With travel, it’s not just a matter of where, but when. Picking the right time of year to travel can depend on a variety of factors: from the weather, or when you can get time off work, to cost. Before you book your leave and lock in flights, take some time to think about when will be the best time of year for you to travel.
Trekking through Europe in Summer might sound lovely until you’re close to melting in the heat while walking in Italy, and a white Christmas in New York is great until a snowstorm shuts the city down: think carefully about the possible complications of weather when picking what time of year you travel. Of course, things can always happen that you don’t expect, but you can reduce the odds of that happening by spending some time looking at typical weather patterns.
Weather can also be a great way to get a good deal. If you don’t mind a bit of rain and have a bit of time up your sleeve, you could consider travelling in wet season to reduce your costs. For example, August is technically low season in Phuket, Thailand, but it tends to have ok weather: if you can stand a thunder storm in the afternoon, it’s a good time to go.
Weighing up the cost versus the benefits of travelling at certain time of year is perhaps one of the hardest choices to make when planning a trip. Do you travel at Christmas, perhaps to meet up with family overseas or experience the festive season abroad, but pay a premium for air travel and hotels at this time of year? Or can you wait a little longer and have cheaper flights, but miss spending Christmas and New Year somewhere exciting?
A good way to address this is to make a budget. Add up the cost of flights on different days, travel insurance (online travel insurance quotes are easily available) and accommodation, and then look at different options. If you stay somewhere a bit cheaper can you afford more expensive flights? Or perhaps you can change your flights so that you’ll be able to stay in the places you really like.
It doesn’t have to be an either/or. Remember to keep in mind that moving your trip by one or two days can make a big difference if it pushes one of your flights out of the very high season, so consider being flexible with your dates. You could also consider other options, such as staying with family, on the busiest days of the year when hotels can be prohibitively expensive.
Consider all your options and weigh up the pros and cons. Sometimes, it’s worth spending a little more to have exactly the holiday you want.
If you’re still working, or you have kids at school, picking the right time of year to travel can be tricky. Before you book flights, take a look at your company’s calendar and consider whether there are any major projects due around that time. Taking time off in the middle of a big assignment isn’t just a risk professionally; it can also undermine your relaxation if you can’t take your mind off a looming deadline.
Schools have varying levels of strictness about students taking extra days off, so talk to your kids’ teacher before you book anything. You might think it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, but it’s a tactic that can easily backfire. If you’re not able to travel during school holidays or you’re keen to save money by travelling away from the busy days
Days of the week
Once you’re not working, it’s easy to think of every day you’re away as interchangeable, but the days of the week can have a big impact on what you can do many locations and prices can dramatically vary between weeknights and weekends.
Once you have an idea of where you want to go and the things you want to do in each location, take the time to check when things are open and look at the cost of accommodation on various days. Save yourself the disappointment of showing up at an eagerly anticipated restaurant or museum only to find it’s shut, and plan which days you’ll spend where carefully.
It might seem obvious, but it’s important to check local traditions and customs at your destination before you book your trip. Whether it’s travelling to a Muslim-majority country during Ramadan, or China during the Qingming festival, where people return to their home towns, local holidays can throw a spanner in the works for your vacation plans. They can also dramatically increase the cost and availability of travel due to competition from locals. Always check for local holidays before you book your trip.