Best Time to Travel – The Importance of Good Timing
Mention the importance of vacation timing, and most people think of how to minimize cost and stretch their vacation budget. However, in addition to cost, there are other reasons why thoughtful consideration of your travel and vacation timing can make a difference between a great vacation and a potential disaster. Not everyone always has flexibility, of course, especially families with school-aged children, but here are a few things to consider when deciding the best time to travel:
Avoiding Peak Travel Days
In addition to higher air fares, peak travel days such as the days before or after Thanksgiving holiday or Christmas, or the first or last day of Spring break can also mean big crowds at the airport, oversold flights, higher chances of lost luggage, long lines for taxis, congested highways, crankier kids…you get the picture! Try to avoid these days for traveling if you can!
Christmas Eve or Christmas Day can be one of the best times to travel if your family does not celebrate this holiday and the same is true for Easter weekend. If your family usually travels during Spring break, try to schedule your departure on Friday, the last school day before the break. (Yes, sometimes it’s worth missing a day of school!) Another option is to wait until Monday when the heaviest crowds have cleared. The same recommendation applies for the return flight.
Similar to crowded airports during peak travel days, many attractions experience peak visitor times as well. For example, try to avoid amusement parks, such as the Disney parks, during the summer, around major holidays and during Spring break. As a Mom of two school-aged kids, I prefer to have my children miss one day of school during the school year to perhaps create a long weekend over paying the highest seasonal prices, battling huge crowds, enduring never-ending lines or suffering unbearable heat.
Weather and Seasons
I didn’t pay much attention to seasonal weather changes until several travel experiences made it clear that I should. For example, we found ourselves stranded on St. Lucia due to a nearby tropical storm, which resulted in cancelled flights for days. On another vacation, we froze in Sydney, Australia because, in the excitement of packing for our vacation, I somehow forgot that it was winter “down under” in July. Most recently, our family vacation to Cabo San Lucas was cancelled due to unfortunate hurricane damage to the Mexico’s Baja California region. These are just a few examples where weather has affected our travel experiences.
One lives and learns. When booking our family’s vacations, I now try to keep in mind that the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, peaking August through October. This does not necessarily mean that you should not travel to the Caribbean during that time, but it may not be the best time to travel there and you should make sure you have good travel insurance allowing for last minute cancellations. If your travel plans include Central America, it’s good to know that the rainy season usually lasts from June through November. And if you are traveling south of the Equator, don’t forget that the seasons will be reversed from ours in the northern hemisphere.
Paying attention to local weather patterns is not only important when traveling to international destinations. You will be thankful if you do a bit of research before planning your vacations domestically as well. For example, I would not recommend taking your family to tour Washington, D.C., a vacation that typically involves lots of walking, in the month of August when it can be unbearably hot and humid. (Once again speaking from experience!) Conversely, not many of our friends are eager to visit us in Chicago during the winter months.
Personally, I try to avoid Florida for our family beach vacations during our Winter break in late December/early January after having two unfortunate 50° and rainy weather experiences in the past. Don’t get me wrong, the weather in Florida can be beautiful during those times, but it is winter in Florida, too, and you are taking a chance.
It can be easy to overlook local holidays when traveling internationally, but it pays to do a bit of research as local holidays can mean closed businesses and other inconveniences for travelers. This is particularly important if you are planning to tour around and not simply chill at your resort. Travel guides and the Internet should be helpful resources.
To be fair, certain local holidays can also make your travel experiences more memorable. Personally, I can’t wait to one day travel to Mexico in early November to experience Day of the Dead, visit Puerto Rico during their famous San Sebastian Street Festival in January and go to Spain in late August to experience the renowned tomato battle in Buñol. Similarly, Venice or Rio de Janeiro both have their famous carnivals that can make for very memorable (albeit a bit more crowded) experiences. Visiting Rome during the week of Easter is supposed to be a very special experience, even for non-Christians. The list goes on…
Local Vacation and Traffic Schedules
This is another good one to keep in mind when it comes to international travel. For example, if you are visiting Europe in the summer, know that for many countries, August is the local peak time for vacations and travel. This means that roads will be likely more congested than usual, particularly at the beginning and toward the end of the month, which is important to know if you plan on renting a car. In addition, the beaches will be crowded and beach town prices will be at their peak. The good news is that you shouldn’t have to battle local crowds in the cities, such as Paris, Rome or Munich, only perhaps fellow tourists, heat and humidity.
When do you think is the best time to travel for the vacations you enjoy taking?
You may also enjoy:
- Tips for Vacationing During the School Year
- Tips to Avoid Standing in Line
- Summer Vacation Travel Tips
- Holiday Travel Tips For Families
Hilton Mom Voyage writers receive free night certificates to use at Hilton Hotels & Resorts worldwide. To learn more, visit our About Us page.