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The Best Time of the Year to Travel for Holiday and Vacation

By Charles Hopkins Published 12/9/2013 | Travel

Though most people would complain that they have their vacation chosen for them rather than choose it themselves, if you¡¦re able to select the time of year you go on vacation, make the most of it and maximize the holiday experience.

First, let¡¦s figure out which is not a good time to travel and tackle a popular myth, namely, that midsummer is the best time to travel. Not always so, we say. Why?

„Ï Remember that in opposite hemispheres, seasons are reversed. So maybe it is actually mid-winter and not midsummer where you¡¦re going. Again, for tropical destinations, midsummer is rainy season, teeming with monsoons and tropical storms. Moreover, midsummer may be simply too hot for your comfort, especially if you¡¦re going somewhere that does not have good air-conditioning

„Ï Mid-summer is usually peak travel time for both locals and foreigners. So you inevitably end up in a crowd and pay higher prices everywhere

„Ï In some places, midwinter is actually a better season to visit than midsummer. An example is the Australian outback, where winter temperatures are far more pleasant and the weather perfectly dry with clear sunny skies

Making the most of daylight

„« Many people visit more than one place on vacation. So if you¡¦re doing a tour of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, which should you visit first? During the course of a two- or three-week vacation, there could be major differences in daylight and noticeable differences in weather. You should consider these two factors when planning your itinerary

„« The amount of daylight changes very rapidly each day close to the equinoxes (March 21 and September 21) but almost not at all close to the solstices (June 21 and December 21). So if you are traveling close to an equinox, and closer to either pole than the equator, a change of dates by just one week might give you 45 minutes more daylight every day, but this is more noticeable if you travel north-south rather than east-west

„« Sometimes, daylight will be more important to you in some of your travels than other parts. For example, maybe you¡¦re planning a trip to Britain for two weeks. You will spend a week in London and a week in the countryside, where you need more daylight. So if you are traveling to Britain between December 21 and June 21, you should spend the week in London first. But if you are traveling between June 21 and December 21, you should do the countryside first.

In search of perfect weather

„ª As with daylight, weather may affect one part of your itinerary more than another. So if you plan to spend a week in Paris and a week on the Riviera, you¡¦d probably want the warmest weather for the beach. So find out if you are visiting at a time when the temperature is rising each day, or decreasing. If increasing, go to the beach last. If decreasing, go to the beach first.

㻠If your destination is too hot for you in midsummer, but you still want to get the most daylight, you might do better to travel in spring rather than in fall. Temperatures on any day prior to the summer solstice (June 21) are always lower than temperatures on days after the summer solstice, whereas hours of daylight are the same.

„ª If you¡¦re trying to get the most warm weather and daylight possible, travel after rather than before the summer solstice

„ª If you're traveling to tropical or nearly tropical cities in midwinter, you¡¦ll find they have less rain in midwinter than in midsummer. Similarly, ¡¥winter¡¦ in Russia can actually be enjoyable because of the charms of freshly fallen snow. Besides, the cities have superb snow-removal services

㻠Finally, try and plan your vacation so as to miss the worst of the bad weather back home! Conversely, try and catch the good weather

How to get the best airfare

„Ñ Most international airlines divide the year into a series of time slices, and there can be a huge difference between fares for the highest season and lowest season. Sometimes a single day can make a difference of perhaps $300 in your airfare ¡X that¡¦s $600 if two of you are traveling. Also, you could leave in low season and return in high season, but you will only pay the low season price for a round trip. So find out what the airfare seasons are to your destination

„Ñ Though most airlines generally have similar fare structures, fares can vary according to an airline¡¦s definition of when a season starts or stops. So if you travel at a certain time which is high season with one airline, check the other airlines ¡X perhaps one of them shows it as shoulder season

„Ñ Most airlines divide the week up into what they call weekdays and weekend days. Often the definition of weekdays varies depending on whether you are traveling to or from the US. So if you fly on the more expensive weekend days, you could be paying $30 or more each way. Two of you could save $120 just by traveling one day earlier or later

Bargain hotel deals

Many hotels and resorts have seasonal variations in their room rates. These variations can be for a short special event or for an entire season (summer rates at a beach resort compared to winter rates). Obviously you¡¦ll get a better deal if the hotel does not expect to be full while you¡¦re staying there

„« A downtown hotel in a large city will often be full every weeknight, but half-empty on Friday and Saturday nights. But a hotel in Las Vegas will have quite the opposite pattern, so Vegas hotel rooms are less than half price during the week, compared to weekends. Thus, plan an itinerary that gets you to business hotels at weekends and leisure hotels on weekdays

„« During a ¡¥low season¡¦, there may be incentives for guests. These vary from a lower room rate to ¡¥two nights for one¡¦ offers, or upgrades to better room types, or free meals

„« Remember, hotel reservations agents are taught to first offer full rates. You must ask for lower rates. It never hurts to ask, because the reservation agent is taught not to offer.

„« Because it costs a hotel a lot of money every time a guest checks in and out, and because they want to lure guests into staying longer, it is common to find many leisure hotels offering ¡¥short break¡¦ rates that are much cheaper than regular nightly rates

Beat the crowds

Whether it is choosing a quiet day at Disney (Tuesday is reputedly it) or avoiding the whole of July in Europe, avoiding crowds can have a major impact on your holiday. Or there might be a special event at your destination that completely fills up the area, pushes hotel rates up, and makes your stay miserable. Here¡¦s what you do:

ľ Ask the tourist bureau for statistics on when their busy and less busy times of year are

ľ Check to see if there are any special festivals or events

ľ Check to see if there are any local holidays impacting on your travels

ľ Check the opening hours and seasons of any specific attractions or sights that you wish to visit.

With this kind of planning and research, you will rarely go wrong. So happy holidays!
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