“Where should I go next?” - that’s the leading-edge question that avid travelers are always asking themselves. Google plays a part here, as consumers first search online to find the latest-and-greatest travel adventures. But this is where travel advisors can really shine. Once you get to know your clients’ needs and wants, one of your most important roles is to offer up trips that they didn’t think of themselves.
Suggesting winter and off-peak travel is one way to approach this challenge. Americans, in particular, tend to travel mostly in the spring and summer. But there’s much to be said and experienced about journeying out during the winter months and off-peak season of October through May. Here are five great reasons to do so, to pass along to your clients.
1. Lower prices, more value
Who wouldn’t want to book flights and quality accommodations at lower prices? Traveling off-peak can be a boon to the pocketbook. It can even open up the ability for travelers to visit destinations that are beyond their budgets during peak season.
One trend that Kirsten Peterson, owner and senior travel consultant, at Peterson Travel Group, has been noticing: “I have seen more families wanting to travel to Europe during their winter or spring breaks, instead of the more typical summer vacation time. The weather is not as ideal for touring, but they have a lot of other off-peak benefits. And since it is less expensive, I’ve seen more families able to take advantage of this type of international travel.”
Eric Slatkin, a travel agent at AAA Travel Pasadena, said he is also seeing more river cruising during the off months. In general, he said traveling off-peak gives the possibility to add more and do more.
2. Fewer crowds, less hassle
In addition to lower fares, there are fewer crowds and less hassle when navigating popular tourism sites off-peak. Travelers can take their time and easily walk through museums, plazas and other attractions that are normally crowded to the max. They may even be able to get that special table that is typically booked months in advance. This all leads to memorable experiences that reflect back to you, their trusted travel agent.
3. More personalized service and perks
Off-peak travelers tend to receive more personal attention from hotels, restaurants, and other services. And sometimes, the perks are outstanding. Peterson gave this example: “I had clients traveling in Florence just this past spring, and the hotel offered them an upgrade to the entire top-floor, panoramic suite with private outdoor jacuzzi! The suite was not being occupied, so the upgrade was available, and my clients said the experience was truly once-in-a-lifetime! I’ve already received multiple referrals from them and have several new clients.”
Slatkin shared this: “I had a wonderful experience traveling during off season. I was on a river cruise during late October. It was half full with the same amount of staff, so service was amazing and the tour group size was not as large. Plus, we had the added advantage of being able to see more things, as it wasn't very crowded. We also met more locals and had many more cultural experiences.”
4. Bragging rights of taking the road less traveled
While sun-and-sand have their rightful place in the vacation hierarchy, once a traveler has been-there-done-that a few times, they may want to try something different. Paint enticing pictures for your clients that they will want to experience and brag about to their friends and family - like being mesmerized by the Northern Lights from a sled during an expedition led by the local Sami people in the Arctic Circle, or exploring the imperial grandeur of St. Petersburg’s history and architecture dusted with dazzling white snow. Instagram? You bet.
Wherever they decide to travel, Peterson said, “Hotels are very thankful to have business during their traditionally less-busy travel times, so they are more willing to offer your clients little extras. Seek out special tickets or other unique benefits you can provide to your clients, which are all easier to obtain during off-peak times. These special extras are what will help make their trip wonderful - and your clients will thank you with repeat business and lots of referrals.”
5. Beat the winter blues
One way to beat the winter blues is to escape to a warm climate. Another way is to embrace all the magic and wonder of the season: the blankets of snow, the tranquil and crisp feel of the air, the layers of favorite clothing and mittens, the outdoor adventure sports, and then returning to the warmth of a fire and a Hot Toddy.
What’s more, there are some amazing experiences that can only be done in winter, such as the Northern Lights, winter festivals in Asia, and Europe’s Christmas markets.
Winter destinations to book
Now that we’ve talked about why your clients should consider traveling in winter or off-peak, where should you send them?
Slatkin suggests traveling anywhere in Europe; and noted that going to “Hawaii and Mexico during winter months is great, still great weather, just less people and cost tends to be lower.”
Peterson said cities in Europe have been especially popular with her clients lately - the strength of the U.S. dollar has made travel to Europe more affordable for American travelers.
Here are 10 winter and off-peak destinations to consider:
- Lapland’s snow hotels and Northern Lights
- Christmas Markets in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Munich, Salzburg, or Berlin
- Norway’s Bergen and Stavanger fishing villages and Viking history
- Reykjavik’s frozen towns, glacier hikes, and geothermal baths
- Rail journeys through Switzerland’s majestic winter wonderland
- City tours of London, Paris, Vienna or Prague, sans the crowds
- Train travel to Scotland’s many castles and the Winter Garden
- Tour of St. Petersburg’s architectural and historical splendor in the snow
- Japan’s snow monkeys basking in the hot springs at Jigokudani National Park
- Italy’s nationwide winter celebration of Carnevale
Peterson offers one caveat in selling winter travel: “There are some destinations that truly shut down during off-peak travel dates, and your clients may have a difficult time finding things that are open. Be sure to do some research and make sure your clients know what to expect.”
Here’s the main takeaway: Any time is a good time to travel. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter, there are unique experiences at destinations all across this globe that will excite and delight your clients. Suggest something new for the next winter season; you never know what might spark their interest.
FROM THE SPONSOR:
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What we sell: Avanti Destinations is the leader for independent travel to Europe, Central America, South America, and Asia, offering a wide range of modular FIT packages, including air, rail, cars, hotels, sightseeing, transfers, and other experiential travel options. We also now accept group bookings of 15 or more passengers. We specialize in providing hand-picked, locally owned hotels in large and small cities, as well as hard-to-find-options for experienced travelers. Visit Avanti’s Agent Portal to begin booking your client’s vacation of a lifetime, and become an off-season travel expert with Avanti’s Go365 Campaign.