Malta in October. Italy in February. These times of year may not immediately scream an optimal vacation, but there are plenty of benefits (and joy!) to traveling off-season. You might think you have to go to faraway destinations to experience something truly unique, but in fact, you can visit somewhere closer outside of high season for the same thrill. What does this ski resort look like in spring or summer? What does this beach vacation destination look like in winter? If you can stretch your imagination, you could end up with a vacation you never dreamed of.
Here are all the advantages of traveling off season.
It is an obvious advantage to travel out of season. Whatever your mode of transport, it is likely to be cheaper outside of peak tourist season. There are often deals on flights and hotels to encourage people to travel at a time when the city or country is less busy. This may mean being able to travel longer or book experiences that would otherwise inflate the budget. You may even get lucky and find food and drink deals at local bars and restaurants, normally geared towards encouraging locals to frequent their local hangouts.
When you visit most cities and countries you probably want to experience the big draw, the thing they are known for, the one that makes tourists want to visit in the first place. Whether it’s beautiful beaches, pristine ski slopes, or an incredible gastronomic reputation, it’s what keeps tourists flocking to a destination. If you visit off-season, however, you’re likely to see a side of town or country that you wouldn’t have seen if you had been there during high season, when the crowds are greater and you’re often gathered together. one site to another with the aim of checking off everything you should see as a tourist. Visiting outside of this leaves room to explore other parts of the city that are equally unique.
While visiting Malta in October, I came across Notte Bianca (or White Night) in the capital, Valletta. This is an annual culture festival that takes place in October with museums, art galleries and other cultural institutions opening their doors and putting on shows all over the city. It was magical to accidentally stumble upon this and experience this tradition. If you mention Malta to most people they will talk about the beaches, but visiting outside of beach season I discovered a new side to the country. And it was still warm enough for me to swim in the sea.
Nothing makes a vacation more authentic than taking the time to connect with the locals. There is a unique joy in receiving a recommendation from someone who has lived in a place their entire life. Every time you take the time to talk to a shopkeeper or restaurant owner, you can glean crucial information that is not available to other tourists. You can even learn about local customs. The development of this connection rarely occurs during the high season, because the staff of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants and other tourist attractions are often harassed, and you yourself often move from place to place to ensure that the checklist is complete. When there are fewer people, everyone is a little more relaxed and has more time to linger in conversations.
Not being around other tourists can make a difference in the type of experience you have. If you’re visiting a hot country, being crammed like sardines into bars or restaurants can make the experience more stressful than it should be. Of course, there is something to be said to get to the heart of the matter, but I would like to plead for the joy of having a time of quiet contemplation. One February, I was in Turin and I loved visiting old churches. There were hardly any tourists and I felt like they were my own private sanctuaries. What could normally be a stressful experience became serene and left me with indelible memories.
This is related to having more space. When you’re not surrounded by masses of people and you have more room to move around, you tend to feel less rushed and therefore more relaxed. You can really enjoy that coffee and piece of cake without feeling like you have to rush because there’s a line of people waiting for your seat. You can savor the experience more and take small detours down the streets and alleys to explore aimlessly. These things are still possible during peak tourist season, but without the hustle and bustle, the vibe is more relaxed.
While there are many advantages to traveling off-season, it’s important to check what will be available at your destination before you book. Some places that cater mainly to tourists tend to close up shop outside of peak tourist season. You may find that many bars, cafes and restaurants are closed or operating at reduced hours. Museums and art galleries may also have a different schedule. And don’t forget to check public transport; there’s nothing worse than arriving somewhere and finding there’s no way to get around!