How to score cheap deals during shoulder season

Romantic couple on the beach at colorful sunset on background

With the erratic weather at the moment, it’s no wonder Aussies have their next holiday on the brain. So where to?

Flight comparison site, Cheapflights.com.au, suggests ‘shoulder seasons’ have many advantages for travellers.

According to Nathan Graham, Regional Sales Manager of Cheapflights ANZ, “Tucked between the high prices of peak season and the often lousy weather of low season, shoulder seasons offer the added perks of less crowds and queues, and more availability at restaurants and attractions.

“You can also save up to 80 per cent on hotels and car hire, but knowing the right times to travel is essential, as shoulder seasons vary between destinations.”

To help in the search, Graham and the experts at Cheapflights.com.au have provided five top tips to find the ‘goldilocks’ moment that will make your next holiday just right.

1. Reverse your thinking

It can be advantageous living in the Southern Hemisphere, where holiday periods and shoulder seasons are different to many other parts of the world.

For example, if you’re travelling to the Mediterranean, consider mid-May and June or late September-early October – the weather is still warm and you’ve got a far better chance of getting a table at a popular café or having a beach (more or less) to yourself.

“For winter holidays, ski resorts in the Northern Hemisphere open in late November, but see little traffic until the Christmas week. In early or mid-December, you’ll find cheaper flights and accommodation and less crowded slopes, shorter lift queues and often discounted ski hire and lift passes,” said Graham.

2. Check the weather

For long-haul destinations, it’s wise to find out about the various ins and outs of low seasons – there’s generally a catch. A cheap Caribbean holiday may not be fun during the storms in June and July, but if you look for islands off the ‘hurricane belt’ you can find a great deal and still enjoy good weather.

Check the seasonal patterns in your destination and try to travel just before or just after the peak periods. Fiji’s busiest season is between June-August when fellow Aussies flee the winter chill, but you can get bargains during the shoulder periods in March and November.

Even in the wet season there are variations, so you can head to drier parts of the country in the north and west, like Tavueni Island.

3. Look for micro-shoulders

Christmas and New Year are always peak periods, regardless of your departure point and destination. Last year, more than 1.6 million Aussies were planning to depart in December, with a third searching for flights the week of Christmas. Don’t despair, as there are micro-shoulders to be found!

“Try to be flexible and consider searching specific days. For instance, a flight from Sydney to London may cost $1,078 on average in the lead up to Christmas Day, or you can nab a seat for $667 on average if you’re willing to fly on 25 December,” said Graham.

4. Investigate local celebrations

The key to shoulder season travel is to avoid school holidays and obvious busy times, and to travel as close to peak season as you can. Do your homework on local festivals, sporting events and holidays.

Prices in the US rise over Thanksgiving, India practically comes to a standstill for Diwali (the festival of lights), and remember changeable dates for events like Carnival and Easter. If you’re not going to join in the fun, it’s not worth paying a premium.

5. Plan outside the ‘box’

Graham highlighted that if you want to experience key cultural events without the hefty price tag, get smart with your plans and chosen locations.

“Over four million people are predicted to flock to Japan from late March through April1, as the nation’s iconic sakura (cherry blossoms) bloom. But in Okinawa in the south, the cherry blossoms open as early as January, or in the north at Hokkaido they bloom as late as May, making great alternatives without compromising on the experience.”

 

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