Travel is a luxury – any savvy saver will tell you that’s not the case – it’s all about choosing to travel and being prepared to sacrifice (did I say that?) other things in that place. But that’s not the whole story.
Travel is an opportunity that we position ourselves to take. Parents with kids in school on lower income are going to find it harder to travel than the mid 20’s share house renter who has no obligations or responsibilities (ie. me). From simply an economics perspective, one airfare is cheaper than four and two incomes may not necessarily be the equivalent percentage of one when all expenses are taken into consideration. So how do you make the most of the budget you have, be it for two or ten, without offering up the left kidney on the black market?
The time of year.
This is the single biggest determinant of price. Always is, always will be. As a general rule, February, March, May, October and November are the cheapest months of the year to travel. This is because they are shoulder seasons to the more popular summer/winter season. It is also because generally, kids are in school during these months. Sorry Ma and Pa – school holidays will never, ever, ever, ever be your friend on price. Never. The only way to counter the dreaded school holidays surcharge, is to book waaaaaaaaay in advance OR…. way in advance.
So where are the places to visit in these off season months?
Look to places with a temperate or Mediterranean climate. If you want to go above and beyond the equator, you’re looking at the end of ski season in the powder pumping countries or just good old fashioned cold if snow doesn’t fall. Kids are back in school – the January mid season sales are on their last leg and the average poor sorry soul is back slaving away after the New Year credit card carnage.
So where shall we go in Feb? Los Angeles. Unlike it’s eastern counterpart New York, LA remains fairly pleasant in Feb. It’s a great time to hit up Disneyland, Universal and road trip it out to Vegas (sneaky tip – mid week Vegas is outrageously cheaper than weekend Vegas). Be warned – the desert gets much colder than the coast.
If you are after an adventurous wilderness, hit up the southern part of the globe and we are talking the far kind of South that doesn’t have a drawl or Kentucky Derby. It’s the tail end of summer so New Zealand or Tasmania or Patagonia are a trekkers/trail walkers or wilderness lovers dream. These places are all stunning on the landscapes front and at the end of summer, will sit in temp from 20 to 30ish Celsius. Warning; Summer in Patagonia can be seriously windy.
Try out the chaos and colour that is India. It’s the dry season and the humidity won’t suffocate you – if you go towards the end of the month. It’ll still be warm in the south, as it is closer to the equator and prices for India are exceptionally competitive. Prepare yourself though, because the culture shock in India is unlike anywhere else on Earth.
The same destinations for Feb but lets add in South East Asia, Mauritius, Dubai and Morocco. South East Asia will be finishing up on the wet season, and pricing is never so low. Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; stay pay deals are at their finest (12 nights for the price of 6? Where do I sign up?) and these are excellent destinations for families. Buffet brekky’s fit for kings and queens included in the room rate; as well as cheap babysitting services and amazing kids clubs are all frequent features in most hotels and resorts. Just be prepared to get muggy if Mother Nature wants to stick around and ruin all the fun with a drawn out monsoon.
Mauritius is very similar to Northern WA – so they too will be at the end of the wet season and offering damn good pricing. It’ll be warm and balmy, with plenty of time for the beach. Careful though – it depends on the side of the island that you stay when it comes to the quality of the beaches and the infamous west wind.
Morocco – North West Africa at it’s tourist friendly finest. I adore Morocco – and it will be coming out of winter. Expect coolish temperatures during the day and COLD temperatures at night. This makes the travelling through what is usually a very warm destination, much more pleasant.There are a tonne of family friendly itineraries available for every kind of budget. Once on the ground, prices can be every bit as competitive as Bali. Marrakesh has somewhat of an exotic appeal over Kuta..
Dubai is on par with Marrakesh – it just more of a cosmopolitan destination – with the price tag to match. If you want to stand in the shadow of the Burj or skydive over the Palm Jumeriah, ski inside a mall – or simply count the Ferrari’s off one by one as they pass you by, this is the place to do it.
Be still thy heart, for Nepal calls. This is right before the monsoon that starts to get rolling in June but if you are wanting to visit the Everest Base Camp or Annapurna, this is when all the expeditionary teams attempting the summits are giving it a crack. Nepal is stunning on the landscapes front – not just for those on a mountaineering mission. Pokhara is popular with tourists and volunteers and it’s all jungle fever for Nepal’s natural charms.
Europe. In May. Go. Low season fare pricing. It’s insanely cheap. Given that 3 years ago, the average fare price into Europe was sitting anywhere from $1900 to $2500 and NOW it is $1200 to $1700, you’re laughing. Most of Europe is pretty pleasant in May – still on the slightly cooler side – but you’ll beat the crowds, peak season pricing and everything will still be just as bloody good – beer halls don’t go anywhere nor do the Alps or the Mona Lisa. You catch my drift.
New York, New York. May is an excellent time to visit perhaps the most famous city on the planet. It’s got a reputation for a reason. New York is all about people. There is no greater place to people watch than the New York subway system. But it more than the outrageous and obscure; New York is a hot blend of art, fashion, food and history. It is home to the New York Knicks, Maddison Square Gardens and the Rockefeller Centre. Helloooo Times Square, Central Park. It’s magical and bewildering for a reason and one of the best times to go is May.
Did I mention beer hall earlier? Yes, Europe is every bit as wonderful in October as it is in May – with the added bonus that Oktoberfest is in full swing and every Aussie in a 5000 mile radius is making the trek to Munich. Depending on how far north you are travelling on the continent – be prepared for much cooler temperatures and shorter days.
Egypt. Whilst the political climate has many um’ing and ah’ing on this ancient civilization juggernaut – October is a great time to go as the chance of melting to puddle in the sun is considerably less than July and August. It is your own prerogative as to whether you brave the political shit storm that constantly surrounds Egypt and Cairo but know that if you do go – you can decide for yourself if the aliens did indeed build those pointy pyramids.
China. One often forgets the size of China and the adventure it can offer up beyond that particularly large wall. If it’s the staples you want to see; Shanghai, Beijing and Xi’an – then October is an excellent time to visit. But don’t forget you can venture further afield; anything from Mt Hua Shan with it’s infamous journey to one remarkable tea house or Chongqing and it’s UNESCO Dazu caves with Tang Dynasty carvings. You have the Gobi desert in the north and the start of the legendary Silk Road in from Beijing. Adventure in every direction.
Helloooo Capetown and South Africa. It’s not hard to imagine WA and South Africa being bosom buddies back in the time of Pangaea; the scenery is remarkably similar. This also means that Capetown has the same charming climate that southern WA lays claims to come November. Also famed for it’s winery regions, spectacular national parks and hiking/camping opportunities – Capetown is excellent to visit just before school starts to wrap up and the Christmas fares are hiked skyward. Warning; if travelling with children there are extra documents required as South African Airlines have tightened their policies to in light of children smuggling concerns in the country.
Central America. There was a time when it was outrageously priced to get into Mexico, Guatemala or Antigua. Luckily, Mexico (Cancun in particular) has never been so affordable although getting there is often some serious time travel (arriving before you originally left?.. whaaaat). Mexico – if you stick to the gringo trail (tourist track) – has opened up some beautiful destinations for seriously cheap. Look to the coast near the Yucatan Peninsula; Cancun, Playa Del Carmen , Tulum and Cozumel. You’re on the shores of the Caribbean and nearby to some pretty magnificent Mayan ruins. Mexico is also kind on the pocket – with the exception of Cancun and it’s all inclusive resort appeal.
Australia. Who said you need to go abroad to have a good time? Whilst here at home does tend to lay a bigger hit on the pocket – early November is a magnificent time of the year for driving holidays. The days are longer; the sun consistently shining and if you’re lucky – you’ll avoid those 40 degree days that December comes packing with. Southern WA is glorious – and it’s an excellent time to check out the Great Ocean Road and tick off the 12 Apostles with some serious craggy coastline views if you’re near Melbourne or southern Victoria.
These are just some shoulder season suggestions. There are hundreds of places to visit; these are just some suggestions that have frequent flights for affordable pricing as well as amazing things to do.
Good luck shortening the shortlist!