Most places are typically ready and waiting for their off-season visitors, says Liz Dahl, co-founder of BoomerTravelPatrol.com. This means you may be treated to better amenities, free upgrades, and highly attentive staff who aren't stretched thin by a high volume of visitors.
"A good way to get a better rate in the off season, no matter where you choose to go, is to look up the actual hotel or airline telephone number and call them directly, rather than calling the general 800 number," says Dahl. This method gives you a greater chance of speaking with someone who knows their inventory well and can generally offer you the best price. When you book, also let that person know if you are celebrating a special occasion, as you'll probably get a more personal touch upon your arrival.
So where should you go? Experts say these four locales are prime for off-season visitors.
Local and international tourists flock to Europe from June through August, but November—when the off-season starts—is a great time to travel to Italy, France, and Switzerland, among others, says Dahl. Airfare can be up to half off and there are plenty of hotel vacancies too. However, avoid large cities, because even during the off-season they are filled with business travelers looking to get the same bargains. And keep in mind that some attractions, while open, may close earlier than normal.
The weaker Canadian dollar makes the Great White North appealing all year long. But in the fall you can score even better deals as temperatures drop. For instance, ski resorts in Whistler, British Columbia, and Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, are perfect for foliage watching, as well as horseback riding and golfing. Niagara Falls (on both sides of the border) will also have fewer visitors. Just keep in mind that if you want to take a Maid of the Mist boat tour, you'll need to schedule it before Nov. 7, when the boats go in for the winter.
- National Parks
Summer travel to national parks, like Arizona's Grand Canyon, will find you bumping elbows with hoards of people. Not so in the off-season, says Steve Hanson, senior editor of SeniorTravelExpert.com. "I've visited the Grand Canyon twice in the off-season, and both times there were relatively few tourists and I was able to easily drive my car around—something that's usually not possible in the summer." Dahl agrees that national parks across the country are a great off-season option. "The off-season provides the added bonus of seeing nature as it was intended—without a lot of people," she says.
- Walt Disney World
From Oct. 15 to Nov. 4, Walt Disney World has fewer crowds and cooler temperatures, a perfect combination for anyone who loves Mickey but doesn't want to wait in lines for hours or pay top dollar for flights and hotels. "It's also the perfect time for a multigenerational trip, if you have younger grandchildren who aren't in school or who are able to take a few days off without a problem," says Dahl.