With lockdown restrictions easing here in the UK, we’re all watching with bated breath as the world slowly peels back open. The future of travel is still hazy, but one thing appears certain; moving around the world in 2021 and beyond will be different.
Researchers at NASA found that since February 2020, global nitrogen dioxide levels have lowered by almost 20%. The stats on how air pollution has improved due to the plummet of air travel throughout the pandemic indicates what many previously chose to turn a blind eye to; the travel industry is one of this planet’s biggest pollutants.
As last year unfolded, the planet began to heal in many places. We saw air quality improve in cities, water pollution reduced in seas, oceans, rivers and lakes, a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, ecological restoration and a positive response from wildlife to the absence of humanity. The forced halt on travel gave many of us time to reflect on our lifestyles and rethink the purpose for our holidays as well as our chosen modes of transport, accommodation choices and activities.
While many of us search for creative ways to reframe our holiday habits, travelling out of season is something well worth considering. There are several benefits: it’s a way to counter the impact of over tourism in destinations, lesser crowded areas are safer in terms of social distancing and Covid-19 precautionary measures, it allows you to enjoy locations in a more peaceful way and more often than not, it has financial perks too.
Overtourism is when too many people saturate a single destination. The results of this can negatively impact local communities, wildlife and nature, deplete resources reserved for native inhabitants, cause the degradation of historical monuments as well as the environment and lead to gentrification of certain areas. Several factors are to blame for overtourism, including budget airlines, the increase in popularity of private rental services such as Airbnb and of course, a growing population. In Porto, Portugal, you’ll find 183 tourists for every 100 locals – a statistic which is shocking but also not too rare. Some particularly fragile natural habitats such as the Galapagos Islands have imposed restrictions in order to provide some respite from a constant influx of tourists and Peru’s Inca trail allows a limited number of 200 trekking permits per day.
Choosing to travel out of season means visiting places at a time of year when they’re not typically popular destinations. Of course, if you have children who are in school it can be difficult to travel off-season due to school holidays, but you could counter this by exploring destinations which aren’t at peak season during the summer months.
Travelling to places at times of year that aren’t commercially popular means you’ll be able to enjoy surprising and unique experiences. Fewer crowds will allow for a more intimate and authentic exploration of cities that are usually filled with people, and you won’t have to queue as long to visit monuments either.
Typical ski destinations such as The Alps are just as beautiful in the spring months and there are plenty of activities to enjoy. Swap snowy peaks and apres-ski for fresh mountain air, Nordic walking, mild-weather hikes, outdoor yoga, spa breaks and picnics.
While most travellers opt to head to Fiji when the weather is cool and dry, travelling during the wet season in February also has its perks. The rain showers are usually fleeting, making way for plenty of sunshine and for scuba divers and snorkelers, less people in the waters means you’re likely to see more fish and vibrant coral reefs.
Santorini is one of Greece’s most popular destinations but meandering through the small streets of Fira or Oia in the peak summer months can be anything but relaxing and enjoyable when there are huge crowds to contend with. Try visiting in Spring when the weather is mild, hotels have reduced rates, you can enjoy unobstructed sunset views and it’s easier to get the perfect seafront restaurant booking.
Czech Republic’s high season is from June to August because that’s when the weather is at its warmest, but come late October, it’s just as breathtaking and autumn colours turn the trees all sorts of vibrant shades of yellow, orange and red. Views are perfect for practicing your photography skills, small villages tend to put on local music and art events, in main cities like Prague the tour groups tend to be much smaller, and it’s also mushroom season so there’s plenty of foraging to be enjoyed.
From March through to mid-May, Hanami (cherry blossom) season is the most common time to travel to Japan, followed by Koyo (red maple leaves) season. In winter, however, you’ll encounter the least tourists and a unique winter wonderland. Japan is infamously expensive, but prices drop considerably at this time of year and you’ll be able to visit Mount Fuji and other well-known landscapes under a blanket of snow.