Weekly Articles

The financial perks of off-season travel: Cheaper airfare, cruises, rental cars, tours

Teo Spengler

Airfare, hotels and even some tourist attractions get pricier during the high season when swarms of travelers hit the road in record numbers. But while weather conditions might be perfect during high season, it’s the off-season that offers the best deals.

From cheaper flights to empty cruises, GoBankingRates.com shows you how off-season travel lets you experience the world without spending a fortune.

Airfare plummets in the off-season

Low airfare is just one of the many desirable advantages of off-season travel. But, you’ll need to do your research to find out when your favorite destinations are in low season.

While summer flight prices are traditionally high, some destinations actually have lower rates during the hotter part of the year. Some typical winter destinations like ski resorts see a dip in foot traffic in the summer, but still have a lot to offer visitors when the snow’s melted, according to Consumer Reports.

Even destinations like the Caribbean see a dip in tourism over the summer. If you can handle scorching temperatures, you’re bound to find steep discounts on airfare. For even deeper discounts, keep your travel plans open and run “flexible trip” searches with online travel sites.

Get low-cost luxury seating on empty flights

These days, plane passengers don’t just pay extra for premium seats. In fact, many airlines charge hidden fees for the more desirable economy seats, such as those with a few extra inches of legroom.

For example, Air New Zealand charges up to $1,500 extra for two passengers in its Economy Skycouch seating. This fee gets you three seats with flip-up footrests and armrests that transform the row into a comfy couch.

If you arrange for off-season travel, you might not need to pay for better seats. Since long-haul flights are likely to be sparsely populated at this time, you can create your own “sky couch” by nabbing an empty economy row and a few pillows. You’ll arrive at your destination rested and ready for fun.

You can pay less to stay longer

It’s common knowledge that hotel rates drop during the low season. Along with scoring hotel rooms for rock-bottom rates, you can often purchase luxury accommodations for less.

According to The New York Times, Miami hotels often reduce high-season rates by 50% during slow times. Additionally, you can snag special deals like free valet service, a fourth night free or a hefty credit toward meals at the hotel restaurant.

If you’ve been dreaming of vacationing in Europe on the cheap, expect to find lower hotel rates from November through March. The cold will be biting, but popular destinations tend to be more affordable. Travel from mid-June through August, though, and say goodbye to your savings.

Leisure activities cost less

Whatever leisure activities you have in mind for your vacation, you’ll likely pay less during the low season. If getting a relaxing massage or rejuvenating facial is on your shortlist, book during the off-season to get more for your money. In fact, in July and August, Miami’s low season, the city’s premier spas (under the auspices of “Spa Month”) drop their prices by up to 50%.

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You’ll find great spa deals when you head to ski country in warm weather, as well. Spas in Vail, Colo., for example, offer significant discounts for off-season visitors.

If you’d rather spend time with a caddy than a massage therapist, you’ll find discounts on off-season greens fees across the country. Off-season tours are less expensive

If you dream of embarking on a wildlife safari in Africa or a guided tour of Egypt’s pyramids, rearranging your schedule can save you money. According to Travel + Leisure, safari lodges offer serious low-season deals and discounts, with prices dropping by up to 40%.

For example, you’ll pay up to $3,770 in the high season for a family tent at the legendary Cottar’s Safari Service, which boasts sunset views across the Serengeti. Green-season (mid-March through May) prices dip to $2,181 a night, however.

Many tour companies offer special off-season discounts, as well. Go Ahead Tours, for example, cuts prices on tours happening around the world – from Alaska to the U.K. and Italy – with low demand.

You can go cruising for a deal

If you want to relax on an affordable cruise, you can still get big discounts by scheduling your trip off-season. High and low seasons vary depending on the body of water in question, so do your research before booking a trip.

While you can certainly score a deal on a traditional ocean cruise during the off-season, the best savings occur on the river. Not only can you get discount rates on European river cruises during the “shoulder” months of fall or early spring, but you’ll also enjoy more elbow room and better accommodations at this time of year.

Repositioning cruises will save you even more. With this cruise option, your ship departs from one port and drops you at another. As a result, you can explore two different cities while enjoying big discounts. Best of all, repositioning cruises are typically less crowded, so you won’t have to worry about packed pools or lines at the buffet.

Score more rental car for less money

It’s nice to have wheels when you are away from home, and many travelers consider a rental car an essential part of the travel package. Like every other commodity, rental car prices rise when a lot of other people are renting, too.

In fact, rental agencies use software that links both to online travel sites and competitor sites. Prices rise when demand peaks and inventory is low. It doesn’t take a brain scientist to figure out that this most often happens in a location’s high season.

So, how do you get the best rate? Travel off-season and book a vehicle well in advance. Then, check the going price every few weeks until your travel day. If a better price is available, grab it and cancel the reservation you have. You won’t incur a fee for this and might even be able to snag more car for less money.

Prices dip for off-season dining

Eating out can make or break a vacation, as well as a vacation budget. The more you love fine dining, the more it makes sense to consider off-season travel.

Remember, supply and demand is the basic rule. As demand drops in the off-season, prices drop, including food prices. That’s as true in popular European destinations like Barcelona as it is in America’s resort cities.

Some cities even hold “restaurant weeks” during the off-season. For example, popular Miami Beach is less popular when it swelters in August and September. So this sultry South Florida city offers incredible food deals at this time, such as “Miami Spice,” which is packed full of restaurant bargains and foodie-related events. Plus, with fewer tourists, you’ll get reservations more easily – and your waiters will be less stressed.

Ride the rails for less

Taking a train might be the main course of your vacation, such as if you’re traveling across Canada by train. It can also be a delicious side dish, like when you’re visiting London and then heading to the coast on a South Western Railway train. In either case, you’ll likely do far better on price if you book in advance and travel off-season.

According to South Western Railway, traveling outside of busy periods pays off financially. You’ll also have a quieter, more serene ride. Almost any destination with a clear high season will lower fares during the low season.

Think of Alaska, the Last Frontier. It attracts crowds to incredible Denali Park in the summer, but riders disappear in the long, cold Alaskan winter. Does it surprise you to learn that a train ticket between Anchorage and Fairbanks goes for $244 in summer but only $195 in winter?



Retirement and the Laws to Help Older Workers

William Baldwin

A look at certain statutes with unintended consequences.

“Ageism in the Workplace” is the cover feature of the February 2020 AARP Bulletin. Tales are told of older workers mistreated or axed, and of their sometimes victorious lawsuits.

One must feel some pity for winners of age discrimination lawsuits. What prospective employer would ever invite them in for an interview?

And there should be sorrow for the older workers who never sued over a job but can’t get anybody to look at their résumés. Same reasoning from the personnel department: We better not hire this 54-year-old. What if she doesn’t work out?

An article in the New York Times last summer headlined “New Evidence of Age Bias in Hiring, and a Push to Fight It” informs us that people find it hard to land a job after they turn 50, or even 40. “Workers over 50 — about 54 million Americans — are now facing much more precarious financial circumstances, a legacy of the recession,” the article pleads.

In both of these accounts, there’s an undercurrent of “There ought to be a law!” Or else, “These anti-discrimination laws have to be made a lot tougher.”

But do such laws help?

Consider the parallel matter of forbidding discrimination against job applicants who are disabled. The following note appeared at Overlawyered.com, a site that has done much over the years to highlight legislation that backfires on the intended beneficiaries:

“The Americans with Disabilities Act was supposed to improve the employment outlook for disabled persons, but instead their participation in the labor force has plunged steeply since the act’s passage compared with that of the able-bodied.”

That was published a long while ago, but I’d bet it’s just as true today. Give members of some protected class an avenue for litigation and employers will avoid them. This may explain the difficulties confronted by unemployed 50-year-olds.

The problem with age discrimination laws is that they bump up against reality. Baseball players peak at 24, programmers at 40, airline pilots at 58. Which means that workers still clinging to jobs in their 60s and 70s are overpaid.

And so every retirement is a potential conflict. The 60-year-olds sitting on well-deserved raises earned in their 40s are now uneconomic. How to get rid of them?

One strategy is to hire a bunch of 25-year-olds and then, at the first hint of declining revenues, undertake a mass firing. Two of the youngsters are let go for every overpaid oldster, so the oldsters have a weak case. But this is not a good system for either the young or the old victims.

A friend of mine, a partner at a management consulting firm, was sent packing at 60. No legal case here, for this was foreordained in the partnership agreement. Nor is this fellow likely to appear in a Times story about the destitute.

But surely the consulting firm has not found an economically optimal arrangement. Why aren’t there mechanisms to let workers wind down between 60 and 70? An awful lot of skill and wisdom is going to waste.

The ambitious laws forbidding discrimination against the aged and the disabled are part of a larger phenomenon, which is the effort to improve the lot of workers by edict. The same AARP publication that talks about ageism highlights a Nevada law requiring large employers to offer paid leave that can be used for caregiving. Sounds nice.

No economist would agree with that. But you will get a buy-in from many a politician, and from any senior-citizen lobby whose value depends on the displacement of free markets by statute books.

I have a two-part plan to help older workers.

The first part is a cultural change that would take a long time. It should be customary for every salary to be automatically reduced 3% a year beginning when a worker turns 55. An employer who needed to hang onto an older worker would be free to counteract the decrease with a merit raise, but such raises would be neither common nor expected.

The second could be implemented tomorrow. Repeal age discrimination laws.



Pig Escapes from Auction, Is Now a 'Sassy' Pet Who Loves Carbs

Hilary Hanson

After escaping a livestock auction house and likely a grisly fate, a New York state pig is adjusting well to his new luxurious lifestyle.

“He likes what he likes,” Delaware Valley Humane Society Director Erin Insinga told HuffPost about Myles, the young pig discovered roaming the streets of Unadilla, New York, near a livestock auction house last month.

These days, Myles’ likes include going for walks (he has a harness), eating yogurt and expressing disdain for most vegetables.

“He’s very sassy,” Insinga said, adding that he’s apt to throw a “fit” when he can’t have exactly what he wants. 

“He likes mushroom pizza,” she told local news station WBNG. “He loves crackers. Anything with carbs, he loves.”

Not long ago, Myles didn’t have it so cushy. Insinga had heard from a friend in mid-December that a pig was on the sidewalk not far from her house, which is located near a livestock auction house.

“The conditions were really, really cold and it was wet, and it was pitch black out,” Insinga said, but she still headed outside to investigate. She was unable to catch the bewildered animal that night, but felt a connection between her and the wily pig.

“This pig just speaks to me,” she remembered thinking. “I have to help him.”

Five days later and with the help of community volunteers, Myles was captured and brought to the animal shelter. The auction house requested payment for the pig, which turned out to be just $10. Insinga paid the fee, noting that she “didn’t want to get myself or the shelter or the volunteers in trouble.”

It’s unclear exactly how Myles escaped, but Insinga said the tag that was in his ear made it clear that he was headed for auction and, very likely, to eventually be slaughtered for meat ― since that’s the reason people would typically be purchasing a pig of his breed.

But now that’s off the table, and Myles is getting accustomed to living the high life.

“He’s thrived with us,” said Insinga. “Every day he became more and more receptive to love and affection from us, and training,” adding that the now-60-pound pig has learned to sit, turn and walk between his trainer’s legs.

Since Myles, who is estimated to be about 5 months old, will eventually get up to 800 pounds, it was important for the shelter to find an adopter who can accommodate his needs as he grows. This week the shelter, which usually only handles cats and dogs, announced it had found Myles a home and that he’ll be headed there soon. 

“A wonderful woman in Vermont who has a very small farm just for fun wanted to add a pig, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity,” Insinga said.

She hopes Myles’ story will help people be “more conscious” about their dietary choices and that his personality and his story will encourage others to look at animals “as something other than something that needs to be consumed.”