Taking Advantage of Shoulder Season

Many Benefits of Traveling Europe Off Peak

Sponsored by Viking Cruises

Do you love fighting crowds, waiting in long lines or paying peak prices? If you’re like most people, your answer is a resounding no.

How can you avoid these common travel irritations when journeying to Europe? By booking your Viking River Cruise on the majestic rivers of Europe during the shoulder or off seasons. Of course, we must confess even during peak times it’s worth every moment and if you book your excursions in advance you can skip a lot of the waiting.

What is a “shoulder” season?

If you have not heard of the “off” or “shoulder” seasons before, you may be wondering what these terms are referring to.

For most of Europe, summer is typically regarded as the peak or high season for traveling. It is when schools are on break and families are out vacationing in droves. Not surprisingly, this is also when the cost of flights and accommodations tend to be at their highest, and crowds are at their maddening worst.

Winter is typically considered the off season, while spring and fall are often labeled as the shoulder seasons. With families anchored down by their children’s school and activity schedules, tourism falls off in many areas.

To lure visitors, hotels and airlines will often drop their prices or offer extras that you might not find during the peak season. And with fewer people out traveling, you may encounter shorter lines or, in some instances, no lines at all for some popular attractions.

These seasonal designations, however, are not set in stone. There are, in fact, several exceptions. For example, in some parts of Italy, the months of September and October are considered part of their peak seasons. And winter is definitely the high season for ski resorts.

Perks of Being a Non-Peak Traveler?

If you don’t have little ones in school, break away from the notion that you need to travel during the summer months. You’ll be rewarded with great deals on flights, cruises and package deals especially during the period right after the kiddies go back to school. Although prices typically spike up right before Thanksgiving and Christmas, they usually fall back down once the holidays are over.

Other bonuses of traveling during the off and shoulder seasons can include:

Surprising Weather

In many destinations, fall and spring are actually two of the best seasons as far as weather goes. Madrid, for example, is typically sizzling during the summer, but during the shoulder season, the weather is quite pleasant.

And spring and fall are especially nice times to visit Italy’s stunning beach resorts. Then there is the springtime in the Netherlands when the tulips and other flowers burst out in colorful blooms.

Even the winter months in many European destinations, such as Malta and Cyprus, can be very pleasant.

Local Flavor

During the peak season, it can be difficult to get the real flavor of a destination. In some locations, tourists may outnumber the locals, especially in port cities after a cruise ship has disembarked passengers.

In addition, many Europeans, especially those who live in France and Italy, also tend to take their holiday breaks during the months of July and August. So you’ll have a better chance of witnessing the natural rhythms of a city and interacting with locals by visiting Europe during the off or shoulder seasons.

Better Photos

The off and shoulder seasons are also a better time to get photographs of many iconic attractions. You’ll have fewer tourists photo-bombing your shots, and you won’t have to play dueling selfie-sticks to get that special picture of yourself.


At the end of the peak season, many merchants comb through their remaining inventory and try to unload their excess goods, so you can often find great bargains on clothing and other souvenirs during the low seasons.

Iconic Scenes of Beauty

When you think of Switzerland or Norway, you probably envision gorgeous snowy landscapes, so why not travel to these destinations during the winter months:

  • Tivoli Gardens at Christmas. During the holidays, this amusement park is draped and frosted with beautiful white lights. Located in Copenhagen, Denmark, this is the second oldest amusement park in the world.
  • The Norwegian Fjords. Take a winter cruise through the glorious fjords, where, if you’re lucky, you might view the stunning Northern lights and possibly enjoy a dog sledding trip.

Unique Events

Although some stores and attractions cut their hours or close during the off and shoulder seasons, you’ll still find plenty to do, including some events that are unique to these seasons, such as:

  • Alba White Truffle Festival, Italy. This very popular festival, which occurs in October and November, has been held for more than 80 years.
  • Oktoberfest, Germany. The famous event is held in Munich during the month of October.
  • Kiruna Snow Festival, Sweden Held in January, this festival is the site of the international snow sculpting championships.