“Where to next?” - that’s the leading-edge question that avid travelers are always asking.
Winter and off-peak travel is one way to approach this question. Americans, in particular, tend to travel mostly in the spring and summer. But there’s much to be said and experienced about journeying out during the winter months and off-peak season of October through May. Here are five great reasons to do so:
1. Lower prices, more value
Who wouldn’t want to book flights and quality accommodations at lower prices? Traveling off-peak can be helpful to the pocketbook. It can even open up the ability for travelers to visit destinations that are beyond their budgets during peak season.
One trend that travel consultants have been noticing: Families wanting to travel to Europe during their winter or spring breaks, instead of the more typical summer vacation time. The weather is not as ideal for touring, but they have a lot of other off-peak benefits. And since it is less expensive, we’ve seen more families able to take advantage of this type of international travel.
Additionally, we are seeing more river cruising during the off months. In general, traveling off-peak gives the possibility to add more and do more.
2. Fewer crowds, less hassle
In addition to lower fares, there are fewer crowds and less hassle when navigating popular tourism sites off-peak. Travelers can take their time and easily walk through museums, plazas and other attractions that are normally crowded to the max. They may even be able to get that special table that is typically booked months in advance. This all leads to incredible experiences to remember.
3. More personalized service and perks
Off-peak travelers tend to receive more personal attention from hotels, restaurants, and other services. And sometimes, the perks are outstanding. For example: Clients traveling in Florence just this past spring, the hotel offered them an upgrade to the entire top-floor, panoramic suite with private outdoor jacuzzi! The suite was not being occupied, so the upgrade was available, and the clients said the experience was truly once-in-a-lifetime!
Another wonderful experience traveling during off season. River cruise during late October. The cruise was half full with the same amount of staff, so service was amazing and the tour group size was not as large. Plus, guests had the added advantage of being able to see more things, as it wasn't very crowded. This also allows for travelers to met more locals and have many more cultural experiences.
4. Bragging rights of taking the road less traveled
While sun-and-sand have their rightful place in the vacation hierarchy, once a traveler has been-there-done-that a few times, they may want to try something different. Want something to experience and brag about to friends and family? Like being mesmerized by the Northern Lights from a sled during an expedition led by the local Sami people in the Arctic Circle, or exploring the imperial grandeur of St. Petersburg’s history and architecture dusted with dazzling white snow. Instagram? You bet.
Wherever travels may lead, hotels are very thankful to have business during their traditionally less-busy travel times, so they are more willing to offer guests little extras. Seek out special tickets or other unique benefits, which are all easier to obtain during off-peak times. These special extras are what will help make a trip wonderful!
5. Beat the winter blues
One way to beat the winter blues is to escape to a warm climate. Another way is to embrace all the magic and wonder of the season: the blankets of snow, the tranquil and crisp feel of the air, the layers of favorite clothing and mittens, the outdoor adventure sports, and then returning to the warmth of a fire and Hot Toddy.
What’s more, there are some amazing experiences that can only be done in winter, such as the Northern Lights, winter festivals in Asia, and Europe’s Christmas markets.
Winter destinations to book
Now that we’ve talked about why you should consider traveling in winter or off-peak, where should you go?
Anywhere in Europe; also note that going to Hawaii and Mexico during winter months is great, still great weather, just less people and cost tends to be lower. Cities in Europe have been especially popular lately - the strength of the U.S. dollar has made travel to Europe more affordable for American travelers.
Here are 10 winter and off-peak destinations to consider:
- Lapland’s snow hotels and Northern Lights
- Christmas Markets in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Munich, Salzburg, or Berlin
- Norway’s Bergen and Stavanger fishing villages and Viking history
- Reykjavik’s frozen towns, glacier hikes, and geothermal baths
- Rail journeys through Switzerland’s majestic winter wonderland
- City tours of London, Paris, Vienna or Prague, sans the crowds
- Train travel to Scotland’s many castles and the Winter Garden
- Tour of St. Petersburg’s architectural and historical splendor in the snow
- Japan’s snow monkeys basking in the hot springs at Jigokudani National Park
- Italy’s nationwide winter celebration of Carnevale
The main takeaway: Any time is a good time to travel. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, there are unique experiences at destinations all across this globe that will excite and delight all. Try something new for the next winter season; you never know what's in store!