Why Shoulder Season is Great for Travelers

Look beyond the holidays for less stress and more savings.

By Brooke Porter Katz

Everyone deserves a vacation, right? Project: Time Off, a campaign that aims to change Americans’ attitudes toward vacation, sure thinks so, and we couldn’t agree more. Which is why it’s hard to believe that American employees forfeited 206 million vacation days in 2016, days that couldn’t be rolled over, paid out or banked but that simply disappeared, amounting to a collective $66.4 billion in lost benefits.

Once you’ve made a commitment to going away—whether with your family or friends—you want to make sure it’s going to bring you maximum enjoyment. And few things are worse than planning a relaxing vacation only to arrive and find that seemingly everyone else on the planet had the same idea. The following reasons show that you may be much happier if you travel during shoulder seasons—those periods between a destination’s peak and off seasons.

You’re not competing for time off.

According to Katie Denis, chief of research and strategy at Project: Time Off, work stresses (such as the fear that items will pile up, or that no one else will do the job while you’re gone) make up the top reasons why people struggle to take their vacation days. These pressures can grow even greater during the holidays, when colleagues can feel as if they’re competing for time off. “If you’re not in an office that closes, it can create dynamics about who’s going to go and who’s going to stay,” she says. The takeaway: Let other people travel the week of July 4 or even between Christmas and New Year’s. Pick another time of the year and it’ll likely be easier to take more days off and actually go off the grid during your vacation. “If you want to go away for the holidays and your office doesn’t close, the sooner you plan and start the conversation with your coworkers, the more likely you are to have smooth coordination.”

You’ll find excellent stay deals.

Resort rates are determined by two main factors: weather and the vacation schedule of the general public—in other words, the winter/holiday break and summer are both typically considered high season. Changing your dates by even a week could help you save. That may mean traveling in May instead of June, or in September (after school starts) instead of August. Bonus: You’ll get access to resorts that sometimes sell out during busier times. (Note that city-center properties are not as likely to fluctuate as much as leisure destinations.)

It’s easier to be spontaneous.

With resorts not running at full capacity, shoulder season is one of the best times to take a last-minute getaway and still snag one of those aforementioned deals. Plus, you can also be impulsive about meals and other activities since there’s less competition for tables and typically shorter lines at popular museums and other sites. (Tap here for ideas on what to do in five great shoulder-season destinations.)

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: November 2017