Shoulder Season: The Best Time to Take a Budget Vacation


Pretty much every tourist destination in the world has busy times where demand is much higher, leading to bigger crowds and higher prices. You can avoid this by going in the off season, but then you will deal with typically worse weather and less events and attractions for tourists. But between the high and low seasons is the shoulder season, which is a sort of sweet spot between the busy season and the slow season. Prices will be lower and crowds will be thinner, and you will still get some of the benefits of better weather and tourist attractions. To help you pick the best time to plan your vacation, whether it’s cruise or otherwise, we’ve got the breakdown on the shoulder season for some of our favorite regions to visit.

Caribbean: May to June/Late October to Mid-November

A beach sunset in the Caribbean

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The busy season for the Caribbean runs from December to May, because this is when the weather is the most temperate and because people are trying to escape the cold of Northern regions. Spring and Fall bring about more rainfall and a higher chance of storms, but that will scare away many tourists, driving prices down and leading to less crowds. It can be a risk, especially if you are taking a cruise, but a little spring rain won’t necessarily ruin your vacation any more than a hefty price tag and long wait times would. 

Alaska: May and September

A couple admiring Alaskan mountains from a cruise ship

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The best time to visit Alaska on the other hand is during the summer months, as this is when it gets warm enough to be bearable. By going in May or September, the temperatures will be colder, but still bearable. While colder temperatures are not pleasant, you can easily remedy this by bringing warm enough clothing with plenty of layers. As an added benefit, if you go during September, you may even get a chance to see the Northern Lights, which are not visible in the spring and summer months. So you will get less crowds and cheaper prices, but you can see the Northern Lights in addition to being able to see whales and other wildlife.  

Mediterranean: Spring or Fall

A coastal town on the Mediterranean

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The busy season in the Mediterranean is in the summer, when temperatures are the hottest, and in the winter, when the holiday season is in full swing. This makes Spring and Fall the better times to travel for budget seekers. The weather may be a bit more unpredictable, but with temperatures around 85°F/30°C, you will still be able to enjoy the sunny beaches and cool waters. As an added benefit, you will get to enjoy blooming flowers in the spring time and changing leaves in the fall, and the temperate weather makes for better sightseeing!

Southeast Asia: March to May and November

Cruise ships gather surounded by the mountains of Vietnam

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While there are a lot of areas in Asia that are popular with cruisers and other travelers, Southeast Asia stands out thanks to its long, narrow coastlines and unmatched landscapes. The shoulder seasons vary from region to region, but usually revolve around fall and spring. In Southeast Asia, the spring months from March to May as well as the month of November provide a climate that is hot but dry, so you won’t have to worry about too much precipitation throwing a wrench in your plans. If you are planning to visit Japan, however, you may want to avoid April. This is when the cherry blossoms bloom and tourists flock in droves, driving prices up and leading to more crowds.

Hawaii: April to May/September to November

The sun sets over the mountains of Hawaii

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Hawaii is definitely worth traveling to any time of the year, but April, September, and November are when you will find the lowest demand. Summer months are popular because they are the hottest and driest, meaning they are arguably the best for visiting beaches. The winter months on the other hand are when people are trying to escape the cold, especially around the holidays when people have time off. By going during the transitory seasons, you may risk a bit of rain, but you should be able to get better deals and will have less crowds to deal with. Besides, there really isn’t a bad month to visit Hawaii, so you won’t be missing out on anything.

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