It's summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means peak travel as calendars are scheduled and vacation days are taken. More people traveling means more crowded beaches, longer lines for the top restaurants and an overall heavier price tag.
If you’re willing to look beyond destinations where our summer is also their peak season, you will find some great gems—places where the Northern Hemisphere's summer is actually the off season. Book those destinations, and you can really save money, have more authentic experiences and the chance for a deeper cultural immersion. Start with this short list of a few of our favorite off-season destinations to try out this summer.
Sure, you might run into the Caribbean’s hurricane season, but what’s more likely is that you’ll have warm breezes, a bit of afternoon rain and staggeringly lower hotel and resort prices. If you aren't faced with a hurricane, you can lounge on the beach, snorkel and climb the Pitons if you're feeling adventurous. But there is that threat of hurricanes, so this is one of those trips where travel insurance really is worth it.
New Orleans, Louisiana
After the winter Mardi Gras revelers and the spring-festival crowds leaves, New Orleans is still a blossoming city full of culture and mystery. During June, July and August the thermometer in New Orleans regularly hovers in the (humid) 90s. Hotel prices drop dramatically, flights generally get more affordable, the cold drinks (especially the daiquiris) taste even better and the city feels much more like a locals' town. That's not to say that there's nothing going on; it's just that you'll find those happenings packed with locals who are accustomed to the humidity and high temps.
New Zealand is gorgeous year-round, and there’s nothing tricky about organizing a visit during the island’s winter season (during North America's summer season). While airfare won’t vary much by time of year, travelers will find that hotel and accommodation costs drop significantly. Expect to pay almost a third less at many hostels and hotels for stays during June and July versus an October or November trip. Skiers rejoice as the slopes are not crowded. Not into riding a board or skis? Book a train ride through the New Zealand Alps—with snow on the peaks.
Okavango Delta, Botswana
If you can book into the Okavango Delta from April to mid-June, you'll get low-season prices with prime views. The Delta is one of the only completely inland deltas on Earth. That means that around September—the peak of the high-season in Botswana—big game like herds of elephants, hippos and flock to the delta in search of water when the rest of the land-locked surroundings start to dry up. From April to mid-June, though, the delta is still flooded and many of the resorts and luxury camps offer delta boating experiences. While an April or May visit will be relatively more cost effective than other times, Botswana has generally kept costs high year-round as a means of nature conservation.
With average high temps around 100 degrees in June and July, Tucson is another insanely hot destination for summer-time travel, but the art scene is worth it. During the day, duck in to the Tucson Museum of Arts for the newest exhibit, and then when the evening cools down take to the streets for urban art events. If you still crave the outdoors, try an evening tram ride through Sabino Canyon or a visit to events at Kitt Peak National Observatory, but take lots of water and get up early to beat the heat. We're not kidding: Skip the snooze button and the brunch and instead go make the most of your morning.
The “land of lakes and volcanoes” sits snug between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean just north of the touristy, tropical paradise that’s Costa Rico. Nicaragua has enjoyed a recent spike in tourism as a prime destination for surfing due to its location between two bodies of water, its 19 volcanoes and Nicaragua Lake—the second-largest lake in South America. As a result, prices have been slowly climbing. The off season for Nicaragua is all summer, but that's also when the rains come, so trails can be a muddy mess and you could hear of landslides. On the positive side, the rains mean average high temperatures decrease some, and the Pacific side of Nicaragua usually delivers some of its best surf conditions during this time.
If you know Goa as the beach party capital of India, get another view of this region by coming during the monsoon season of May through September, and yes, we actually recommended the monsoon season. Prices drop for the upscale Western-tourist-focused hotels and temperatures cool down once the rains come, and you're more likely to spend your time in the country since this isn't party season. Instead of beach revelery, check out “Sao Joao,” the feast of John the Baptist. This multi-day festival is held annually at the end of June, and it includes bright clothing, boating displays and general merriment.
Known as one of the best East coast skiing destinations during the winter, Stowe shines in the summer as well. Located amid Vermont's Green Mountains, Stowe offers summer outdoor recreation options (think gondola rides, canopy tours and spectacular hiking) that equal the area's legendary winter offerings. Travelers who head here in the summer can expect to not only pay less for airfare but will shell out almost three times less for stays at hotels and resorts—despite the fact that the destination is luxurious all year round.
Dubai is ridiculously hot during its summer with the mercury having reached up to 126 degrees Fahrenheit. That being said, sales on accommodations and goods will also be hot. In a city known for urban opulence, going in the off season can mean quite a lot in terms of savings. While it's the off season, the city has a number of festivals and childrens activities during this time of the year to keep young travelers entertained and safe from the heat. One tip: The holy month of Ramadan can mean wide swings in hotel prices and airfare costs, so plan your trip before or after this important religious event to avoid potentially high prices. The dates of Ramadan change each year; the holy month is based on the lunar calendar.
On the forefront of a rebuild after the 1980s drug wars, Columbia is one of our top picks for travel, and during December through March, the town can be quite busy with foreign travelers. That's why we recommend Cartagena. The dollar is strong against the Colombian Peso and summer means a perfect time for all the ceviche, expertly poured coffee and other delicious dishes for which Colombia is famous. Browse Cartagena's Old City historic charm and take a trip to the beach. Prices remain generally lower during peak summer thanks to a rainy season, however, tourism (and prices) do pick back up some from mid-June through July during a month-long dry spell which occurs amid the otherwise wet season.