Off Season Travel

Pretty much everyone always could use a vacation. Whether you are a high powered executive working 80 hours a week or a bartender working six nights a week, either way you probably wouldn’t mind a few days off. The problem is for many of us getting together the money to make a trip worthwhile is just as hard as getting time away from work. However, there are some who have found ways to make their dollars go further and make the most of their time by looking at where they go and when they go there. Two of the ways people have figured out in order to travel on the cheap are, traveling to lesser known destinations and traveling when others aren’t. Off season travel is the type of thing that lets people without children or a traditional job go to all of the places that they might not be able to get to at its usual price point.

The most important thing about traveling in the off season is to do some research about where you want to go, otherwise how would you know when the off season is in the first place? Travelers often hear very polarizing stories about off season travel and that is usually because of the amount of research that went into the trip or knowledge somebody had going into a trip. In any case there is also just a bit of luck that goes into traveling in the off season, because the peak season is usually the peak season for a reason. Peak seasons are usually when most people interested in visiting a destination have off from work and school, and when the weather is the most palatable. The most important things to look at when looking to travel off season are the weather and the crowds.

Palm trees in the snow!

Weather

One of the big reasons that we go to the places we do when we do is to escape the weather we are experiencing at home. People travel more often in the summer because the probability is that you will have sunnier days than any other time of the year, meaning that you won’t have to waste any days of your trip inside because the weather is too bad. However, we all know somebody who just couldn’t enjoy the trip they went on because the weather was unbearably hot or rainy. The trick then is to look at destinations that don’t necessarily hinge on good weather, something that is usually true for traveling to cities or relatively temperate places.

Traveling during the off season can save you money and give you an entirely different experience from most tourists if you can put up with the weather not being perfect. The best way to do this is to check what the weather looks like typically in the off peak months and see if you can hack it. You should also plan for a few sites or activities that aren’t necessarily weather specific that you can fallback on if you get a particularly “weather-filled” day. One thing to keep in mind when dealing with the weather out of tourist season is to check if places have a stormy or monsoon season, because travel and many attractions may not be operating fully in certain regions if they experience severe weather regularly.
travel

Some destinations are simply seasonal destinations, people go to them during a certain time of year for a festival, for the skiing, the beaches, animal populations, etc. These things can’t be helped and if they are the sole reason that a destination is calling you then you should probably look to go during their big season or at least close to it. Remember though that many of these places still have plenty to see and do that you might not know about during their off season.

The crowds

Crowds

People from the same areas seem to always be on similar schedules and also tend to have similar ideas for destinations. It seems that during the month of August all of Europe is on vacation while the rest of the world flocks there. However, holidays and school schedules also play a role in when everybody seems to be traveling and so going somewhere outside of these times during the off season means that you get to miss the bulk of the crowds. Off season crowds are usually smaller which means more intimate tours and sight seeing experiences as well as fewer people competing for reservations and lodging spots.

Off season travel means that you will usually find deals on the activities in the area and on things like hotels and B&Bs. You might even end up finding that your 12 room mixed dorm at the hostel turns into your very own private room during the off season. On the downside however, because of the lack of people many activities may not be operating at full throttle or even at all. If you are planning to do some real touristy stuff make sure to check that they don’t close down for a certain time of the year.

If you have ever lived in a seasonal town then you know that tourists can get old pretty quickly. They are fun that first month of the season maybe, but things quickly blur into you not being able to move around the town as easily as you used to. Sure they are bringing in money and its probably great for the town, but you get personally inconvenienced so they aren’t gonna be your best friend. Traveling in the off season means that you are one of very few non-locals in the town at any given time. This means you get to meet far more locals and see how places actually operate on a slightly less touristy level.

There are a whole bunch of reasons to travel in the off season, and if you plan well off season travel can be cheaper and more fulfilling than traveling during the peak season. You can do a whole lot of research online about when the best time for you to travel some place is, but the easiest way to figure it out is to always ask a local. Asking, “I’m looking to go to X specifically for Y, when should I visit?” will hopefully get you an answer along with other things you can do during that season. If you are short on cash but long on destinations on your “to-go” list then try going in a time you hadn’t thought of. You may just see a side of a place you didn’t know existed.

Public Transport, Public Transit, Subway

The Merits of Public Transit

As someone who enjoys Urban Traveling public transit is usually the way that I find myself getting around in cities that I am new to if I find that I can’t walk somewhere. Now obviously for travelers the merits of public transit are easy to see, it is local, affordable, and gives you a certain experience that you wouldn’t otherwise get from taking cabs or renting a car. In places like New York and London the public transportation systems have even become tourist attractions for some, which can be seen in the thousands of subway maps and t-shirts using the public transit fonts’ and slogans’ to sell them. It would seem that these cities have certainly tried extremely hard to make owning a car or using a car in the city a luxury instead of a necessity and encouraged public transport use.

After living in Germany however it can be seen quite easily that the city of New York is easily outdone by most urban areas in Germany. The prices of the ticket being the main difference which allows for nearly every resident to get a hold of a long term ticket at a price that makes the idea of owning a second car or even a car at all in many respects laughable. This is exactly what the city of Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, found to be one of the biggest obstacles to people using public transit more often. In 2013 Tallinn became the “capital of free-transit” by doing away with public transport fares for residents of the city. The environmental impacts and economic impacts are still being measured as it was rather recent, however it seems to have been a success at first glance. The air is getting cleaner and as traffic congestion continues to fall and cleaner public transit is introduced this trend will only continue. In addition to the environmental benefits the economic benefits also work in theory by offering more literal mobility to citizens who cannot afford a car or the transportation costs that may go with a new job.

Two countries that I have lived in for a while now, but obviously am no expert on would be the United States and Australia, which both have a stigma in many areas about public transit. The idea is usually that public transit is for those who can’t afford to drive around places. When the prices of tickets are so high and the infrastructure is lacking in many places the few dollars that are saved by taking public transit as opposed to a cab or taking your own car are cancelled out by the time it takes to get to your destination. This means that as soon as you don’t depend on public transit there is really no incentive for you to use it. On top of that America has always been the land of the automobile and will certainly need some convincing when it comes to giving up that second household car and embracing public transit, but the numbers certainly make sense if we were to start putting in the work on the infrastructure. With the shift towards more urban areas in America and Australia’s history of being extremely concentrated population wise these two countries could certainly do with an increase in the importance of public transit.

According to the American Public Transportation Association the average two car household can save around 10,000 dollars a year by replacing one of those cars with public transit and that for every dollar spent on public transit infrastructure in the United States it generates nearly four times that in economic benefits. On top of this of course there are the jobs that are created as well as the environmental benefits that go along with an increase in public transit use.

Despite the stigma against public transit these countries seem ready for public transit to play a larger role in their lives. Census figures and usage statistics show that their is steady growth year to year in urban areas. Prices need to be put down or at the very least stay put for a while and the services expanded so that patronage can rise. While we don’t yet know if the free fare model championed by Tallinn is working for sure, it can be seen that ease of use and lower prices means more riders and fewer cars which boosts growth and lowers many costs in other areas. My own city of Melbourne has recently introduced the free tram area and has plans to expand the public transport system in Victoria, so next time there is some local election about public transit or you have the option to take a car or train think a bit about the effect it may have.

For some of the information and statistics used in this post check these links out here, here, and here. And if you think I’m dead wrong or dead right feel free to share or comment.

The City I Live In

Melbourne is currently a fast growing destination for travelers both young and old. In the past few years it has garnered popularity by receiving awards from multiple publications for its public parks, proximity to great sights, and general livability. While many people are coming and staying at hostels in the main business district or CBD, travelers often forget to look to the outer suburbs of the city. The pubic transit system around Melbourne continues to be improved and the savings to be had in the suburbs will make the decision even easier for you.

The suburbs of the city often have much more personality than the small city center area and offer a cheaper more unique experience. As the city has expanded, interesting neighborhoods have popped up all along the beautiful Yarra river, which runs through the area. Hot spots for the arts, suburbs like Brunswick, Richmond, and Carlton are all easily accessible to the city while still being affordable for travelers with the popularity of short stay websites in the area like Airbnb or Couchsurfing.

If you enjoy something more than the traditional, and now exceedingly more expensive, Melbourne visit look to book a place to stay out of the CBD and reap the benefits of having money for a longer stay and seeing more of what Melbourne has to offer.