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How to Avoid Crowds, Spend Less, and Relax More by Traveling in the Ideal Season

Global travel is a hallmark of the era we are living in. More than any time in history, people can crisscross the global with ever greater ease. It’s quite incredible when you think about it, right? Those of us who dream about traveling and are able to bring this dream to life are truly privledged. Yes, travel is fun and exciting, but its so much more than that. (As I'm sure you already know) Travel is one of the most powerful ways to explore your curiosity, develop greater confidence, feel empowered, exhilerated and exchange meaningful connections with people you might not otherwise ever get to meet.

But even with the immense awe of the experiences travel brings, we can run into things that feel like a nuisance or irritation. A common one we hear from travelers, is a desire to avoid crowds. Same!!

A busy street in Italy

Is there really any way to avoid crowds when traveling?

I get it. Crowded places not only require extra time to account for long lines, congested streets, and traffic delays, but require extra patience – an important consideration! As any traveler will tell you, presence is a key element in making the most of your experience. When spending time in new places, or when abroad, this is a moment to be as present and appreciative as possible.

Sorry to say - But, the reality is you can’t avoid crowds alltogether when traveling. Airports, train stations, iconic sights, or well-known viewpoints are just some of the places that are likely to busy any time of year.

However, there is at least one way to help reduce the odds of being faced with huge flocks of people gathering in the same place, and all the irritants that brings.

How research, timing and seasonality add up to equal the best time to travel.

In decades of personal and professional experience, I’ve found one of the very best ways to improve your chances of running into masses of other folks is to understand when to plan your travel. Sounds simple enough, but how?

With a little research, would-be travelers can determine when people are most commonly traveling to a particular destination, to plan their travel in a different period! With some careful planning, you'll be packing your bag for a nearly cluster-free holiday! 🧳

A fish eye tense view of an large outdoor plaza in Split, Croatia nearly empty on a bright sunnny day
An empty plaza in Split, Croatia

What are the factors leading to crowded destinations?

More than just the best weather conditions for travel - which is a huge factor – there are many other scenarios that lead to crowded destinations.

Festivals, holidays, special events, free entry days or even trending hot spots (thanks social media) will take a place from calm and quiet to overflowing in a snap!

For example, you might think spring in Milan, Italy sounds like a great time to avoid the throngs looking for a summer in the city holiday, and your instinct to avoid summer wouldn't be wrong. However if you come durring one particular week in April, you'll be suprized to find Italy's fashion capital jam packed with visitors all coming for the Milano Design Week. This huge annual event occurs each April, packing the city with not only professional designers, and buyers but also leisure travelers taking advantage of the many free events across the city that provide access to some of the most exclusive places, usually not open to the general public.

Travelers will want to research all the potential special days or events that can bog down a place with more than average numbers of visitors.

Understanding seasonality when planning your trip.

You’ve probably head of the terms “peak season” and “off season”, but there’s another period…. “Shoulder Season”.

These “seasons” are determined by factors driving travelers to a particular destination. Things like climate, cultural events or holidays, outdoor activities, and the profile of the typical traveler to that destination.

Shoulder season is the period between off and peak. Rather than a fixed span of weeks, it’s quite fluid. As seasonal climate norms shift, travelers quickly adapt, plus with summer travel costs soaring, folks are increasingly looking to travel to the places they are dreaming of without the peak season price tag, moving the line between peak and shoulder seasons.

Simply traveling during the time between the busiest and quietest months is not enough. There are important factors to consider so you can have the holiday you’re dreaming of.

Considerations for finding the best travel "season".

  • Know the holidays effecting local and regional tourism.

    • Holidays are not the same abroad as at home - you're proably thinking thats obvious, but the fact that a simple "bank holiday" could create a 4-day weekend that brings throngs of holiday travelers might be an unwelcome suprize - do some research or asks locals familiar with the flow of travelers.

  • Will shops, hotels and cultural sites will be open outside the busy season.

  • Are transportation routes running?

    • Services like taxis, or restaurants might follow the season, make sure these are available or make adjustments

  • Could there be inclement weather?

    • Be prepared with your trip designing, and pack wisely.

  • If your heart is set on a seasonal activity, you'll need to plan accordingly or come with an open mind.

    • Beaches are beautiful year-round, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sunbathe or swim.

    • In certain mountain towns, access to trails closes between seasons.

  • Understand the significant dates the trigger the season. For example, in Southern Italy, the primary travel season usually “begins” after Easter, following a 5-month closure. While in the Northern region of Piedmont Italy, the businest time is October and November, around the harvest and truffle seasons. Remember that each destination or region will have unique seasonality, it isn’t uniform across the country.

Don't take for granted services will be available outside the busy season. Research to know how to navigate the limitations, weigh the pros and cons, and chose the timing that offers an optimal balance.

Tips to create ease for traveling in shoulder season.

  • Bring your curiosity! The quieter time is perfect for mingling with locals and opening to things that you maybe hadn’t considered previously.

  • Pack for lots of weather. Shoulder seasons tend to be actual seasons. Your luggage might look like it’s having an identity crisis, but it’s important to be prepared for unsteady weather.

  • Triple check transportation and have a backup budget. For example, you might be traveling the islands of Croatia when a storm blows in meaning ferries won’t run. These things happen and can present some of the most interesting moments of a trip, roll with it, but also have a budget for unexpected spending to remove any financial stress the situation could bring.

  • Give yourself more days in the destination than you think you need. Again, weather might mean the things you planned can’t happen, but that doesn’t mean that you must forgo that experience entirely. Just move it to another day. Which you can do when you have extra days built in! You might end up discovering that staying in one place for a longer time is a fantastic way to travel! I sure think so and have become more committed to Slow travel the more often I travel this way!

Have you tried off-season travel?
What would you add to this list? Share your tips in the comments below!

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