When to Go - The First Step in Great Travel

"When to go" dictates almost everything when traveling smart. It's the most important decision you can make to improve your vacation.

I try to travel during the shoulder season, which is May, June, September, and October in Europe and Asia. South of the Equator I go in January, February, and March. It's worked very well for me.

For longer term travel, the best time to travel is after I have quit or lost a job. You can stay away as long as you want, you don’t have emails, time limits, angry bosses or customers. If you have family members just drag them along, if they're willing. I travel until I run out of money or get tired of moving. Three to six months is all I could handle when I was younger. Then I loved staying at home...

When to go dictates almost everything when traveling  smart.

It seems timing is everything in travel.

For Europe, summer is expensive, crowded, super hot, noisy, and hard. Spring and fall is inexpensive, uncrowded, mild weather, quiet, and easy. Winter is the cold season, busy only in the ski areas and at the holidays.

Everything's open in the summer, most things in the spring and fall. Only a few things are open in winter. Villages and small cities tend to shut down in the off season. Big cities never let up all year.

I tell you, "The English are great travelers."

After all they invented tourism and tourists. They were the ones that made the Alps a destination instead of an obstacle.

They helped create the world's first ski resort, with San Moritz in Switzerland founded in 1864. They were the honored customers.

They invented tours and tour groups.

They taught their children to make "the Grand Tour" to see the most important sites on continental Europe as part of their formal education.

I basically did the same thing in the 1970's when I back packed through Europe. Brilliant!

They invented the Travel Bureau, Train Time Tables for all of Europe and, yes, they even invented modern travel advice including when to go.

Here is what happened to me when I choose to travel off season:

Driving into an Italian sunset.

Evening's coming quickly, and I haven't found a place to stay for the night. I'm not worried; there are plenty of hotels to choose from. I'm driving a rental car around the shoreline of the Gulf of Trieste in Slovenia, and enjoy a glowing sunset. I check my guidebook: The tiny picturesque Slovenian port city of Piran (Greek for fire), in Slovenia, has some of the best sunsets in the Mediterranean. If true, that would be saying a lot.

Tartinijev Trg (Square) in Piran, Slovenia.

I have come in October when the weather is still pleasant and the water warm. Piran has a tiny marble port area, filled with spectacular neoclassical Venetian and Italian Renaissance architecture, as charming as Venice without the sewage.

To the right is Tartinijev Trg (Square) named after Slovenia's most famous composer Giuseppe Tartini. His statue stands in front of the town hall. Up on the ocean cliff stands the bell tower of St. George's Church that once held the fire (pyr) that made Piran famous. I have the whole place to myself. Maybe there is a cheap room somewhere here...

This is the touristy rich man's version of the tiny port city. The alleyways here are more inner twining; the viewpoints, more enthralling; and the buildings, more sculptured than other port cities.

But in summer it's smothered in tourists. Prices soar; the accommodations become non-existent.

My guidebook points out a hostel nearby with single rooms and shared bathrooms. "A toilet down the hall" was the way almost all lodgings were in Europe until a decade or so ago. That's changed. Now most lodgings here sport the American Room (the one that includes a shower and a toilet.)

The sign on the door says rooms available, in five languages. For 24 Euro ($32) a night I have a home in paradise.

Travel in shoulder season is a breeze…

Here is a short list of when to go and where to go during the on and off seasons. (Check the Tim Leffel's book, mentioned above, for details):

Spring is a great time to travel.

When to Go - Spring, try:

  • Fly to anyplace in the world.  Shoulder season is the best time to travel.

  • US National Parks.

  • Hawaii.

Summer is crowded and hot.

When to Go - Summer, try places that have their off seasons due to hot weather or reverse climates:

  • Fly to Caribbean & Mexico - Hot, but tropical breezes help.

  • Fly to South America. It's their winter. It's usually a little cool, sometimes cold, but not icy.

  • Try diving in Latin America.

  • Safaris in Kenya and Tanzania - there's a lot of bargains here.

  • Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. It will be hot!

Fall is also a great time to travel.

When to Go - Fall, try:

  • Fly to anyplace in the world.  Shoulder season is the best time to travel.

  • US National Parks.

  • Try an Alaska Cruise. Crisp, but a bargain

Winter travel may be fun, but can get cold. When to Go - Winter, try:

  • Fly to Canada, Quebec & Montreal. There are lots of indoor things to do including miles and miles of world-famous malls.

  • Fly to anyplace in the world except for the ski areas, except of course if you want to ski. .

  • Time to visit the Tropics.

  • Try summer down under in Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa

  • Go Home: Thanksgiving and Christmas be with your family, you idiot!

It is a lot to think about. Picking a good time of year to travel can make all the difference. Cost savings and ease of travel make the shoulder season a smart deal.

It's the most important travel secret I know.

Here are some important travel points:

Go to the Page on Best Travel Secret

What to do?

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