Last week’s blog was mostly about a trip we made a few years back to (among other places) South Dakota in the middle of the off-season. We were lucky on that occasion, since the weather really cooperated, although we’d have still made the best of things, even if the weather had been miserable. We decided a long time ago that there’s no point sitting in our hotel room, moaning about how bad the weather is. Especially if we’re in a place we may never get to visit again.
That being said, there no denying that travelling in the off-season can cause issues. In addition to the possibility of unpredictable weather, there’s always the chance of attractions being closed. In some places, whole towns shut down when the tourists go home. Last week I said how great it was to have Mount Rushmore to ourselves. The bit I missed out was how much trouble we had getting a hotel room in the neighbouring town of Keystone. Not because they were too busy, but because almost all the hotels there close during the winter.
For these and other reasons, we prefer to take our trips between the high and off-seasons, in the so-called shoulder season. Most of the time this involves travelling around April/May or September/October, although this obviously varies depending on where we’re going.
Travelling during the shoulder season usually gives us the best of all worlds. It generally enables us to avoid the worst of the crowds, still enjoy more or less everything a destination has to offer, and with weather that’s not too extreme.
For example, in 2007 we took the last cruise ship of the year from Vancouver up to Alaska (a trip, by the way, that will feature in the 4th Jaspa’s Journey book – The Hermit of Kennecott). For most of our stops, the majority of the attractions and tours closed almost as soon as our ship left port. So unsurprisingly, the worst of the crowds were already gone.
Of course some destinations attract visitors all year round, but even those places have their high and low seasons, relatively speaking. So while Rome in October 2010 was still fairly busy, compared to what it’s like in the height of the summer, it was practically deserted.
I could go on and on about all the great adventures we’ve had on trips during the shoulder season. But if you’re still not convinced, simply take a look at this photo of the parking lot at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim visitor centre…
It was taken on November 6th, 2012, just before this part of the National Park closed for the year. Tell me this isn’t how you want all your parking lots to look!