Solo travelers are often flexible travelers.
And a flexible traveler can save money.
When it comes to being flexible with the timing of your trip, a few days in one direction or the other can save you on the cost of a flight.
But much more exciting than that, by traveling on the shoulder season which may be a month or two in one direction or the other, you can save money on your entire trip . You can save on the price of your:
- admission to attractions
Even restaurants will have less expensive menus on the shoulder season.
The Pros and Cons of the Shoulder Season
Traveling in the shoulder season allows you to see a destination as it is for locals rather than as a performance for tourists. The shoulder season is mainly determined by two things:
- When fewer people travel. This is often determined by families and the school holiday schedule. Whether that be the Christmas holidays, spring break or summer vacation, the fact that the number of travelers spikes when school is out often makes it high season at a destination. The shoulder season is almost always a time when school is in.
- The destination’s weather. The number of people traveling at a specific time must be combined with the weather at a destination. This group tends to go where they can be sure of good weather. The shoulder season is often wherever the weather is less predictable. It needn’t be monsoon season, just a lesser guarantee of good weather.
The pros of traveling on the shoulder season:
- Save anywhere from a little to a significant amount of money
- Spend less time waiting in lines for major attractions
- Enjoy a museum or beach more when you don’t have to share with a crowd.
- Travel easy. Roads, trains, buses… won’t be as busy allowing you to get where you’re going more easily.
- Get better service. Staff won’t be run off their feet.
- Engage with the locals who won’t be tourist-weary.
There are also a couple of cons about the shoulder season:
- The weather may not be as good. You’ll have to do some research to make sure you’re in the shoulder season and not the off season when the weather could be terrible.
- Opening hours of attractions such as museums may be shorter. Don’t make assumptions if there is something you really want to see. Check their hours.
How to Save on Shoulder Season Travel
To take advantage of the benefits of shoulder season travel you must first identify the shoulder season for your destination. Here are five ways to find the shoulder season for any specific destination:
- Check B&B rates. Unlike hotels that will use dynamic pricing (meaning that the price is changed by a computer based on moment to moment supply and demand) a B&B posts their rates for specific times of year. They may have three different rates for high, shoulder and low season or two rates just for the high and low season. They will indicate the rates by the months of the year. The lower the rate the more off season the time is.
- Check rates for your favorite attraction. Go the website of the museum or park you want to visit and see their hours and rates. When the rates go down and the hours are reduced, that’s the beginning of the shoulder season. Even the Louvre will give you a hint on the shoulder/low season in Paris. From their website: “From October to March: access to the permanent collections is free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month.”
- Check group tour rates. High season is more expensive for tour companies just as it is for individual travelers. If you’re planning to take a tour, and even if you’re not, a tour’s rate will indicate when high, shoulder and low seasons are likely.
- Check flight price projections. Websites like Skyscanner will project the price of a specific flight for months in the future. It’s not necessarily accurate but it does give you an idea as to when flights are less in demand, which suggests that’s when the shoulder season can be expected.
- Use Google. If you google your destination and “shoulder season” you may get opinions from people on when the shoulder season is and what you may compromise by traveling at that time. For example, I googled Whistler in British Columbia. Here’s a quote from the post: “Want to know one of Whistler’s best-kept secrets? Three words: Spring shoulder season.” Now if you look at the source you’ll find that it is a property company. They have a vested interest in getting people to Whistler all year-round.
To find the shoulder season, which is my preference for travel, check it a few of the ways above so that you know
- When it is
- What the savings may be
- Whether you’ll miss things you really want to do
- What the weather will be like
- Whether it meets your expectations for travel.
Post Update: Since this post was published the Daily Mail Online published an article that looks at the high, shoulder and low seasons for a few cities. Read: Don’t travel to Dubai in January and avoid New York in October: New travel calendar reveals the best months to holiday