Life is a popularity contest. You spend your early years trying to get noticed so that one day, you too, will be able to sit at the cool kids’ table. Then once you enter the work world you realize that it too is all about popularity, hoping to get noticed by the boss so you can get that promotion, make more money and be happier. One facet of life that is not about popularity is travel.
Everyone is familiar with the popular travel spots and experiences: Paris in April, New Orleans during Mardi Gras and any tropical beach in the middle of the winter, just to name a few. Yeah, these places are popular for a reason, but I think they’re even better when it’s not the popular time to visit.
Flights, hotels and even restaurants are much cheaper during the off- or shoulder seasons and better yet, there aren’t nearly as many tourists visiting. I love Paris, but I’m not eager to visit when it’s hot and I’m joined by a few million of my fellow tourists. I’d much rather visit in the very early spring or fall, when the conquering hoards have left and I can experience the real city.
Paying special heed to this important travel rule, we recently went on a quick weekend escape to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Located on the Chesapeake Bay, the Eastern Shore is a tourist hot spot during the summer, but much quieter in the winter, its off-season.
The first advantage was in our hotel rate. We stayed at one of the best hotels on the Eastern Shore, the Inn at Perry Cabin, but for a fraction of the cost summer travelers have to pay. Not only did we get a great rate but, because it was their off-season, we were able to get a complimentary room upgrade to a fabulous suite. That certainly would never happen during the high season when the hotel is teeming with people.
As we walked around the quiet village of St. Michaels we felt like we had the town to ourselves. There were some tourists, but not many, instead most of the people we saw lived in the town. Sure, some of the restaurants and stores were closed for the season, but many more were open and had amazing sales in an effort to clear inventory in advance of their peak season.
The entire weekend was much of the same, quick access to restaurants, reasonable prices and just a very relaxing time. Even though I couldn’t go swimming or boating, that was fine with me. Instead I got to see a gorgeous part of Maryland at a time of year when most people don’t bother to make the trip.
Visiting places when it’s not the popular time of year to go has a wide variety of benefits. Not only is it cheaper, but the experience tends to be richer and more “real” – you get to peek behind the curtain and see the destination for what it really is and not costumed for the hoards of tourists.
What is your favorite place to explore during the off-season?