What Is ‘Shoulder Season’ And Why Is It The Best Time To Travel?

Life Writer
09.11.17

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Travel can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are basic costs — transport, accommodation, food. Everything else is just cherries on top of the wanderlust cake. And getting the biggest, sweetest, juiciest cherry is the goal of a great adventure. Point being: Blowing all your cash on the three basic expenses doesn’t really make sense if you can’t enjoy yourself once you’re in-country.

To minimize the impact of those expenses you need to embrace a travel period called the ‘shoulder season’ — when tourism decreases and deals abound. Here’s how to take advantage and save cash:

What Is ‘Shoulder Season’ Anyway?

HB Mertz - Unsplash

There are a lot of travel industry terms that get tossed into the common lexicon — shoulder season being the most common. High season is when tourism in a certain area is at its peak. Think Munich in mid to late September for Oktoberfest. Think the Caribbean between December and March. Think Paris, London, and Berlin from July to August and then again at Christmas.

Low season is when the weather is generally terrible and tourism is at its yearly low. Think Berlin in January when it’s icy and snowy. Think the Caribbean right now. Not much fun.

The shoulder season is that sweet spot between the high season and the low season. It’s when you might get lucky and find perfect conditions but the prices for flights and accommodation have already been set for the low season. It’s a skiing trip when the snow is still falling in April, but Spring Break is over and the slopes — and hotels — are almost empty. It’s hitting Thailand in June during the rainy season before the July/August rush and right after the heat waves of April and May. You may have to deal with a rain shower every day — otherwise, you’ll have paradise to yourself at a heavily discounted rate.

For the broadest of examples check out this grab from Dutch Airline KLM. You’ll see pretty average price across the board. There’s a definite spike in the summer months. But notice late summer and spring are the lowest. Late summer is too hot and people prefer beaches. The spring is rainy and generally inhospitable weather-wise. Those are the cheapest times to fly to Amsterdam — right in between the rushes.

KLM.com

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