The “shoulder season” refers to the time at a popular vacation destination when tourism ebbs. Because resorts, airlines, and other segments of the travel industry experience a drop in business during shoulder seasons, prices tend to be lower and special deals may be available. You can enjoy good weather and lighter crowds during shoulder seasons, but they occur in different times in different places. Below are a few general guidelines on when to look for shoulder season deals.
– Avoid July, August, January, and February. Shoulder seasons tend to occur outside these months at most major destinations, though price drops do occur in January after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays are over.
– For Europe, try September through October or March through June. During these months, fewer backpackers and families visit the continent, the weather is generally milder, and prices for hotels and travel are lower.
– September makes a great time to visit the Southern Caribbean. Islands like Bonaire and Aruba lie outside the path of the hurricanes that pummel other areas of the Caribbean and put a damper on travel this time of year. The weather on these islands is generally calm and just a bit warmer than in other months.
– If you’re considering a trip to London, think about visiting in October. Airfare is often slashed during this month, and tourism calms down, making the city’s many historic sites and attractions less crowded. The weather can be cold and rainy, but if you’re planning a mostly indoor trip anyway, it won’t make much difference.
– Hawaii experiences a nice shoulder season from March through May. The winter weather that brings big-wave surfers and “snowbird” tourists subsides, and prices tend to drop.
– Shoulder season hits the Colorado Rockies in April and November. Check to make sure your favorite resorts are planning to be open if you want some early or late-season skiing without the crowds that accompany the busier months of the year.