Since I arrived in Prague on September 13, I have managed to visit four other countries. This experience has been fantastic but has also left me slightly disappointed. While researching in preparation for my semester abroad, I read a lot about how awesome it is to travel off-season. Some of these reasons include cheaper transportation and accommodations, discounts for major tourist attractions and smaller queues and crowds. While I do agree with all of these things and enjoy them very much, I have noticed a few cons of the off-season travel trend.
The first weekend of November, I found myself in Vienna, Austria. This city is amazingly gorgeous with fantastic architecture, many museums and three palaces which will blow your mind—but the amount of construction and renovations really put me off. It clearly makes sense to do these necessary alterations during the Fall and Winter when the amount of tourists is greatly reduced, but it is a lot less enjoyable to see the main tourist attractions filled with scaffolding and signage.
The St. Stephen’s Cathedral was almost impossible to take a photo of without getting the scaffolding in the picture. A major part of Stadtpark was also closed and gated off from the public and Schönbrunn Palace had its colorful flowers and plants removed from the gardens in preparation for the cold weather.
The following weekend I headed to Cinque Terre, Italy. The closures here were a lot more understandable due to its tropical climate and coastal location, but were still unfortunate. Due to the flood in this area a year ago the coastal walk was still closed. A landslide occurred in late September closing off the Via dell’Amore between Monarola and Riomaggiore so we were unable to walk there either. The mountain trek hikes and the ferry services between the towns had been closed for the season as well so we were only able to train hop between the villages as opposed to the big hikes we anticipated.
Pros of Shoulder Season Travel
• More availability in accommodations/transportation, which means more options and the ability to book last minute
• Cheaper transportation and accommodation
• Less crowded
• Shorter queues
• Better feel for local culture due to less tourists
Cons of Shoulder Season Travel
• Poor weather
• Shorter days with early darkness
Advice for Shoulder Season Travel
• Choose destinations that are not weather dependent
• Research the area you want to visit and contact the attractions to see if they are open/not currently being renovated
• Get up early to make the most out of your day