We traveled to Slovenia's Lake Bled just after the August rush. By early September, the crowds had gone home, leaving behind lower prices on lodging and extra bargaining power all around. At a local art gallery, for example, the owners offered us free beverages, extra attention and an excellent restaurant recommendation.
By traveling when others don't, you can see the world's premier sights for a fraction of what most people pay. Here's how we make the most of off-peak travel opportunities:
Target seasonal shifts: Shoulder season — the time just prior to and immediately after the high season — is the perfect time to enjoy the same experience for less money. The weather is still close to what you'd find during high-traffic times, and local shops, hotels and tour guides are eager to bargain for your business. Off-season rates are cheaper. A waterfront room on Miami Beach can cost $400-$500 per night during peak season, but only $129 per night off-peak.
Research options: "If you want a wallet-friendly vacation, go off-season," according to a spokeswoman for CheapTickets.com, an online travel service. Several travel Web sites feature off-peak vacation ideas. For instance, spring ushers in the end of ski season in the Rockies, with affordable off-peak rates at ski lodges. Colorado offers hiking, biking, dining and other activities when the snow melts.
Stay local: Off-season excursions within your home state can yield attractive vacation packages. This winter, Disneyworld is offering a "4 Day Dream Pass" to Florida residents for $99 person and $84 for children ages 3-9. The four-day ticket is good through late May, with a blackout dates from March 27 to April 9. Look for local specials and off-peak rates, which are advertised through civic websites, newspapers and tourism bureaus.
Work around the weather: Off-season weather delays and detours can yield other vacation bonuses. A day trip to the ruins of pre-Roman Baalbeck or the caves at Jeita provide alternative options for those not able to get to Lebanon's beaches during the summer. Afternoon rains during Costa Rica's wet season are perfect for long lunches, Internet photo uploads or a literary outing through in a good book.
Before the rain starts and after the skies clear, beaches and nature tours are attractive options. London's British Museum and the Pergamon in Berlin are indoor alternatives for winter vacationers, while Cairo's Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and the Israeli national museum in Jerusalem provide a respite from the heat during the summer months. For more ideas, use the worldwide directory of tourism offices at www.towd.com.
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (c) 2009.