Choosing when to go to a location, is almost as important as choosing where to go! It can really impact how you see the place and help manage your expectations.
Obviously, for many, going on holiday in the summer is a no brainer. Pretty standard right?
Well, I’m going to break what you think in this post, and by the end of it you will be finding out when the shoulder season is for every location you want to visit.
Curious? Don’t stop now, keep reading.
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What IS Shoulder Season?
Before I get into the benefits of travel in the shoulder season I want to first make sure we are on the same page when it comes to the definition of a shoulder season itself. So let’s take a look from the dictionary at what is shoulder season defined as:
a travel season between peak and off-peak seasons, especially spring and fall, when fares tend to be relatively low.Dictionary.com
So, for Europe, who has the typical seasons of spring, summer etc, shoulder seasons tend to be May- June and September -October. These months can be surprisingly warm.
In South East Asia, it is the time between dry and rainy seasons. Where monthly precipitation (look at me being all fancy – read, rain) picks up, but isn’t anywhere near what rainy season is actually like.
Each country will have a different shoulder season, and some are even separated by the area in a country too. There is no way to give a time that applies for everywhere in the world.
I’ll soon put a few posts together of certain countries and when to go, if there’s anywhere you want me to do, let me know in the comments.
Ok, lets start with a biggie.
As a Brit, (I hate myself for saying that already) we are known for wanting to go to places when the weather is the hottest. And sometimes, that doesn’t work out too well.
I am a sun worshipper, not just for the tan, but for the fact that it eases my pain and makes me more mobile. So my first thought for travel in shoulder season is ‘but it won’t be as warm!’
Now ok, we can’t guarentee anything, and if you are from the UK we all know that weather isn’t something that is a given. Anywhere we go. So I’m being pretty boad here, because cooler spots happen, rainy days happen and disasters happen all arund the world at any time of year.
But. Some of the best weather happens in the shoulder season. I’m not crazy, hear me out.
Ok, let us take a location such as Thailand, for example. There is a rainy and a dry season, and then the shoulder that sits between the two. They do as they say on the tin, and when you go in the shoulder you’re more likely to get a mix of the two.
The thing is, if you want to explore, and you go in the dry season, the heat at midday can be unbearable to be active in. Hell, I’ve even found it to be unbearable sat around a pool!
The other thing is, that tropical rains are different to British rains. Instead of cold and drizzle for 30 days, its warm and stormy for an hour, before the sun comes back out and the air smell beautiful and balmy.
So, mix the two, to create shoulder season and you get lovely weather that isn’t about to break the thermometer, but will certainly be more than hot enough to spend by the pool and caramelise. Plus, you get the added bonus of getting to watch the storms go, just as quickly as they appeared.
Who doesn’t like having a lot of choice when it comes to what you can do and where you can stay?
Because most people visit places in their summer or dry seasons, these times are the peak times! Peak times means more people. More people means more rooms occupied. And more occupied rooms means less choice for you.
More rooms are available in shoulder season, because less people travel to places in this time. That means that you don’t have to book months and months in advance to get to stay in the nice places.
It also means that you can leave your bookings until last minute, if you want to play your trip by ear, without worrying about only the poor rated hotels being left with rooms! This is how I tend to work with the latter part of my trips. Anything over two weeks, I wait to book until closer the time in case something changes my itinerary. Plus I’ll book places with booking.com’s free cancellation, so if I find a better deal it’s free to change!
My favourite thing, and one of the best things about travelling during the shoulder season?
You can stay in places that are out of your budget.
Okay, so I may have missed the word ‘ususally’ out of that sentence. But it is true. If I always travelled in dry season, summertime, peak, what ever applies, I would not have had the chance to stay in some of the beautiful places that I have.
Now, generally, it is true that they get cheaper still if you travel in the winter, low, or rainy seasons. However, at least travelling in shoulder season means that you get to save money, without having to give much up in the first place.
Hotels aren’t the only things that are cheaper. With less people flying, you have better chance of picking up some great deals on your flights too as the airlines want to fill their planes!
The final frontier.
Ok, not that kind of space. Buut you know how there aren’t as many people travelling? And there is more choice, and the prices are lower? Well it’s all to do with supply and demand.
One other bonus of when the demand is down though, is it can feel like you have booked a private hotel when you haven’t.
Honestly, the amount of times I have stayed in hotels with plenty of rooms, but only one or two are occupied other than yours, well, it’s great.
This might also be your worst nightmare, if you want to get out there and meet people, I appreciate that.
But I would say, that I also tend to venture away from the busire places as it is. So I imagine that this point is actually less relevant to those hotels or people who what to stay in the hotspots. These places are almost guaranteed to be busy all year!
But if, like me, you crave peace and tranquillity, then you will love what shoulder season can do for hotels, beaches and more.
Bonus Points: Festivals
This is a bonus point, because it won’t always apply. But you can make your trips correspond with some great festivals when you travel out of season!
Song Kran, in Thailand is the most popular example I can give. It happens in April which is considered one of the countries shoulder months, and it is the festival of the Thai New Year. You may have heard of it without knowing, as it is the festival where you can’t walk down the street in Thailand without getting soaked in water!
Now the rest of my points in this post may be invalid for the times when there is a major holiday, but they should only cover the days that the festival is on and surrounding.
Personally, I think it would be a great experience to join in on a cultures festivals, and treat it as a way to learn more about the people and country you’re spending time in!
I really think you win all around when you travel in shoulder season. You have to give up very little to gain so much more.
But wether you should do it or not all depends on you! Afteral you now what you like in a trip. If you like it cooler, go for off season. If you like to party hardy, the slower pace of shoulder season isn’t going to be for you.
But if you like to take your time and enjoy what is around you, I couldn’t think of a better time t o recommend you take your holiday!