weather will most likely be beautiful, but you’ll probably be dealing with crowds, higher prices, long-lines, more traffic, and less than attentive service from overworked staff.

Now consider the low season. You may land an amazing deal on airfare and accommodations. Yay! And, you won’t have to worry about fighting crowds. In fact, there no one may be there, depending on where you go. Will you find yourself in the thick of hurricane season? A blizzard? Sticky humidity? Many resort locations close up shop during the low season, so make sure you do your research before booking that flight.

This brings us to that sweet spot between peak season and low season: shoulder season. It’s my favorite time to travel.

By carefully planning your travel times, you can easily reap at least three benefits of traveling during the shoulder season.

Benefits of Shoulder Season Travel

1.  Cheaper Fares and Rooms

The first benefit of shoulder season travel is that it is cheaper than travel during peak season. You will save quite a bit on airfares, hotels, rental properties, and tours.

This might allow you to visit a region you might not have been able to afford otherwise. Or, you may decide to put the money saved toward upgrades and other experiences.

Shoulder Season Travel - Cat Island Bahamas
We visited Cat Island in the Bahamas Out Islands during the late Fall shoulder season and were delighted by perfect weather and empty beaches.

In some areas, Florida for example, peak season coincides with school vacations. So if you’re traveling with children, expect that you may have to take the kids out of class for shoulder season travel.

(That’s what we did one year when we visited Walt Disney World in early May. Did the kids miss a week of Math? Yes. Do they have memories that will last a lifetime? Yup. Would I do it again? Absolutely! It was an ideal time to travel, in my mind.)

2. Fewer Crowds

Shoulder season travel is far less crowded.

This means popular attractions, like the Uffizi Museum in Florence Italy, may not have as long ticket lines, and once inside, fewer tourists vying for the same glimpse of world-famous art.

In fact, travel overall–by car, train, bus, and by foot–will be easier. If you’re like me, you prefer to escape the crowds.

Travel during shoulder season may also make it easier to get dinner reservations at an in-demand. And, you may find the wait staff more attentive since they are not overworked.

By the same token, you may enjoy personal service at shops and boutiques.

Benefits of Shoulder Season Travel - Linomania
I received the benefit of personal attention in this upscale dress boutique in Positano, Italy during the shoulder season. It paid off for the owner!

3. Moderate Weather

Some might argue that shoulder season travel does not offer the best weather. My experience has been otherwise. I’ve found that in some cases, the peak travel season is just too hot! And what good is beach weather if all the beaches and pools are swarming with guests?

Benefits of Shoulder Season Travel - Ligurian Sea
What a treasured memory, to indulge in these expansive views of the Ligurian Sea in Vernazza Italy all to myself!

Sure, you may not want to swim in Cinque Terre’s Ligurian Sea in February, but you can put your toes in (like I did), and enjoy cool, comfortable weather that makes sightseeing (and air-conditioner free bus rides) much more pleasant.

Here’s the thing. During shoulder season, the weather may not be perfect; but then again it might be. Case in point: We happened to luck out with high 70’s tp low 80’s (F) weather on a November trip to Cat Island, Bahamas. Perfection!

Is Shoulder Season for You?

So, maybe there is some dreamy place you’ve crossed off your bucket list because you thought it was out of reach…or too crowded…or hurricane season. Even if it’s local, like a cool-weather trip to Cape Cod is for me, take another looking to see if you can take advantage of the benefits of shoulder season travel.

During shoulder season travel, the weather may not be perfect; but then again it might be. Click To Tweet

Have you had good luck with shoulder season travel? Drop me a note in the comments below!

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

22 thoughts on “Why Travel During Shoulder Season?

  • February 13, 2020 at 6:40 am
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    Great post!! Just like you, I like traveling in off season, there are many perks for traveling off season like fewer crowds and better deals. For me September is probably the best time to travel.

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  • February 13, 2020 at 12:41 am
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    I love traveling during off shoulder season. I love visiting destinations and having the place for myself without any crowds. I get to take photos without photobombers. So far, the weather is not perfect when I travel during off shoulder season. There will be days where it will be raining but it does not really affect our trip.

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    • February 13, 2020 at 6:26 am
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      Yes! The photography aspect is huge for me. (And sometimes you can get some really great moody shots on a rainy day!)

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  • February 12, 2020 at 9:19 am
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    We too are great believers in Shoulder season travel for all the reasons listed above. In fact, we even tend to veer towards the low season. You will find us traveling to very hot places in summer when people are actually traveling away from them or very cold places in winter.

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    • February 13, 2020 at 6:31 am
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      I like the way you think! It sounds like a really good way to experience a region as a local might, too.

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  • February 12, 2020 at 1:15 am
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    Until now, I am forever traveling in shoulder season or low season because of costs etc and its fantastic. Even my first visit to Venice, Italy saw not many people around and I loved it. But now I have two young daughters, looks like I will have to travel peak season for a while. However I dont usually do all-inclusive resorts where the travel firms jack up the prices, I go to destinations where most British people dont go to for their vacations and still have a blast/find a piece of paradise. 🙂

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    • February 12, 2020 at 8:40 am
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      I love that you’re finding off-the-beaten-path places to travel; that is also a great approach to avoiding crowds and saving money!

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  • February 12, 2020 at 12:52 am
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    Though I love to travel during the shoulder season,my longer trip every year is invariably during peak season as that’s the only time my spouse is able to take out twenty days together.You are so very right on the benefits of each season.

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    • February 12, 2020 at 8:41 am
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      Twenty days of vacation at any time of year sounds fantastic!

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  • February 11, 2020 at 3:56 pm
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    Shoulder season is definitely my favorite time of year to travel. Like you say: fewer crowds, milder weather and cheaper prices. The problem is that not everybody can take advantage of the shoulder season. If you have small children, you are bound to travel only when they are on vacation. But I am over that part of my life already, so I can benefit from the advantages of the shoulder season. Great information!

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    • February 11, 2020 at 5:48 pm
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      It truly can be more difficult timing-wise (and money-wise!) with children. Confession: When my kids were young, I actually pulled them out of school for vacations. I honestly felt the experience they received through travel was an important part of their education. I am also past that chapter now and happy to report that both embrace travel as young adults!

      Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 5:44 pm
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    This is such a great idea! I tend to go at peak when it is crowded and more expensive, but it sounds like the in-between seasons are perfect both financially and crowd-wise. I need to research my destination list and figure out when to go!

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    • February 11, 2020 at 8:35 am
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      Absolutely, Jennifer! I’m sure you will discover great savings and a more pleasant experience without the crowds. Try it out on your next trip!

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  • February 10, 2020 at 4:27 pm
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    Travelling in shoulder season is also my favourite time to travel. I like that there are fewer crowds. Although there may be fewer crowds, sometimes attractions are reduced so we still worry about booking in advance. We have often found the weather in shoulder season to be great. Especially in these days of weird weather.

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    • February 11, 2020 at 8:37 am
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      I agree it is smart to do your homework before booking to make sure restaurants and attractions will be open. Most usually are during shoulder season (as opposed to low season) but it can be hit or miss. You are right about the weird weather, too. I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad about that…

      Reply
  • February 10, 2020 at 11:53 am
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    I love to travel during shoulder season! September is my favorite, it’s my birthday month AND I can use a holiday in the mix so I get an extra vacation day! I don’t do so well with Apr-May, things aren’t green yet and look dreary

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    • February 11, 2020 at 8:41 am
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      September is superb in so many locations; some of my favorite destinations offer great foliage, too! I could do without the “dreary” myself. You might try going a little further south for April to find spring in full bloom — but then you’re closer to peak season. 😉 Happy Birthday in advance!

      Reply
  • January 29, 2020 at 12:08 am
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    I 100% agree with you on shoulder season. It’s my favorite time to travel (spring/fall). I also have found the weather to be favorable, with fewer crowds and cheaper prices!

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  • September 6, 2018 at 1:18 pm
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    Great information. I’m planning a trip to Bangkok and Phuket next year. The cheapest time to visit is during their shoulder season which also happens to be the start of their rainy season. Per my research, March is a good time to visit because they are coming out of their rainy season and temperatures have not reached the level of HELL yet. And September is another good time because the region is beginning to cool down. I agree with you about traveling during the shoulder seasons.

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    • October 19, 2018 at 6:55 am
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      Yes, look for that sweet spot, LaQuisha! I’ve had great luck with it. 😀

      Reply

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