All popular destinations in India and across the globe have months that are busier than others for tourism. But, off-season vacations have their own perks. It is in the slower months that one can avoid the crowds and bag a bargain as well. Here is our guide to travelling in the lean period.
Choose the time: An important aspect of off-season travel is picking the right time to vacation at places around the world. For this, it is important to know lean seasons of various destinations within India as well as abroad.
"The fag end of an off-season is probably the best time to visit the place. Hotels and tourist hotspots are slowly starting to open up in lieu of the coming season, but the crowds are yet to descend," says Anuja Shah, a Mumbai-based travel consultant.
Pick the right place: Goa and Kerala in September offer great bargains, as do national parks like Ranthambore in Rajasthan in May. Also, what might be lean period in India isn't essentially off-season abroad, and vice versa. So, it is possible to plan a trip to Maasai Mara in Kenya at a discounted price in August and September (peak season there due to the annual migration, but low season in India). Or visit Egypt in May (peak season in India due to summer holidays) when foreigners avoid the country due to high temperatures.
Scout airfare: The lean season also means that airfare to places, usually popular with tourists, is lower than usual, saving you quite a bit of moolah. Add the multiple offers made available by budget airlines during the festive season, and you could snag quite a good deal for a trip during your selected period of travel. Also, within India, train tickets are available in plenty during the lean season, making it possible for you to travel to your chosen destination within a fixed budget.
Check local options: Before booking, check out if popular local hotspots will be open during your period of stay. For example, in India, most sanctuaries are shut to the public during the monsoon, as are shacks at popular beach getaways. Having this knowledge lets you make an informed choice regarding whether you still want to visit this place or go elsewhere. If you are planning a trip to a foreign land, you could avoid places altogether based on this. Information on when popular museums, national parks etc are open is available online.
Budget more: Remember that one of the biggest perks of visiting during low season is that you can stretch your budget to include more. Haggle with shopkeepers for better bargains, get local cabbies to give you a better rate and coax tour operators to offer you a discount. Use the extra cash to extend your stay at a particular place or visit more in the vicinity.
What is lean season
In the tourism world, any period of travel typically falls into any of the following three categories: low season (also known as off-season or lean period), shoulder season and high season (also known as peak season). In India, the monsoon months and exam season are usually categorised as the lean period. However, it changes from country to country abroad, so it would be better to look up your choice of destination before planning a trip.
A window to the world
What: Thousands of pilots, crew and spectators from around the world will be in Albuquerque in New Mexico, USA, till October 12 for the annual Balloon Fiesta.
Where: For nine days during the first full week of October, hundreds of colourful balloons float above Albuquerque each morning, as dawn breaks over the Sandia Mountains. From its modest beginnings in 1972 with 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot, the Balloon Fiesta has grown to become the world's largest hot air ballooning event.
Why: Mass ascensions, when many hundreds of balloons lift off into the morning sky, are held on all four weekend mornings and one day mid-week. These begin after "dawn patrol" carefully examines the morning's weather conditions.
When the patrol gives the green light, balloons from all over the world rise together in a harmonious lift-off. The sight of 500 balloons in the sky is breathtaking for first-time visitors, and this visual feast is said to be one of the world's most-photographed event.