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Count the Benefits of Off-Season Travel

You can skip the peak-season crowds and prices

spinner image people standing on a snowy outcropping above the grand canyon in arizona
You can avoid the crowds at Grand Canyon National Park by visiting November through March.
Peter Adams/Getty Images

Thinking about a destination vacation? Consider these hot spots, where you can save big when crowds are small.

spinner image houses on the water in kennebunkport maine
You can take advantage of discounts when visiting Kennebunkport, Maine, from November through May.
Bob Dennis

Kennebunkport, Maine

Peak season: June through October
Instead go: November through May
What you gain: Easy access to the best hotels and restaurants, along with discounts in a charming village. You can walk on quiet beaches and hike on miles of trails. Also, there’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and sleigh riding after it snows.
What you give up: Blissful temperatures in the 70s, good for going barefoot and dining outdoors. Some stores and restaurants may be shuttered from January to March.

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Kennebunkport Inn

66 percent less
July: $467
November: $159

spinner image people on the beach in saint thomas in the virgin islands
There’s a slower pace and less competition for restaurants if traveling to St. Thomas from June through November.
Mauritius Images/Alamy

St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands

Peak season: December through mid-April
Instead go: June through November
What you gain: A slower pace and less competition for restaurants, shops, boat tours, snorkeling equipment and other amenities. You’ll also enjoy a temperate climate: While much of the U.S. mainland bakes during the summer, Caribbean temperatures average in the 80s.
What you give up: The near certainty of sunny skies. The chance of rain increases in May and grows further during peak hurricane season in September and October — which is a good reason to consider buying travel insurance.

The Pink Palm Hotel

51 percent less
January: $489
October: $239

spinner image the national gallery of art on the national mall in washington d c
Traveling during the off-season provides quicker access to museums, such as the National Gallery of Art, along the National Mall.
diegograndi/Getty Images

Washington, D.C.

Peak seasons: March through June and September/October
Instead go: January/February or August
What you gain: Quicker access to museums and restaurants around the National Mall. You’ll have more elbow room and an easier time getting on tours at the Smithsonian Institution’s many free museums, such as the National Museum of American History.
What you give up: Comfortable weather and springtime cherry blossoms. The nation’s capital can be cold and gray in winter and hot and humid in summer.

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Holland America Line

Up to $200 onboard credit on select cruises

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Washington Hilton

37 percent less
April: $264
August: $167

spinner image a woman sampling wine at a sonoma valley vineyard in california
There are fewer crowds at wineries, such as Deerfield Ranch Winery, when visiting off-season.
Melania Mahoney/Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Valley, California

Peak season: June through October
Instead go: November through April
What you gain: Fewer crowds at vineyards and restaurants and cooler temperatures for bike tours and walks. Through the cooler months, festivals and special events continue, such as Sonoma County Restaurant Week in February and the Sonoma International Film Festival in March.
What you give up: Brilliant fall colors. You’ll also miss festivals and special events surrounding the grape harvest, including the chance to stomp some grapes yourself.

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa

40 percent less
September: $846
January: $510

spinner image a snow covered tree and ledge above the grand canyon in winter
Grand Canyon in the off-season offers stunning views of the snow-covered canyon.
SunDevilStormin/Getty Images

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Peak season: June through September
Instead go: November through March
What you gain: The possibility of stunning views of the snow-covered canyon. More spontaneity — rooms don’t have to be booked many months in advance.
What you give up: Warmth, and visits to the North Rim, which is closed to vehicle traffic from December through mid-May. Cold weather and snow may disrupt white-water rafting and canyon mule rides.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites

57 percent less
August: $333
January: $143

Note: Prices represent the low end of published rates for king beds per night and were collected in September and October.

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