Jun 162014
What treasures will you find during the low season?

What treasures will you find during the Low Season?

Stores and attractions are closed. Scraggly brown, dead-looking plants sprawl hither and yon. Streets are deserted… spooky. Hotels are run by bare-bones staff, if they’re open at all. Eek! Do YOU dare to brave the “Low Season” in a place like Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts?

Raggedy brown grass in the background didn't dampen the low season fun.

Raggedy brown grass didn’t dampen our Low Season fun. (Can you spot the baby?) 

I was tempted to ask the question, “Is It Worth it to Travel in the Off Season?” in the title of this article, then scrawl the word “YES,” and leave it at that. You see, the “Low Season” is my new love. Yes, the prices are lower, but something else balances out the aggravation of sparse amenities and scruffy foliage.

The streets were bare like the trees.

The streets of Edgartown were bare like the trees in April.

Two things make Low Season travel worth it: Simplification and Difference. Let’s start with Simplification. During our recent Off Season travel to Martha’s Vineyard in April, life got clearly into focus. Food? There were about two restaurants open, so… easy choice. People? There were hardly any on the street, (most of who were construction workers spiffing everything up for the High Season), so Colin and I just focused on each other and our cute baby. Easy!

Baby learned to turn himself into a burrito during our vacation.

Baby learned to turn himself into a burrito during our vacation.

Activities? Even easier. There were four mandatory tourist things to do: Eat delicious food, walk the beach by the Aquinnah and Edgartown lighthouses, pet alpacas, and ogle some Gingerbread Cottages. (You’ve got to love a destination where petting an alpaca is a mandatory activity.)

All there is to do is eat, gaze at flowers, and rock on the porch. Not too shabby!

Life is simpler with fewer choices.

Ahh, how relaxing it was to travel somewhere with only four “Must Do” tourism items, in contrast to our recent travels in India which had more “Must Do” activities in one day than a dictionary has words! A well-balanced tourist portfolio calls for both scenes.

Beasts and humans alike are relaxed without the crowds.

Beasts and humans can relax without the crowds.

Now we come to the Difference perk of Off Season travel. Any old Joe can take photos of chock-full beaches during the High Season months in Martha’s Vineyard and other popular locales, but how serene is this empty street view of Edgartown?

Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard was serenely empty during our visit.

Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard was smoothly empty during our visit.

I’ve always had a drive to travel differently. In my early 20s, I took it to an extreme by living in Peru for three months (during their winter) without making an effort to see Machu Picchu. Now, while I would not advocate that extreme (it would have been neat to see that famous place, in retrospect!), it certainly gives a different travel narrative than the Inca Trail. Similarly, my memories of Martha’s Vineyard are likely quite different than those of the average summer visitor.

The Edgartown Lighthouse is cool, even when it's cold out.

The Edgartown Lighthouse is cool, even when it’s cold out.

This is to say, from Martha’s Vineyard to a far-flung continent, you CAN make the “Low Season” work for you, particularly if you yearn for Simplification and Difference!

Sometimes all there is to do during the low season is cuddle with the baby. Nice!

Sometimes all there is to do during the Low Season is cuddle with the baby. Great!

So what’s YOUR take on whether it’s worth it to brave a place when no one else wants to go?


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  28 Responses to “Is It Worth It to Travel During the Low Season?”

  1. For cheaper and better travel experience it is better to travel in mid-season, rather than low season.

    • If your itinerary includes weather-related activities like swimming then you’re right. If you’re visiting for museums, photography, getting away from other people then the off-season is often very pleasant. I’ve gone scuba diving in 20-degree weather, hiking in the rain (it’s fun with the right attitude), prefer my landscape photography without people in them, and so forth. The downside if you love souvenir shopping and trendy restaurants is that they might be closed in the off-season. The upside is that you get to eat at the places the locals tend to eat which is a real treat when you travel abroad. What sucks is when your kids are school-age because then you don’t have the flexibility of when you travel.

  2. I sometimes quite like going in low season, deals are often much better and less touristy though there have been a couple of occasions where we have found many things to be shut and weather to be terrible so I guess it partly depends on location and what you are hoping to get out of the trip!

  3. Life is simpler with fewer choices. I never thought of it that way. Very nice! 🙂

  4. I think it depends on where you’re traveling to. Here in Thailand, while low season is cheaper it’s not really all that ‘low season’ as so many tourists come to Thailand all year round. Plus, with it being the hottest time of the year, it can be uncomfortable for those who aren’t great with heat and humidity. So it really depends on what you’re looking for.

    That being said, I usually do places like England and Spain in low season as it’s far cheaper than at the height of the summer.

    Nice blog, btw, and lovely photos 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment!
      Yes, you make a good point: Sometimes the low season is low because of terrible weather, and may even be downright inadvisable because of it. I remember we were going to honeymoon in India in summer and even the official India tourism website said something like, “Don’t come in summer. It’s too hot and rainy to do anything!”

  5. We always enjoy the off season, especially camping. Would love to take our RV to Martha’s Vineyard from British Columbia one day! Great photos, thanks for sharing!

  6. I’ve actually been thinking to myself lately that I might rather travel in slow seasons around parts of the world. Like Prague, it is such a magical place but utterly swarmed by people it was crazy, and I would love to see it near empty with a fresh snow on the ground or something.

  7. Low season is the real vacation… no crowds. Isn’t that the primary reason for taking a vacation? The need to relax and enjoy?

  8. Low season at the beach is my favorite time! I love the quiet.

  9. Right now we’re in Mexico, low season. It’s the perfect climate and being with the Mexicans not every other visitor is our preference.

  10. Low season is the best way to travel. I love traveling during that season. Because the prices are low and not overcrowded. It gives advantage to me because I am not comfortable with many people around. I want the place to be quiet and clean.

  11. Low season, low occupancy, low prices.

  12. I’ve had some of my best trips during low season. Being somewhere that isn’t crowded with tourists trumps mild weather for me. It all depends on what you’re looking for and where you’re going. Sometimes peak season can’t be avoided, but you get what you came for. When it comes to travel, it’s all good. 🙂

  13. I love low season! Both are great for their own merits, but I agree that you often get a much different perspective of a popular destination during low season.

  14. Great post, I prefer to travel off season for all the reasons you mention. Of course there are some inconveniences but there are more positives and I love the quiet streets and wonderful imagery you can get without having to fend off all the bus loads of tourists getting to the same destination at peak seasons.

  15. Low season has its own benefits. I guess it depends on the person, for me what I like the most when some lower their prices!

  16. I went to grad school in Woods Hole, and the off season was my favorite! It’s such a magical time on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (not to mention the cape). You can almost hear the locals exhale when late September rolls around…it’s such a beautiful place to have all to yourself instead in the off season of fighting the crowds in summer! Now we live in San Francisco, and there is no off season…! I miss the off season, haha.

  17. With 3 kids now, flying trips are pretty much “low or we don’t go”! I really prefer it though, it’s just dealing with missed school (and friends’ birthday parties, and piano lessons, and drama club, and sports) that is a real challenge. See, traveling with a baby is SO much easier than with the big kids! Enjoy. 😉

  18. I love traveling in low or shoulder season. I don’t like crowds, so it makes a huge difference to me!

  19. Having vacationed for many summers on the Vineyard, I can tell you that low season was always our favorite! You are able to enjoy the beauty of the island without all of the crowds. The beaches are less crowded and the restaurants, although busy, are able to accommodate you with little wait. So much better in June and September!

  20. love this post…. and so true. We do parts of Maine in the off season for this reason

  21. I love traveling during low season, especially in countries where high season means high temperatures and large crowds. There’s nothing worse than hiking behind groups of people gabbing and gabbing. That said, I was once on Mykonos during low season and was the only person on the beach. That was a bit too much solitude.

  22. I love traveling in the low season, simply for the fact that there are less people around.

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