When we were researching our last trip to Panama for Memorial Day Weekend, we quickly discovered that we were looking to go there at the beginning of their “low-season.” Hey, no problem, we thought after double checking our handy Lonely Planet guide that told us that May was still a good time to go.
While we certainly had a fantastic vacation, it is safe to say that Bocas del Toro was not in full swing while we were there. Hotels seemed more vacant than not, the best restaurants were only about a quarter full, and the streets in general felt pretty empty. But on the plus side, our hotel was super cheap and we didn’t have to make dinner reservations or wait for good tables. All in all it was a pretty good deal for us, but the overall ambience was certainly subdued.
Since we had a similar “sleepy” experience traveling around Bali and Vietnam in May last year as well, our Panama trip really got me thinking about low and off-season travel: Is it really worth it? What are its pros and cons?
High season usually means the following: the best weather, the most people, the highest prices. So if that’s what you’re looking for, there’s no need for you to read any further. But if fighting the crowds and paying premiums on everything doesn’t appeal to you, consider the following before booking a honeymoon during low-season:
1) Will the things you want to do and see even be open during low-season? Many attractions are closed for maintenance during off-months, so make sure you check out any dealbreakers in advance.
2) How disappointed will you be if the weather is less than ideal? If you’re going somewhere that is heavily good-weather-dependent (e.g. a remote tropical island where there’s nothing to do besides lay out on the beach), you may not want to risk going there during off-season.
3) How much daylight will you need? Depending on the location and the time of year, your daylight hours could be very limited.
4) How much nightlife do you want? Even if your trip isn’t daylight-dependent, nightlife can be practically nonexistent during the off-season in major party destinations like Ibiza, Punta del Este, and Ios.
5) Can you even get to your destination during off-season? Before you get your heart set on a particular destination, make sure that flights, trains, or ferries can still get you there.
6) How much do you want to be around other people? Sure, every couple wants plently of privacy during their honeymoon, but there’s a difference between intentional and non-intentional alone time. If the thought of eating in empty restaurants and being the only people at a resort bums you out, you may want to reconsider your plans.
7) How important is good service to you? Off-season service can be unpredictable, ranging from understaffed and neglectful resorts to desperate tour companies that hound you every time you leave your hotel. However, you can totally luck out during low-season with excellent service because people may have more time to dedicate to you.
Travelers can have excellent or poor experiences regardless of high or low-season, so all in all, it’s sort of a crap-shoot. Read up on your intended destination well ahead of time, book your trips wisely, and just hope for the best!