Deciding when to travel is an important factor when planning your trip. The dates you choose could affect your overall travel expenses and will determine how crowded your destination will be. It could also limit outdoor activities.
Here are some variables to consider on when to travel:
To get the lowest airfare, compare the cost of travel on different dates and days of the week. Depending on the day of the week you travel or the time of year, the airfare will be higher or lower.
If you have flexibility in your travel dates, plan to travel when the rates are lower.
Allow Additional Time When Traveling Abroad
If you need to renew or apply for a passport, plan on about six weeks for processing. If you have a passport, make sure that it will still be valid for at least six months after your return date. If not, plan on renewing it. Many countries have a six-month validity passport rule.
If vaccines are required or recommended for the country you are traveling to, plan accordingly. Some vaccines (such as Hepatitis B) require three shots in a six month period. You will get the first two shots within a month of each other, and the third shot when you return. Make sure you are up-to-date on your routine vaccinations as well.
Avoid having vaccines right before your travel date in case you have a reaction to the shots. It’s a good idea to have vaccines done at a travel clinic. You can find a clinic close to you and review information on vaccines at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Plan for Local Holidays and Spring Break
If you are thinking of traveling around the holidays or spring break, plan your trip at least three months in advance (or longer for some destinations). Keep in mind that airfare and lodging expenses will typically be higher during peak travel times. You can expect more crowds.
When traveling abroad, find out when that country celebrates local or international holidays and when it is considered peak tourist season.
Keep in mind that room availability will be limited and room rates will be higher. To determine what the peak and off-peak rates are, check out different dates of travel and corresponding rates of a few hotels in the area. Lodging and available flights may also get booked up months in advance.
Plan on your overall expenses to be higher during peak season. Tourist attractions, restaurants, and many businesses will generally charge more as well. You can plan on spending more time waiting in line at the airport and at tourist attractions.
Find out how local holidays or off-season may affect sights or businesses you want to visit. Some of the local merchants or tourist spots may close for holidays or have limited hours during winter or off-season.
Bottom line, if you prefer to avoid the crowds, hold off on traveling around spring break (typically from the end of February through mid-April), during holidays or peak seasons, and steer clear of tourist hot spots.
Another consideration is the weather. Find out what the optimal time of year would be for you to travel. Do you prefer the rainy season, hurricane season, winter, hot and steamy, mild? There are some advantages to traveling during times when the weather is not considered ideal. You will usually pay less on travel expenses and avoid the crowds but will most likely experience some rainy or cold conditions.
Find out if there are various weather conditions in a radius of where you plan to stay. For example, some islands may have a rainy or windy side, while the other side is sunny and calm. Decide what weather conditions you would prefer.
Currency Exchange Rate
When traveling abroad, consider the currency exchange rate. If it is in favor of the dollar, you can reap the savings. This could be a determining factor in where and when you decide to travel.
For more travel insight, check out my book:
Know Before You Go: Traveling the U.S. and Abroad
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