The lie that tourism boards want you to believe is that off-peak travel is somehow worse. That you’ll endure endless storms and be stuck sitting around an empty cabana with nothing to do as you listen to hurricanes tear up the beach outside as you drink endless Hurricanes just to feel like you’re on vacation. That’s true of a few places, but overall, taking a trip during the down season means you end up with more exciting experiences, more unusual occurrences, fewer crowds, and you save a boatload of cash in the process. Serious globetrotters should take note and stop wasting their time and cash following the pack.
To ensure you don’t end up in some Caribbean dive bar that time forgot, we’ve gone to the ends of the Earth to put together the 19 best off-season travel destinations for bargain hunters and thrill seekers; who, like girls, just want to have fun.
When to Go: Autumn
The Bahamas doesn’t have fall, it has hurricane season. That actually sounds much worse than it is. You’re less likely to be caught in a deadly storm than you are to end up with a delayed flight and little else. Prices plummet during this time, because the locals are thrilled with anyone who shows up. Expect endless free upgrades, a warm welcome, and by watching the forecast you can get all the private beach time you desire. Just get travelers insurance and you’re set.
When to Go: Autumn through Winter
San Francisco is located so far north that its weather is more closely tied to Portland than it is Los Angeles. That’s actually a good thing. All the exceptional shopping and city sights are still there, and far less crowded beginning in October and heading into about mid-March. Do a little tailgating at a 49ers game and hit the clubs after you do a little windy sightseeing.
Vail & Aspen, Colorado
When to Go: Not Winter
You’re not foolish to go to a ski town when there’s no skiing to be had. You’re wily like a jet-setting marmot. Horseback riding, white water rafting, incredible hiking, kayaking, and rocky mountain camping are all yours for about a quarter of what you would spend to head in for the downhill months.
When to Go: Summer through Fall
There’s two seasons in Costa Rica: Wet and Dry. Dry is when all the beachgoers head down for Spring Break or get their summer excitement out of the way. Go when it’s wet and you’ll endure a couple of quick downpours, but then be treated to loads of sun and all the relaxation you can handle for pennies on the dollar.
Naples, Italy & The Amalfi Coast
When to Go: October
When autumn strikes in Italy, tourists run home even though temperatures stay extremely respectable, with gobs of sunshine and scads of beach time. Hotel rates hit the floor come October, which is what makes it the ideal buyer’s market, and fewer tourists mean all the food and boutique shopping can be yours and yours alone.
When to Go: Autumn through Early Spring
Even in Fall you’ll still be paying top dollar to go to Paris, London, or Rome, but if you head a little further east you can get all that sweet European charm for far less. Budapest in Hungary is rife with museums, art, architecture, and religious sites that combine all three. If the weather is a little too chilly for you, head to their thermal baths for spa treatment that will unclench you, body and soul.
When to Go: After New Years
The Big Apple is always overrun with tourists, though few souls are brave enough to tolerate the winter after the ball drops in Times Square. Find some of their offbeat local events, like the Three Kings Day Parade, grab a slice, and expect to earn the respect of the locals for showing up when the mercury drops.
When to Go: Autumn
There’s not as much of an off-season in Bali, but slip in during September and October and you’ll see more than a few bargains. Real wetness won’t set in until the latter part of November, and even then you can see some of the temples, if resort life doesn’t appeal.
Byron Bay, Australia
When to Go: February through April
Byron Bay hollows out around February because that’s when summer break ends Down Under. The surf scene is excellent and the waters won’t get too cold for swimming until May rolls in. You can go luxurious the whole time, or survive in true bohemian style at this little locale, with both bringing their own charms to the table.
When to Go: Autumn
Cape Cod has the beautiful New England leaves that you’ll find throughout the high east, but crowds only flock there for the beach. The waters are too cold to do much swimming in autumn, but the quaint town with mind-blowing seafood, rustic sites, and hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, and biking remains vibrant.
When to Go: April and May
Between the wet and dry season you can load up on resort deals that don’t come with too many spring showers. Hotels haven’t yet ratcheted up their prices, but you can also find amazing AirBnB rentals run by people with 5-start hotel training at a 2-star price.
Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao
When to Go: September through November
Here’s how to get a Caribbean experience during the wet weather without paying dry season prices. Since the ABC islands are further south and hug the coast of Venezuela, they usually miss most major storms. Swim, snorkel, sunbathe, then hit the bars and casinos.
When to Go: October through December
Rather than trying to deal with the troubles that come in Cancun, Tulum is a year-round party that’s always warm and inviting. If you get tired of the beach, or the temperature does take a dip, head to the nearby Mayan ruins to soak up some history.
When to Go: Winter
Just 5 hours from New York, people flee the frozen north when the serious cold hits. While you will need to bundle up to make it out alive, one night under the amazing Aurora Borealis – AKA The Northern Lights – makes the entire journey worthwhile. Plus, you can see landscapes and glaciers like nowhere else on Earth.
When to Go: Autumn
It’s springtime below the equator when it’s fall up north, which means blooming trees and the lustful freshness of a land just awakening from its winter slumber. Rates don’t really rise until December comes around, which means months of jacaranda trees budding and warm weather.
When to Go: September and October
By November, the country has shut its doors against cold weather and the inevitable influx of rain, but during the early fall months it still has all the charm, beaches, art, history, and resort-style living without the summer troubles and dog day droves.
When to Go: Late Spring or Early Autumn
Going to the big island is a little bit tricky, but you can score some remarkable rates if you aim for the times around the rushes. When big holidays land, such as Easter or Chrismas, people are thick on the ground. Immediately before or after, it gets much leaner, but you’ll need to keep your ear to the ground and be ready to pull the trigger.