The first thing to recognise when thinking about travel and the seasonality game is that it is exactly that; a contest between the travel supplier and the consumer. There are often no winners and no losers in this game, only contestants, but there are some very basic rules to follow when mulling over your travel opportunities.
Firstly, and the most important point of all, is that the “Peak Season” is not the best time to travel; it is the time that most people choose to travel, or have to travel, and thus the period that the prices for everything from transportation to accommodation are the highest, and the lines for attractions are the longest.
Nobody ever said that the best time to visit London was in July or August, or that the Mexican Riviera is at its peak of attraction coincidentally during the school holidays. No, the truth of the matter is that seasons are determined above all by school vacations; airlines know when school breaks are and position their inventories accordingly, hotels, resorts and attractions do likewise, and consumers all know as they plough through airports during these seasons that there has to be a better way.
And, of course, there is. For anyone unencumbered by the school calendar, there are nine other months to travel, more economically, and more importantly with space and without the clutter of mass tourism.
There are plenty of destinations to choose from; for those with an inclination to travel independently, Europe, as always, offers many opportunities. Spending time exploring Southern Spain will delight; from the coastal resorts of the Costa del Sol, it is a short drive to the iconic destinations of Granada and Cordoba; Seville, the centre of the flamenco history is a charming city to spend a few days, and pushing even further west, the south coast of Portugal will offer off-season visitors wonderful beaches (if chilly waters), gorgeous countryside coming into blossom from late February, and towns unsullied with the crowds.
The south coast of France, from Barcelona to the Italian border is also a most charming destination. Delightful country hotels will run from €70 - 170 per night for two, and combined with the low season airfares and moderate car rental rates can combine to make a most attractive package.
Rome, the majestic and deeply moving capital of Italy can be yours in the off season to explore with now queues, restaurants that do not hurry you away and private guides to help you explore the nooks and crannies off the beaten track. Why wait for the crowds when you can have the city to yourself?
Off course, the weather won’t be idyllic, but then again you won’t need the sunscreen. Southern Europe in the winter is unpredictable, but expecting daytime highs between 10 and 15˚ and anticipating some rain will stand you in good stead.
If you prefer escorted tours, there are many to choose from; the traditional European coach tours, ranging from the pan-Europe three-weekers to a variety of regional tours are available; the river cruises will start again in March, but the weather in the north, and the subsequent effects on the major river systems should not be underestimated; high waters can force the operators to change schedules and miss ports, and in extreme cases, idle the boats should the water levels rise too high for the locks.
Finally, there is a wonderful selection of small group exploratory tours throughout Europe, all seeking to really get to know a small part of Spain, Italy or even Morocco.
Then again, one needn't travel so far afield; the USA is a huge and fascinating country, and offers such diverse opportunities as the Charleston/Savannah corridor, and the stunning countryside and attractions of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. For those hankering to sample the music and food of the Deep South, March to May is really a fine time to travel, and staying away from the oppressive heat of the summer is a pretty good way to ensure the best possible trip.
There are endless destinations to try, and if you can drag yourself away from the school calendar, and head away in the “off season”, the rewards will be terrific.