Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Best Time to Travel

"What is the best time to visit destination 'XYZ'?" That is a common question I get asked by travelers wanting to visit a variety of places. It is a logical question to ask. So I felt like I needed to take a few moments and address the question generally to show the different ways that the question can be answered.

Most people really expect someone to answer that question in relation to weather and crowds etc. Now here is the thing to consider, in most cases, the better the weather also means the larger the crowds. Europe's best weather months really coincide with their peak travel season. That also translates into higher travel costs.

So the best time to travel to somewhere in Europe is really during times that are considered the "shoulder season" or off-season. There are a lot of destinations in Europe where the weather is rather temperate all year and can offer great savings opportunities if you can travel during off-season dates which are usually early Spring or early to mid-Fall and not around major holidays.

But for almost every "pro," there is a "con" to also consider; traveling to Europe during off-peak times can have limited accommodation and activity options. Some hotels in Europe actually shut down during the off-season to refurbish or simply to take their own vacation so you need to make sure you plan well in advance and don't just show up in a town and expect to find a room to sleep in for the night. There may not be any. But if you prefer to walk down less crowded streets, then off-season travel in Europe may be the thing for you. what about places like the ever-popular Caribbean? What are the best times to travel to that region? This answer will cover all options (i.e. cruises to the area or staying at a resort). In my opinion, the best weather in the Caribbean is during the late Fall and Winter months. The temperatures are a little lower or less hot I should say and with much less humidity. Crowds are also lower in the late Fall months due to so many travelers still being concerned about traveling to the area during the hurricane season. So that brings up a con again. If you travel to the Caribbean between the months of August and the end of November, you are technically going during the region's hurricane season. That means great prices in most cases (big pro) and much lower crowds, but it also means you need to be prepared for changes to your itinerary if a hurricane were to develop and start heading towards your destination. Cruise ships will divert to other ports of call or cancel itineraries all together if their scheduled route is in the path of a possible hurricane. They have the right to change their itinerary at any moment if they feel the possible safety of its passengers and crew are in jeapordy due to weather. A good way to get some peace of mind if you are traveling during that time of year is by purchasing travel insurance. Most plans will cover delays or cancellations due to weather etc. (check each plan for details of what is covered before hitting the purchase button).

So are you seeing that the answer to the question can vary a lot? I really prefer to travel during those off-peak times and that may or may not coincide with the greatest weather etc. But it may offer a better overall experience because of less congestion and keeping more money in my pocket at the end of the day.

What have you experienced when traveling at different times of the year? Do you have your favorite time to travel to a particular destination? I am interested in hearing your answers or questions.

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