Affordable Vacation Spots: A Global Guide to Off-Season Travel

Affordable Vacation Spots: A Global Guide to Off-Season Travel

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If you want to save money, avoid big crowds, and find affordable vacation spots, off-season travel is the way to go. Below are the off seasons at some of the most-visited destinations (and also some of the most adventurous destinations) around the world, broken down continent by continent.
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Africa

Africa is a huge continent that stretches across the Equator. Off seasons vary wildly from region to region. For affordable vacation spots, here are four to keep in mind.

  • Green Season Safari in Botswana: In November and December, when rains are heavy, you’ll find wildebeests, zebras and numerous birds migrating toward the blooming Kalahari. Many of the animals tend to give birth in this season, which also attracts the attention of predators such as lions, hyenas and cheetahs.
  • A Beach Holiday in Ghana: Kokrobite Beach is close enough to Ghana’s capital, Accra, that you can take a Tro-Tro minibus and be there in less than an hour. But this tropical beachfeels a world away from the busy city. Go in October when it’s warm but tourists are few.
  • Whale-Watching in Cape Town: The magnificent Southern right whales return to the coast near Cape Town every June for mating season. Take a boat out to spot whole pods of these 15-meter-long creatures swimming under you.
  • Winter Getaway in Marrakesh: The booming, walled city of Marrakesh enjoys pleasant temperatures in January — highs are around 18 C. Use that as a hopping-off point to explore the Atlas Mountains (just dress warmly for the higher elevations).

Asia

Like Africa, Asia’s off seasons are all over the place. Rainy season in India makes for budget adventures, but up in Siberia winter affords the best chance to see this harsh region at its most jaw-dropping.

  • Peaceful Phuket?: The dry season in Thailand keeps the tourists away, but cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai are semi-intolerable in that dry heat. Instead, head for Thailand’s famous beaches and spas at Phuket, where you’ll find plenty of space on the beach and quick bookings at the spas.
  • Frozen Lake Baikal: It actually sounds like punishment to send someone to Siberia in the winter (and it certainly used to be). But this is when Russia’s pristine Lake Baikal freezes over with a sheet of ice that is 2 meters thick in some places. Bring warm layers and a pair of ice skates.
  • Mountain Adventures Near Mumbai: India’s largest city isn’t pleasant during the summer monsoon season, but the nearby Western Ghats mountains become a full-on playground when it gets wet. You’ll find seasonal waterfalls, climbing opportunities and boating adventures galore during the monsoon.
  • Hike Iran’s Famous Volcano: Asia’s tallest volcano, Mount Damavand, offers tourists a way to beat the heat during Iran’s off season — by getting 5,000-plus meters above sea level. It takes a few days to reach the summit, but from there you can get an amazing view of both Tehran and the Caspian Sea.

Australia

There are slight local variances, but for the most part Australia’s winter is its off season. If you’re OK with packing a light jacket, the country’s vacation spots are yours to explore.

  • Go Ice Skating at the Beach: Bondi Winter Magic has the only beachside ice skating rink in Australia. It’s just along Sydney’s Bondi Beach, where you can skate from mid-June to mid-July either under the sun or stars.
  • Sydney Film Festival: Sydney’s internationally renowned film festival runs from 8–19 June 2016. Take that opportunity to experience the city’s rich culture at while saving massively on hotels and flights.
  • Check Out Western Australia’s Wildflowers: From June until September, thousands of varieties of wildflowers are in bloom around WA. Winter weather here can still see highs around 25 C, so take all the time you like to explore the countryside’s colors.
  • It’s Still Warm in Queensland: Winter is the best time to explore North Queensland. Daytime temperatures hover around 25 C, the jellyfish have moved on from the shore, and there will be far fewer people swimming with you around the Great Barrier Reef.

Europe

Some European destinations see a spike in tourism around Christmas and New Year’s, but broadly speaking the continent’s off season runs from November to March.

  • Go Surfing: The Atlantic really starts to swell in the fall, and you can spend the whole later fall/early winter chasing waves down Europe’s west coast. Head for the southwest of France, near Biarritz, in the fall. By winter, you’ll want to be all the way down in Portugal’s Algarve, where you’ll have the ocean almost to yourself. Just bring a wetsuit.
  • Christmas Markets Galore: Possibly Europe’s best winter attractions, the Christmas Markets offer charm, coziness and a reason to walk around a beautiful city center with a mug of mulled wine in your hand. Some of the best markets are in Austria, particularly Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna.
  • Go See the Northern Lights: The sun never rises way up in Tromsø, Norway, between 21 November and 21 January. That gives you 61 uninterrupted chances to see the Northern Lights, which are most active during this season. The best times to see the aurora are between 18:00 and 01:00.
  • Visit Istanbul Without the Crowds: With apologies to London and Paris, no city in Europe buzzes with more activity than Istanbul. By November, however, the crowds have thinned out, and you can actually peacefully stroll around the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

North America

North American off seasons fall all across the calendar. Tropical winter refuges enjoy off seasons during the summer months, and some mountain destinations are the most budget-friendly right when they’re the most beautiful.

  • South Beach is South Beach Year-Round: People go to Miami to get away from the cold. So, when it’s the same 30 degrees Celsius in Miami as it is in New York or Boston, tourists stay away. But the beach is just as nice in June, the restaurants are still world-class, and the clubs are still open. The lines are just shorter.
  • Colorado’s Nature Bursts With Color: Wedged between Colorado’s busy winter season and its gorgeous summer is fall, when whole mountainsides turn yellow, orange and red. Go experience autumn in the Rocky Mountains; you’ll have the hiking trail to yourself.
  • Claim Your Own Hawaiian Island: The weather in Hawaii fluctuates between nearly perfect and totally perfect year-round. But in late spring and early summer, kids are still in school, and fewer people book holidays in this island paradise. Take full advantage of this by visiting Hawaii in April, May or June.
  • Experience Vancouver Like a Local: Canada’s most jaw-dropping city falls off most travelers’ maps during fall and winter. Hotels are often only one-quarter full in January. The Pacific breezes keep temperatures here warmer than in most of the country, though, so you just need to layer a little to go explore the coastline or surrounding mountains.

South America

Off seasons vary across South America to reflect both hurricane season and the southern hemisphere’s winter. There are plenty of great off-season deals on affordable vacation spots across the continent.

  • Visit the Southern Caribbean During Hurricane Season (Really): The ABC islands — Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela — are far enough south that they seldom have to deal with hurricanes. Play those odds, and you’re likely to find a Caribbean paradise at a discount.
  • Patagonia is Amazing in the Winter: Flights into Chile and Argentina are much cheaper during their winter, from late May through September, which is all the reason you should need to visit this jagged, mountainous region that millions of penguins call home.
  • Go to Colombia Now, Before It’s Too Late: In recent years, Colombia has shaken off its reputation and become THE place to visit in South America. Foreign tourists have nearly doubled in Cartagena since 2010. Go in the autumn — it’s rainy, but it might be the last time you’ll see Colombia at these prices again.
  • Off season in Rio is Luxurious: April to June is autumn in Brazil, but it’s autumn in name only. Daytime temperatures hover around an absolutely ideal 22 C, which means you won’t be sapped for energy at the end of the day. With fewer tourists and great vacation deals this time of year, Rio de Janeiro is a steal.

Antarctica

Antarctica doesn’t really have an off season so much as it has a winter in which ice floes clog shipping routes and temperatures dip below -60 C. You’ll have to go in Antarctica’s summer or late spring, which is also when you’ll enjoy whole days of sunlight.

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