In the US we recognize four seasons, but in the travel world, we recognize three. Those seasons are peak season, shoulder season, and off-season. Of course it varies from country to country based on location, holidays, and weather, but for the most part three. Peak season and sometimes the shoulder season are the most popular seasons for people to travel. These seasons are known for having the best weather, cool festivals and attractions, and majority of the travelers.
But what about off-season?
The off-season is usually when the temperature is much cooler or in some countries, rainy or hurricane season. At times I even consider when the weather is unbearably scorching hot as off-season because the temperature and humidity are at its highest and it’s hard to function. You won’t find many tourists during this time. The off-season is the time when most choose to stay away. Little do they know; they are missing out on some excellent deals and experiences.
Barcelona Located on the coast of Spain, Barcelona received the bulk of their visitors during the peak season which is from May to August. Between the beaches, yachts and party scene, who could resist? The shoulder and off seasons vary from year to year. This year the shoulder season was September to October. The off-season started in November with fall going into the winter months that can last through April.
November, coming down from summer, has temperatures settling in the 60s and 70s during the day and sometimes as low as 40 at night. Clearly, I had to trade in the swimsuit for a jacket for this trip. Though the beach was still open (I don’t know who would want to get in the water though) this was definitely a trip for exploring city life and seeing more of what Barcelona has to offer!
Here I list a couple of Pros and Cons with Off-Season travel based on my time in Barcelona.
PRO: Fewer Tourists During the off season, you’ll see fewer tourists. Less tourist is a plus for me because it’s easier to get around without the headache of crowds and long wait times. Who honestly likes to wait in lines? When it’s advised to purchase your tickets in advance, then you know the wait times are ridiculous! Though during the off season you still have the ability to purchase advance tickets, the luxury of it all is its an option. You don’t have to. During peak season it’s so crowded that you are bound to wait for hours without advanced tickets! Who wants to vacation on a strict schedule? That makes me feel like I’m being rushed and missing the moments. My time is focused on time and rushing not to be late instead of capturing the moment and basking in the beauty of what is.
CON: Business Hour Changes The downside to fewer tourists is the change in hours of operation. Not many people are there to visit the attractions and museums, so the time's changed. Some either open later or closer earlier. And sometimes, some attractions close altogether due to climate changes. For example, La Sagrada closes at 6 pm during off-season whereas it’s open as late as 8pm during the peak season. Just like the Majic Fountain show runs less frequently during the off-season and not at all in the winter.
TIP: Research ahead of time. Have an idea of what you would want to do and when it’s available. It makes it easy for one to plan and got about their day.
PRO: Cheaper Off season means more deals! Not many tourists are heading that way so many are willing to cut a deal to get some visitors. It’s easy to find cheap flights and accommodations. Even some of the attractions provide discounts. During the peak season, prices skyrocket. If you didn’t purchase your tickets in advance, then you might miss out.
CON: Weather Off season can have some unpredictable weather. It can be a bit risky if you don’t research in advance the time you are looking to go. At times, that doesn’t even help because the weather can change in a second! For example, when I looked at the forecast for my trip it had no signs of precipitation. I, unfortunately, got hit with some rain and a cold front. Luckily, I thought to bring a hat, and I had a sweater outfit just in case.
Tip: Use social media to get an idea of what people are wearing that moment. I used Instagram’s '#Barcelona' search to find local's post to get a sense of their dress and the weather. From there I knew my leather jacket would work and picked up some local fashion tips along the way to blend!
And another thing...
Did I mention interacting with the locals as a plus? It seems with fewer people in town and most residents returning from their vacations; you tend to run into them more often. They were very helpful and inviting and wanted to interact. I got to hang out a few times with people I've met. (But then again.. I'm ALWAYS meeting people.)
Willing to take a chance or have traveled off season? Share some of your experiences below.
Want more Barcelona? Next post I will share my Off Season Itinerary along with my Lesson Learned and what I missed.