13 Perfect Off-Season Getaways

Three experts reveal their favorite off-season destinations.

Off Season TravelLynn Fagerlie/Getty ImagesTHE EXPERTS
Loren Bendele, CEO, savings.com
Seth Kugel, Frugal Traveler blogger, New York Times
Nina Willdorf, editor in chief, Budget Travel

WHERE LOREN BENDELE GOES

  • Nicaragua during the rainy season (May through November). “You get the same beaches as in Costa Rica—same water, same climate, and for a lot less money. When you start researching Nicaragua, you’ll find ‘Don’t go during the rainy season, because it might rain the whole time you’re there.’ But the locals all say it’s their favorite time of year because everything is green and lush, fresh and clear. During the dry season, it’s hot, it’s dry; there’s dust and dirt everywhere. Do the research—don’t stop at the first hurdle.”
  • Tuscany in winter. “It was a little colder, but we owned it. No crowds, no traffic, a lot less expensive.”
  • Canyonlands National Park in winter. “A good friend said they were going in December, the coldest time of the year, because they would be the only people there. And that’s what we did. We were the only ones there for five days. You’ve never experienced such silence in your life. It’s ominous and weird not to hear wind or traffic. How would that have felt if I were hearing footsteps behind me, if I were seeing people off in the distance?”
  • Vail, Colorado, in summer. “Everyone says that people move there for the ski seasons and never leave because of the summers. In the winter it’s all about skiing and snowboarding. In the summer it’s all about hiking, rafting, rock climbing, great live music concerts, just hanging out, camping, swimming, fishing, fly-fishing. As far as value, ski towns in the summertime are phenomenal.”
  • South/Southwest in winter. “I love the South during February and March: Austin, New Orleans, Phoenix, Las Vegas. You just have to make sure there’s nothing so big going on that will make it either too expensive or too crowded.”

WHERE SETH KUGEL GOES

  • Barbados. “Bigger islands have the better deals, and smaller islands have more luxury. Barbados struck me as a very nice compromise, right in the middle. It’s a very manageable island. You have your beach areas and then vast expanses if you want to get away and go hiking. The island also offers a great bus system.”
  • London over Paris in winter. “In the summer, you’ll be sharing the streets with more tourists than Parisians. You want to go to Paris when there’s green on the trees and flowers in the parks. London may not be as much the case—it’s maybe more of an indoor cultural city.”

WHERE NINA WILLDORF GOES

  • Cayman Islands in summer. “I had to go down to the Cayman Islands for one night this summer. It was 85 degrees, slight breeze, just perfect. We had the pool to ourselves. There was always a stool at the beach bar. The people working there were eager to help because they had time.”
  • Europe in winter. “I would consider Old World cities like Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin. Hotel prices are much lower, and most activities would be indoors anyway.”
  • Lake Tahoe in summer. “I’ve spent time in the Tahoe area in California in summer, which is just gorgeous. Ski resorts have a lot of deals to attract travelers in the off-season.”
  • ABC islands in summer (or even hurricane season). “I would suggest the ABC islands—Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao—because they aren’t on the typical hurricane route.”
  • Punta Cana anytime. “The average high in January is 81. In August, it’s 87. Not a big temperature difference, but you’ll see a huge savings.”
  • Cool small towns in America. “You’re going to meet the locals and discover a relaxing way to experience the best of America.”

PLUS: 10 American Cities With the Worst Drinking Water

WHERE TO START
Bendele’s resources: savings.com, tripadvisor.com, Lonely Planet and Fodor’s guidebooks, Facebook
What savings.com can offer: “We’ve got our Ask, Answer & Save feature. You can log on there in the travel section and write, ‘What’s the best time of year to go to the Grand Canyon?’ You’ll get an answer from one of our travel experts, and you can start a dialogue.”

Kugel’s resources: Frugal Traveler blog on nytimes.com, his Twitter feed (@frugaltraveler), hotwire.com, Frommer’s on nytimes.com, intimatehotelsbarbados.com
What the Frugal Traveler blog can offer: “I try to show readers how to save money, but it’s also about getting away from hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists and getting into the real spirit of the places I visit.”

Willdorf’s resources: budgettravel.com, orbitz.com, expedia.com, kayak.com, travelocity.com, jetsetter.com, luxurylink.com, familygetaways.com, cruisecritic.com
What budgettravel.com can offer: “We have deals, many of them exclusive, with discounts when you use our name. We scour the world for the best deals. Many are off-season.”

–Lauren J. Gniazdowski

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest