Travelling at off-peak times means perks like reduced rates and possible upgrades to your flight seating and accommodation, as well as the absence of crowds and more opportunities to mingle with the locals. And with our weak currency, who wouldn't want their hard-earned savings to stretch further?
With the constraints of school holidays and taking time off work, world travellers are forced to flock to international hotspots all at once. But if you can plan your annual travel to hit popular destinations in their low or shoulder seasons, it can feel like winning the golden ticket to the chocolate factory!
Summer in Hong Kong is exceptionally hot and humid which can make traipsing up the 268 steps to see the Big Buddha, or any other of the many outdoor excursions, a draining and sweaty affair. January is mid-winter and the weather is much like Joburg in winter, just not as dry or clear. With many expats leaving town for the holidays but schools resuming almost immediately after New Year, you can ride to your heart's content at Disneyland and Ocean Park without the snaking queues. You'll also catch the build-up to Chinese New Year (at the end of January or early in February), but you might choose to depart just prior to the celebration itself as prices for accommodation rise steeply.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST mid-October to December and early in January
Byron Bay, Australia
Only recently has Australia's southeast coast, and especially the surfing town of Byron Bay, gained popularity amongst bohemian surfer-types and trendsetters alike, becoming the bustling hotspot it is now. And while you might miss seeing the humpback whales from Captain Cook Lookout between June and November, you'll also miss the recently departed New Year crowds and can laze on the beach all day long in the cooler autumn weather. Winter only descends properly in May.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST February and October
Going to Iceland in March might be one of the best things you do since it means no queues, no sold-out excursions, no booking two weeks in advance for the Blue Lagoon near Grindavík and being packed like a sardine in it while you're there. Sure, it'll be icy cold and like making a guest appearance in Frozen, but you'll never feel more invigorated. Prices in Iceland have skyrocketed so be an early bird when booking your low-season travel there.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST February, March, September and October (also typically the best time to see the Northern Lights)
The medieval city of Edinburgh is famous for its unpredictable weather, but its off-season weather is often better than during the summer. While January and February can be chilly, it's also very sunny and not so windy. April, as a shoulder-season, sees sparse crowds and spring in the air and the blooming of dandelions and cherry blossoms. With well over than 10 000 hotel rooms in the city, and more than 40 four and five-star hotels, occupancy and prices at this time will be lower, giving you much more choice.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST April, May, June or September
The Maldives, Asia
While pictures of the Maldives might make you think you need to be a movie or rock star to stay there, you needn't be to make a trip to this dream destination a reality. Visit during the very end of the dry season (end of April or beginning of May) for reduced rates and less of a chance of thunderstorms. Airbnb is highly recommended at this time and for hotel owners, a reduced-rate occupied bed is better than an empty one.
Click here for comprehensive advice with many practical tips on the 100 best things to do in the Maldives!
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST Beginning of May
Because Costa Rica has a distinct wet and dry season, you may have to compromise a little here. During June and July you might get some tropical downpours along the stunning coastline of the Nicoya Peninsula, but visiting the secluded surf town of Guiones Beach at this time won't hinder your beach and ocean-sport activities. Shoulder months are uncrowded with price breaks available which are as much as half of peak Easter and Christmas times.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST May, June and September, October and November
July is one of the slower and cheaper months for hotels in Cancun since people forget about tropical destinations when it's warm in the northern hemisphere. Great bargains can be found at this time of year, with all-inclusive packages at some of the nicer beach-front resorts in the middle of the Hotel Zone. You're guaranteed warm temperatures, but you'll also get pleasant sea breezes. And, while July is technically in the wet season, you'll be unlucky if you get some afternoon showers, much less real downpours.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST July and August
India is a fascinating and culturally diverse country and a must-visit destination for budget-conscious travellers. As you might expect, Goa is a hippie town with lively street markets and expansive beaches. But if a slightly alternative beach holiday isn't what you're after, Ladakh or Port Blair offer adventure-filled breakaways. While thunderstorms may interfere somewhat with your plans, hotel rates, car and bike rentals (cheaper the longer you rent them for), as well as flights to Goa from Indian cities, are rock-bottom in these months. For the real deal in Indian food, local thalis (plate meals) are ridiculously cheap too.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST June to mid-September
Because Bali's weather is perfect pretty much all year round, you'll be hard-pressed to find a time when it won't be crowded. But with Australia in close proximity and its school holidays factored in, September or May are tipped as the best chance of getting your own piece of Paradise Island, and especially more attractive rates at the luxurious private pool villas in Bali’s Valley of the Kings.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST May and September
Amalfi Coast, Italy
From the middle of September, picturesque cliff-side towns like Positano on Italy's southern coast, with its pebbly beach and steep, narrow boutique-lined streets, drain of swathes of summertime tourists. The weather's still amazing and you'll find a spot on the beach, yet won't die of heat on day trips to other towns or walking tours. You'll also miss the rainiest time of year in November. Best of all, the most popular hotels' room rates drop at this time, some by as much as 200 euros!
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST October
Spring and autumn are the best times to bag incredible deals on the Big Island of Kona, so leave the summer madness to the tourists. With fewer visitors, hotel and airline rates decrease significantly and holidaymakers can stretch their bucks with better-value travel packages. The weather during the off-season is also more reliable since there's less rainfall than during the winter months.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST May, June, September to early December
Since the weather in Seville is unbearably hot during its so-called peak season (with temperatures sometimes reaching 45 degrees Celcius), there's really no need to join the crowds when the weather's good all year long. In the pleasant cooler temperatures you'll enjoy strolling to the city centre for traditional tapas, which can be perfect comfort food, while the town's beautifully decked out for the festive season. Viewing the nativity scene at the majestic cathedral and picking out hand-crafted gifts at Christmas markets will be truly memorable, even at the expense of a white Christmas.
AT ITS OFF-PEAK BEST September to January