an airplane flying over a city

Sorry parents of school children, and teachers, it’s probably time to close your ears. Much like years past, the truth about the best time to travel in 2021 is not going to be music to your ears. This year, however, it’s even more important to hear.

More than a year without travel has created an unprecedented boon in demand and with vaccinations playing their part, people are going anywhere they can – and paying whatever they have to.

Even mediocre $100 a night countryside inns are fetching over $500 a night right now in many parts of the world. People just want to getaway – now – whatever. But waiting, although often the hardest part, is undoubtedly the “right” play right now. Here’s why this year, more than any other in recent history, “shoulder season” will be glorious.

an airplane wing and a body of water

Bubbles Of Travel Demand

Pent up demand is leading to pricing insanity in travel right now.

As a supporter of the travel industry, I love to see it. Businesses were brutalized by more than a year without any notable customers numbers, and sadly many hotels, airlines and attractions failed. It’s wonderful to see windfall for those which managed to hang on.

As a champion of consumers worldwide though, I also can’t help but say “put on the brakes”. Enough people will book this summer at any price that the summer season should be “ok” for most destinations.

It’s shoulder season when you can really help these businesses out, while also bagging a great deal for yourself.

What’s shoulder season, you may ask? It’s the time between rock bottom season and the peak season. Think, like two weeks after summer breaks are over, kids are back in school and the weather is just about to turn.

In places where travel is viable, people are back and business is booming, but for how long? They’ll be fine this summer, but it’s when the season changes and bookings are scarce that tough decisions are made. Often, staff are let go, if numbers for shoulder season are not strong.

That’s why holding off, saving yourself money, and booking some shoulder season travel is the win everyone needs.

There’s still lingering pessimism about how seasonality may play out and how long vaccinations will provide a level of immunity. Data shows people are not booking for September and October with anywhere near the voracity they are in peak summer.

Yet sitting there in plain sight, deals for flights, hotels and seats at coveted restaurant tables are everywhere. It’s all for the taking – at prices far below those found in peak summer.

Take flights to Hawaii. This is far from exclusive to this year, but like all years, you’ll save about $100 per person by flying just after summer. Weather tends to be more palatable for most visitors at those times too.

Here’s peak July travel to Hawaii

a screenshot of a flight schedule

And here’s shoulder season in October

a screenshot of a flight schedule

And don’t forget about hotels, where the story is all too similar. Take Santorini, where the difference in August and September can be double, or rather half, per night, if you can wait just a bit. The weather is still lovely too.

Here’s a well known Santorini hotel in August.

a screenshot of a hotel

And the same hotel in September. And yes, the other one is half too.

a screenshot of a hotel

Travel Is Also Getting Easier

For now, each passing day seems to be a new positive development in the return of travel. The EU once again allows Americans and many other outside visitors to enter, without the need to test, provided travelers are fully vaccinated. More countries are swinging open their doors and turning the “open” sign on too.

Masks may be here to stay, but if you want your favorite restaurants, hotels, bars and travel delights to still be there next year, this is the year to embrace shoulder season travel. You benefit from the deals, and the world benefits from the demand, which will keep many people employed as the colder months set in. Happy travels!

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. You need to quit telling our secret…lol. We have been waiting until October and maybe early November to take our vacations for just the reasons you have written. Thanks

  2. Just remember that for Hawaii, the hottest time of the year is roughly from late September through early November when the cooling trade winds often disappear and temperatures can soar into the mid to upper 90’s F ( 35 -37 C).

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