High season, low season, peak season – these terms often appear not only on our blog. Why are we writing about it? Because this “season” often turns out to be quite important when it comes to planning trips, and thus has a significant impact on our memories.
Is it better to go in the so-called. “Low season” relish lower prices, empty tourist attractions, but also fear for the weather? Or is it better to choose “high season” and, as it were, buy ourselves good weather and ensure that everything is waiting for us with open arms?
We are still in the convenient situation that we can fly on vacation almost whenever we want, and the only limitation is work commitments. We don’t have pre-determined months when to take time off, and our little one isn’t in school yet, so we might as well go in October or November as we do in August.
What determines when we fly? A lot of factors, but very often there is simply an OPPORTUNITY for a certain direction that is on our “to do” (or rather “to visit”?) list.
Because who won’t take advantage of the opportunity? However, this does not mean that we take everything cheap :) Well, that’s right, because before we enter our passport numbers in the booking system, we check whether it makes sense to go to the area at all at a given time of year. It may happen that we just happen to hit the rainy season or the highest season, during which prices will be so high that we can at most afford a place at a campground.
In this post, we will compare several of our European trips and point out the pros and cons of each solution. Of course, there are many other factors that affect how we remember our trip, but this time we will focus only on the “seasonality of places.”
We are taking 3 comparable European destinations, already described by us, under the magnifying glass:
- Sicily – low season (January/February)
- Portugal – medium season (April/May)
- Malta – high/peak season (August)
We spent at least a week in each of these destinations and organized everything on our own (flights/nights/transportation on site). Below we will describe the pros and cons of each trip with emphasis on the period we were in.
Table of contents
+ Lower accommodation prices (prices in restaurants, tourist attractions are at a constant level all year round) and a large selection of hotels and apartments, although some of them are simply closed for the period.
+ It was also cheap to fly by plane. During the low season, unless there are other holidays or events more often, it is also possible to hunt down good price bargains.
+ Good, decent weather. Ok, it was a bit chilly, but at least there is no heat. On average, we had 15 deg C when we had negative temperatures in Poland. This is weather as favorable as possible for sightseeing. We can’t imagine visiting the Temples of Agrigento at higher temperatures.
+ There are no mosquitoes – we were warned very much about that. We have not recorded any.
+ No queues – we enter everywhere at once, we do not wait in line for tickets or a free table in a restaurant. Even in places where there are additional controls, there were no queues.
+ Void – attractions shine with emptiness! There will be a parking space everywhere, but most importantly: we can fully focus on the places we are going to – read the information plates, learn the history, learn something new, and by the way, taking a photo without a crowd of tourists in the background is finally possible!
– Closed restaurants – already leaving aside the opening hours, we did not eat real Italian pizza for 4 days! Pizzerias open after 7pm, or are closed altogether for the holidays.
– We will not experience swimming in the sea or sunbathing. Despite even 20 degrees C, the water is icy, the beaches deserted and neglected.
– Some attractions are partially closed (e.g. part in the Archaeological Park in Syracuse), and prices are fixed throughout the year.
– It’s hard to get any information or advice – during the period we were in Sicily, even the tourist information was closed.
– Late sunrise and early sunset and cold evenings/nights. When we were in Sicily it was dark around 6-7 pm, so there was a little less time to explore the country in full sun. If someone likes nightlife, he won’t be satisfied either, because this life is somehow so quiet and peaceful.
– Apartments and houses in the region are often not adapted to lower temperatures, especially the older buildings. In the house where we lived, the heating had to go on all the time, which again affected the terribly dry air.
See all posts about Sicily >>>
+ The biggest plus is the sensational weather for walking, sightseeing, hiking. It’s still too cold for water bathing, but it’s warm enough that you can safely wear short shorts or a summer dress. However, it is a good idea to have some sort of warm sweatshirt or fleece on hand, as some places may be colder or windier.
+ Slightly lower accommodation prices. It’s a bit cheaper, but without the frenzy. Nonetheless, the savings on the plus side.
+ A sizable selection of hotels and cars – they are not yet occupied, so you can easily, even overnight, find accommodation.
+ Lack of crowds of tourists – it may not be as empty as in Sicily and there may be queues or entire guided tours appearing where not where, but it is in no way a nuisance. The biggest queue we had was in Belem, so queues will go on the list of downsides, but on the plus side, the popular places are not yet crowded. For example, the Algarve‘s most famous beaches: you can easily find a spot on the beach to spread out.
– Unprepared hotels and cities – especially in the Algarve. It is apparent that they are only slowly waking up from their winter slumber and getting ready for spring. Restaurants are reheating frozen food, hotels are painting walls and dusting pools.
– The water is still cold, but not so icy anymore – there were even a few daredevils ready to enter the water.
– Queues – although not yet the highest season, there were already a lot of people and there were long lines to several places (especially on weekends).
See all posts about Portugal >>>
+ All attractions and restaurants are open – it does not mean that there will be a place for us, but at least we are sure that we will eat something somewhere, not kiss the handle (another issue how much we will have to wait ;) )
+ Festivals – when crowds of tourists are drawn to the island, we can count on additional attractions, such as the Malta International Fireworks Festival.
+ Good, fresh food, especially fish dishes.
+ Guaranteed Weather. The high season practically guarantees us this everywhere, and in Malta it is 100% :)
– Wild crowds of tourists – everywhere, but everywhere crowded and cramped: on the streets, on transportation, in restaurants, on the ferry, on Azure Window.
– High prices and lack of space in hotels. We spent the night in a hotel that was affordable, but very expensive – unfortunately, the choice of free rooms was very limited (when we arrived it turned out that there were no more vacancies, so it was a good thing that we had a reservation).
– Lack of seats in restaurants, buses, which means that more time will be spent moving around or waiting for a free table.
– The heat is unbearable – we like it to be warm and the sun to shine, but unfortunately in August it was too hot for both sightseeing and bulling on the beach.
– Finding a place on the beach borders on a miracle, especially since Malta itself does not boast a large number of sandy beaches ;)
See also our post about Malta with practical tips >>>
If we had to choose any of the above dates and examples, it would definitely be Portugal, which is the middle season. Favorable weather, not too crowded, and on top of that the prices are a bit lower.
Comparing the aspects of weather and the number of tourists alone, it is Portugal that we remember best, although Sicily was also attractive, because there we were already in several top places ourselves. In Sicily, however, we suffered greatly from the lack of open restaurants. Malta, on the other hand, was simply too crowded and expensive.
Our advice? If only you can afford time, then try to go in a different period than the peak season – you will save not only money, but also time and nerves, because, after all, this is what you go on vacation for, to relax, rest, and not to complain how it is again necessary to wait in line and drive like a sardine :)
We also recommend our text about the pros and cons of traveling with a baby in the off-season:)