Why Off-Season Travel Equates to Sustainable Travel

 

Most people tend to plan trips during the peak season when the weather is favourable, and as a result, attractions, city centres, and beaches are busting at the seams. A growing number of travellers opt for the off-season, a sustainable travel favourite, exploring destinations during the less popular times of the year. By choosing to travel during the off-season, you support the local economy during quieter times, contribute to the preservation of natural and cultural heritage, and reduce the negative impacts of over-tourism.

In November 2022, Maral and I decided to give it a go, and we couldn’t be happier. From Portugal to Italy, we spent more than a month each in Lisbon, Marbella, Nice and Sorrento. We’ll cover more of what we did in upcoming posts to give you location-specific insight into off-season travel.

What and when is off-season travel? It refers to the period of the year when a destination carries lower tourist numbers and reduced demand, for example, due to weather conditions. Below, we will highlight the unique and enriching benefits and experiences gained from enjoying destinations beyond their peak seasons.

 

Deeper Connection with the destination

Time is luxury, a favourite phrase of mine and during the off-season, the opportunity to connect with locals and culture is evident. Less stress, more room, and the chance for deeper exploration mean more authentic experiences and avoidance of the hyper-commercialisation which plagues overcrowded destinations. We wanted to get a genuine feel of the local way of life during our five-month trip, and although you need more time than a month, it’s definitely more enjoyable than the hurried one or 2-week stay. Of course, both of us have the pleasure of working remotely, which allows for these extended stays, but even with a shorter stay, off-season gives you a more mindful and deep experience with cherished life memories.

 

Reduced Crowds and Queues

We all despise queues – in my mind, one of the biggest downsides of peak season travel. Long lines, crowded attractions, and over-congested streets quickly dampen the mood and make you feel like part of some conveyor belt. However, off-season travel offers a respite, allowing you to enjoy destinations with fewer tourists and reduced wait times. Explore popular landmarks, museums, and attractions without jostling through throngs of people, and take your time to appreciate the beauty and significance of the places you visit. A sense of tranquillity and serenity enables you to connect with the destination on a more personal level, far from the distractions of mass tourism. We visited Pisa in mid-February, early in the morning. You know how the traditional picture of the leaning tower is overflowing with tourists? We practically had it to ourselves, as you can see. Loved it.

Leaning tower of Pisa
Pisa minus the tourists

 

Better Deals During Off-Season Travel

Another significant advantage of off-season travel is an obvious one. Lower demand means accessing deluxe accommodation at a more attractive price point. The same goes for transport and sights. Many destinations that want to spread visitor numbers throughout the season offer off-season promotions to attract travellers. As a result, during our Mediterranean odyssey, we landed super locations at a fraction of the cost it would have commanded during the summer. For example, Avenida da Liberdade in Lisbon, right on the beach in Marbella, Promenade des Anglais in Nice and central parts of Sorrento, the gateway to the Amalfi coast.

Promenade des Anglais, boardwalk in Nice.
The famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice

 

Milder Weather and Scenery

Turquoise water, sun-kissed skin and warm evenings, summer is great. However, weather can play a significant role in shaping a unique travel experience, even in the off-season. We more or less had a private stretch of beach in Marbella as we swam in December and January in still comfortable temperatures for us from the Nordics. We enjoyed the pristine snow-covered landscapes of the mountains in the Côte D’Azur as we strolled in Nice, breathtaking scenery, distinct from the regular tourist season, which is now seeing unpleasant temperatures. 

Marbella beach, Spain
Golden Mile in Marbella – all to ourselves

 

Greater Flexibility and Freedom

Off-season travel provides greater flexibility and freedom in planning your itinerary. Without worrying about sold-out attractions or restaurants, you can be more spontaneous in booking accommodations, dining reservations, and activities. Don’t compete with other tourists; customise your plans, and allow for last-minute changes. We certainly enjoyed the ability to relax and avoid stress. For example, when it rained in Sorrento, we simply said, we’ll climb Vesuvius tomorrow.

Vesuvius crater, Italy
Trekking around the crater rim, Vesuvius, Italy

 

Enhanced Interaction with Locals

Interacting with locals is a most rewarding aspect of travel, and off-season travel provides ample opportunities for meaningful connections with the local community. With fewer tourists, people are often more approachable and willing to engage in conversations, share their stories, and offer insider tips about their city. The enriched interaction allows you to gain insights into the local way of life, traditions, and culture. Among the two of us, Maral is a master at striking up conversations with new people, which lead us to quite a few memorable moments during the trip. I recall wine and olive oil tastings in Portugal and Spain, underground tours in Naples, and produce markets in Provence, all made extra special because of the people we got to know and who offered hours of their time to help us make the most of our time.

Winery interior with tanks
Colares winery, Portugal

 

Unique Events and Festivals

Destinations live around the year, and visiting outside the usual calendar gives you front-row access to special events or cultural celebrations. We felt it added a layer of cultural richness and depth to our journey. I have enjoyed Nice and the wider Côte d’Azure almost every year of my life, but this was the first time I got to experience the Nice Carnival, which took place between the 10th and 26th of February 2023.

Poster for Nice Carnival 2023
The Nice Carnival 2023

 

Off you go

If you’re planning your next travel destination, don’t overlook the merits of off-season travel. Research the destination’s shoulder or low seasons, and embrace the opportunity to explore a destination during its quieter months. Whether it’s a romantic getaway, solo adventure, or family vacation, off-season travel can provide you with a sustainable, unique, stress-free experience. So pack your bags and embark on an off-season adventure to create unforgettable memories and broaden your travel horizons!

 

Have you travelled in the off-season? Let us know about your experience in the comment section. Don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter and benefit from travel tips, interviews and inspirational examples of deep travel and sustainable tourism.

 

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