I'm always asked when is the best time to travel to a particular destination and there's no one answer.
It depends on what is important to you. Are you looking for the best weather or the best price? Do you want to see the whales in Hawaii or the nesting sea turtles in Costa Rica? This is important information when you're planning your hard earned vacation.
High season is inevitably when the greatest number of people want to travel to a destination and low season when the least number of people want to go. It seems obvious you're going to pay more during high season and less in low season, you know, supply and demand. When hotels and airlines know that demand is high they can charge a premium. They know they'll fill their rooms and seats so that is the time to maximize their profits. During low season they offer discounts so rooms and seats don't sit empty.
There is another option here. Shoulder season has become more popular as high season prices have risen. Shoulder season is typically just before and after the crowds surge to a destination. To avoid the least attractive aspects of low season travel and the high season prices, shoulder season is a good alternative.
For years, the fall was a bargain in Europe. The summer crowd and the searing heat were gone and the cooler weather and shorter lines could be expected. That's changed a little over the years and fall isn't the bargain it used to be but for my money it's the best time of the year to go.
There are exceptions, Octoberfest in Germany will cost as much as high season, maybe more. Easter in Italy might be a little chilly but it's prime season in Rome and St. Patrick's Day in Ireland might have limited availability so my tip here is to book early. If there are low rates they'll be booked first.
If you're feeling the sting of Spring Break prices get a jump on it next year and book as soon as the fall semester starts. Most people begin booking spring break after the winter holidays but you'll find the best prices booked in October and November for spring travel.
Sure, pricing and the weather aren't the only things to consider in planning your vacation. Sometimes it just comes down to when you can go so talk to your travel agent to find the best options for you based on whats important to you.
Cruise lines offer beverage plans for convenience and they are convenient. Are they right for you? Is it a good value? Depends. I love the idea that everything is included and I know what I'm going to spend for drinks before my ship leaves the pier. But you should estimate how many drinks you'll have per day to know if it's right for you. The price of a drink, a beer or a glass of wine can change based on the ship, the cruise line and the brand you drink. Consider each in the $8 to $10 range just for an estimate.
Beverage plans are priced based on a daily rate so if the daily rate is $42 per person (and this varies too based on what you drink) and you plan on having a couple of glasses of wine a night, it might not be the best value for you. And the price is based on the length of your cruise, so you can't purchase a 5 day plan for a 7 day cruise. You're all in. If you plan on a couple of umbrella drinks while sitting at the pool, a cocktail while you're in the casino and wine with dinner, it may be right for you.
There are beverage plans for soft drinks and juices, which could be great idea if you're traveling with children, beer and wine plans, and Premium Drink plans. You can purchase these prior to sailing or when you board.
I have been in the travel industry for over 25 years, as a flight attendant, travel agent and travel writer. I think all travelers should have the kind of inside information that professional travelers have. The business has changed over the years and those on the front lines deserve a lot of credit. And what they know can help all of us get more out of our travel experience.