Perfect in shoulder season – less crowds!
Like a delectable chocolate treat, shoulder season is so sweet. Sandwiched between the painfully high prices and overwhelming crowds of the high season, and the often miserable weather of low season. Shoulder season is the perfect time to travel. Typically, hotel rooms are cheap, crowds are thin, and the weather is mild. You’ll notice a warmer welcome, too, when you travel off-peak. Locals, who may grow weary of crowds in peak season, have time to relax in shoulder season. For instance, an afternoon in early May is an ideal time to linger at an outdoor café in Rome and people-watch, before the summer tourists descend.
No significant shoulder seasons fall within January, February, July, and August, but prices drop immediately after the holidays in January.
But shoulder season for Paris doesn’t fall on the same dates as shoulder season for Tokyo. So here’s a shoulder season calendar for some of our favourite destinations for easy reference:
Mid: North Africa. The Christmas travel crowds are gone and the weather is warm.
The big waves have subsided, along with the winter beachgoers; resorts are also bringing down rates. Through May
Early: Rio de Janeiro
Carnival has come and gone, which means hotel rooms are easier to find and less expensive (by as much as 60 percent).
It’s warming up and wildflowers are beginning to bloom; a perfect time for exploring the countryside. Through April
India: Hotel rooms and airfares are lower if you can locate these between celebrated holidays.
Early: North American Rockies and European Alps
Late-season skiing is still excellent in high-altitude destinations like Whistler, British Columbia; Vail, Steamboat, and the Arapahoe Basin, all in Colorado; and Tignes, France.
Early: Australian Outback
With average temperatures now cooling to between 80 and 86 degrees, you can visit Ayers Rock without risking heatstroke. Through May
Mid: European Cities
Western Europe. Rome, Barcelona, Paris, and London will still be cool and you’ll have your chance of rain, for sure, but the crowds are thin and prices go way down. Outdoor café culture is picking up, but the summer crowds won’t arrive until early June. Get here before they do.
Mid: The Caribbean and Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Room prices fall as much as 30 percent after Easter, and hurricane season is still weeks away. Through early June
Peak hotel rates have come down after last month’s cherry blossom celebrations, and the humidity has yet to kick in.
Mid: Mediterranean Cruising
The weather’s warming, but prices remain as much as 20 percent lower than in the summer high season.
Mid: Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Airfares from the States are at their lowest, and in Australia’s north, days are full of sunshine. Through August
April and May are sweltering, but the rains cool things off in June. The tourist crowds won’t arrive until next month. Through June
Baja California Temperatures have yet to soar, but resorts are offering bargains in anticipation of the hot months to come.
Early: Northern Caribbean. (But avoid hurricane areas.)
Room rates and airfares drop after Labor Day. Through September
Days continue to be sunny and dry, and dude ranches are offering discounted fall rates. Through September
Early: South Africa
It’s early spring in South Africa, and prices are low on game drives. You’ll also find foliage is less dense making it easier to spot the “Big Five”.
Prices at safari lodges are lower and the foliage less dense, making it easy to spot the Big Five. Through early October
Early: Mediterranean Resorts
Southern Europe. The weather has turned chilly up north, but around the Mediterranean, you’ll usually still find warm temperatures… and good travel deals.
Rates have started to drop, but you’ll still find ample sun on islands such as Crete, Ibiza, and Sicily.
Days are cooler, and camel-racing season has begun. Hotels, meanwhile, are enticing travelers with bargains. Early September through October
Mid: Vancouver Island, Canada
Room prices have dropped by nearly half, and it’s still warm enough to enjoy wine-tasting at the island’s many vineyards. Through November
Early: Tahiti, Fiji, and the South Pacific
The water is crystal clear before cyclone season, making it a great time for diving and snorkelling. Christmas is high season in these warm destinations. Try to get your beach time in before the rush.
Mid: The Caribbean and Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Before the holiday rush, beaches are empty and it’s easy to find hotel deals. Through mid-December
Early: North American Rockies and European Alps
The snow has returned, but the winter season is just beginning. Late November through mid-December
Early: Costa Rica
After months of rain, the clouds are thinning. Through mid-December
Let us know your shoulder season travel tips?
10 things to do before taking off on holiday
Don’t leave home without finishing this to-do list
You’ve completed your travel trifecta – the flights are booked, hotels reserved and car hire reservation complete. Now it’s time to get organized. The trip planning process includes everything from buying your plane tickets, making reservations at your destination to packing. But before you head to the airport to catch your flight, make sure you’ve tied up all the loose ends.
1. Call your credit card company
Many credit card companies have identity protection plans in place that help protect travelers from theft and fraud. In some cases, this means travelers must contact their credit card companies before traveling to ensure the card will work in another destination
2. Place a “stop” or “hold” on mail and deliveries
Daily newspapers, magazines and mail will pile up while you’re away. Either ask a neighbour to collect your mail or arrange for the Post Office to hold your mail while you are away. Also reduce the risk of break-ins by placing a stop on all automatic deliveries such as newspapers and magazine subscriptions.
3. Emergency phone numbers
This rule applies for those who might need to reach you while you’re away, and those you might need to get in touch with while you’re traveling. Before you leave, take some time to write out three lists: one for home, one for your hand luggage and a spare to stash in your suitcase.
Home: Leave contact phone numbers with family members and friends in case they need to reach you while you’re traveling. Examples include:
- Phone number of the hotel(s) where you’re staying
- Airline flight and car hire information and phone numbers
- Phone numbers of the people you’re traveling with
- If you’re traveling with a group or tour company, leave the company’s contact information
- Phone numbers for doctors/veterinarians, in case of emergencies
Away: While you’re away, it’s a good idea to keep a list of emergency travel numbers with you. Those contacts include:
- Bank and Credit card companies
- Travel Insurance Company contact and claim details
- Doctor’s office
- Australian Embassy/Consulates in the countries you’re visiting
- Airline phone numbers
Print a hard copy of these, don’t just rely on an electronic version in case your phone/laptop is stolen. Also a great idea to email all these details to yourself so they are always accessible via a WIFI connection or internet cafe.
4. Set up pet care
If you have furry friends at home, make sure they are well provided for before you leave town. This includes leaving emergency phone numbers, and also some extra tasty treats to keep animals happy in your absence. Here are a few other must-do’s before you drop off your pet:
- Confirm your reservation at the local Doggie Day Care or pet kennel where you keep your pet.
- Make sure all medications for your pet and the veterinarian’s phone number are packed with your pet before you leave.
- If your pet has particular rituals, make sure to leave specific instructions with the pet care provider.
5. Cash out
Never leave town without some cash, whether it’s domestic or foreign currency. If you’re traveling within the country, make sure to hit the bank before you leave. Taking cash with you will ensure you don’t pay ATM surcharge fees in another destination.
If you’re traveling overseas, it’s a good idea to carry some of the local country’s currency with you in a combination of cash, travel cards and as a back up some travellers cheques. Take enough cash for cab fare or transfer fees so you don’t have to go in search of an ATM as soon as you arrive. Use a currency converter to determine the best rate of exchange for your money so you know you are getting a good deal when exchanging money.
6. Pack maps, guide books, public transportation schedules
Before you head out into the unknown, do a little research and bring along some guides. Forearmed is forewarned when it comes to getting around in a new place.
Most public transportation maps are also available online; it’s a good idea to print out a map of the area before you leave. Your guide book will serve as the bible for the trip, especially if you’re traveling somewhere new or to a foreign country. Consider printing out specific sections from travel guides online to assist you plotting your routes every day. There are also a number of downloadable apps for your smartphone and guidebooks can be purchased for e-book readers which can come in handy if you don’t want to lug around a bunch of heavy books. Pre-planning with some research about your destination before you go helps you not be overwhelmed when you arrive.
7. Check the weather
Before you zip up the suitcase and head to the airport, do one last check of the local weather in your destination. Just because you’re traveling to a beach destination doesn’t mean it’s going to be sunny all week; you don’t want to be caught in rainstorm without waterproof shoes and an umbrella. The day before you leave, check the weather conditions and make any necessary adjustments to clothes and amenities. For international trips if visiting multiple destinations check for all areas being visited as larger countries climates vary considerably depending on the terrain.
8. Make reservations
Whether you’re planning a spa vacation, golf getaway, a romantic dinner for two at your destination’s top restaurant or have a major site you want to visit it’s a good idea to make reservations before the trip to avoid disappointment. Check on-line the local entertainment guides, city newspapers and online entertainment sites to find the best restaurants and hottest shows. Hotel concierge desks are a good source for recommendations if you’re unsure of where to book. Call the hotel before your trip and ask the concierge to send you a list of restaurants, golf courses, spas or other entertainment activities in the area. If you are doing a D.I.Y. trip most places have on-line information on how to make a reservation or ask your hotel if they can assist with advice on how to make reservations or to purchase required tickets.
9. Pack your essentials
Double check before leaving the house that you have all necessary essentials to travel with. Do you know where your passport or driver’s license is located? Did you pack all your necessary medications? The best way to ensure you’ve packed everything necessary for your trip is to make a list of your daily needs for one week. List everything from your medications to the credit cards you use. When it comes time for packing, refer to your list so you don’t forget anything important.
10. Plan your first days at your destination
This is especially helpful if you’re traveling somewhere new and unfamiliar. If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need a list of things to do at your destination to help fight off jet lag. Take a look at local guides and find out what shopping, attractions and restaurants are near your resting place. Take a walk around your hotel and get familiar with its amenities. Planning ahead will help make a hectic first day seem a little more organized.
Making a to-do list and checking it is the only way to ensure everything is done and the only way to holiday stress free.