Travel deals for all seasons

Think a vacation this year is out of reach? Try travelling in the off-season when prices are low and deals are plentiful

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From the June 2015 issue of the magazine.

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(Jeremy Rice/Corbis)

Fancy half-price hotels and attractions far from the maddening crowd? Savvy vacationers save a packet by taking advantage of shoulder season travel—that wee sweet spot between top-price high season and bone-chilling low season. But playing the shoulder game means finding destinations that combine lower airfares and accommodations plus pleasant weather and things to do. Choose wisely and you’ll wonder why it took so long to discover the easiest route to discount travel. Here’s our guide to the world’s greatest shoulder destinations.

Fall

Europe’s summer is a sweltering mess of jam-packed cities where air-con is a foreign concept. But golden days from late-September through October can be a breath of fresh air. Enjoy the balmy coastlines of Italy, Greece or Spain, or explore some capitals before the autumnal dark days arrive. Europe-bound flights drop to half their summer peak, and if you like driving tours in France or beyond, you’ll find the roads far less thronged.

Late-September is also a smart time for springtime South Africa’s safaris and winery regions. Or consider going tropical in Costa Rica. Around late November, the rainy season recedes and you can ogle the toucans just before the tour groups arrive.

Hot spots include…

Sardinia: Explore sandy coves and foodie-loving villages off Italy’s western coastline. Why now? The Autunno in Barbagia artisanal festival starts in September.

London: Crawl blockbuster museums on a self-guided culture tour. Why now? The Victoria and Albert Museum’s sumptuous Fabric of India exhibition starts October 3.

Cape Town: Weave the delightful Cape Winelands. Why now? Late-September’s Cape Town Fringe Festival.

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Winter

Our southern neighbour is stuffed with tan-tastic winter destinations. But while Florida and Arizona welcome snowbirds, it’s shoulder time in Texas. California-wise, wait for February if you’re craving better-value hotel rates and airfares for San Diego or San Francisco. Both are mild until later. Also consider Hong Kong or Thailand just before the end of March—the start of the rainy season.

Hot spots include…

Austin: Feast on America’s tastiest food trucks. Why now? January’s Free Week Austin music festival.

San Diego: Explore museum-packed Balboa Park. Why now? February’s Winter Brew Fest.

Hong Kong: Dine in a world-class foodie city. Why now? Hong Kong Arts Festival starts late February.

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Spring

This is Europe’s other—rainier—shoulder. Airfares rise dramatically after a few weeks, so book in April. Fancy a side-trip? Reykjavik isn’t too cold in May as it readies for summer’s visitor peak. It’s similar in Canada. May-to-mid-June is a chance to visit popular destinations like Victoria, the Rockies and Quebec City before the masses arrive: hotels are discounted and the weather is balmy.

Further afield, the post-cherry-blossom-pre-rainy season May window in Japan means Tokyo hotels are keen to bargain. You’ll find similar pre-rain deals in Malaysia and South Korea, and you can also cash in on summer’s end in Australia and New Zealand, with flight deals and sleepover discounts beginning to emerge.

Hot spots include…

Victoria: One of Canada’s earliest springs starts here. Why now? Whale-watching begins.

Napier: Time travel in New Zealand’s finest art deco city. Why now? Tour Hawke’s Bay wineries sans crowds.

Melbourne: Dive into Australia’s artsiest city. Why now? May’s Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

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Summer

Summer offers key ways to avoid credit-card immolation. Labour Day to late September is great for Canada trips. The islands of Aruba and Bonaire are outside the hurricane belt—yet their summer room rates are still the year’s lowest. Or, shimmy south. February’s carnival season is a crowd-puller, but coastal Brazil in July is a quiet zone. Check hotels vying for business in Rio—and expect warm weather with rain.

Hot spots include…

Jasper: September’s sun lights up the mountains. Why now? The VIA train from here to Prince Rupert is a late-summer gem.

Aruba: August is hot. Why now? Restaurant Week in late August.

Rio: Hit the beaches without the crowds. Why now? Late July’s giant Anima Mundi animation festival.

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EsperanzaCarron EsperanzaCarron 30758 deleonw2pliu@outlook.com

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