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Taking a Peek at Off-Peak

You might hear us tout deals during "off-peak" or "shoulder" season, but outside of the travel industry those terms might not mean a lot.

Everyone is familiar with peak season -- think school vacation months in Orlando, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Christmas shopping weeks in New York City, summer in Europe. The combination of demand and great weather leads to high rates for these destinations.

But the weeks and months surrounding these peak dates, called "shoulder season," often represents a great window where the demand isn’t as high, deals are strong and the destination is still very appealing. You often get the added benefit of smaller crowds as well.

Off-peak dates can often be the best times to get the biggest bang for your buck. Although the weather may not be ideal, this is the time when rooms at luxury resorts can be snagged for discounts of as much as 60% or 70%. 

With the calendar inching closer to April, many great destinations are headed into "shoulder season." Here are some examples of popular destinations and peak, shoulder and off-peak dates.

Hawaii

  • Peak: February-March (spring break), June-August (summer vacations), Thanksgiving & Christmas holiday weeks
  • Shoulder: January, April-May, September-October 

Caribbean

  • Peak: February-March (spring break), Thanksgiving & Christmas holidays
  • Shoulder: January, April-July, October-November
  • Off-Peak: August-September 

Orlando

  • Peak: February-March (spring break), June-August (summer vacations), Thanksgiving & Christmas holiday weeks
  • Shoulder: January, April-May, September-October
  • Worth noting: The period from mid-May to mid-June and Aug. 15 - Sept. 30 can be a great summer period to find a deal at popular theme parks such as Walt Disney World, as school year dates vary across the United States.

Las Vegas

  • Peak: January-April, October
  • Shoulder: May-June, September, November
  • Off-Peak: July, August; the weeks between Thanksgiving & Christmas
  • Worth noting: Prices spike on weekends, especially for long weekends. Midweek dates almost always offer great value. 

Europe

  • Peak: June-August     
  • Shoulder: April-May, September-October
  • Off-Peak: November-March 

New York City

  • Peak: April/May, September-October, first few weeks between Thanksgiving & Christmas (popular shopping dates)
  • Shoulder: March, June-August
  • Off-Peak: January-February 

Chicago

  • Peak: June-August
  • Shoulder: April-May, September-October
  • Off-Peak: November-March 

Colorado ski resorts

  • Peak: January-March (ski season), July-August (outdoor adventures)
  • Shoulder: April-June, Sept-October
  • Worth noting: The best ski deals will come early in the season (between Thanksgiving and Christmas). In some cases, there are even good deals in January until about the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Phoenix/Scottsdale

  • Peak: December-March
  • Shoulder: April-May, September-November
  • Off-Peak: June-August 

Miami

  • Peak: November-March
  • Shoulder: April-May, September-October
  • Off-Peak: June-August 

Washington, D.C.

  • Peak: Midweek dates, especially when Congress is in session (roughly September-May)
  • Off-Peak: June-August; Weekends, especially over holidays.

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Tips by
Andrew

Deal Expert, New York
Monday, March 21, 2011
See more Tips from
Andrew Young