If standing in line for hours to see a popular tourist sight doesn’t appeal, there’s another way of doing it. Take an off-peak holiday. This can be just as much fun – and your money is likely to go a whole lot further.
“Anyone who’s been to Cape Town around Christmas time will know that if you haven’t booked a Robben Island Ferry ticket in advance or reserved a time for the Table Mountain cableway, you’re unlikely to get to visit the place, or will stand in long lines in the hot sun,” says Avukile Mabombo, the Group Marketing Manager for Protea Hotels by Marriott and African Pride Hotels. “It’s not because this is the best time to holiday in Cape Town – it’s when schools and offices are closed, so it’s the most convenient time for families to travel.”
Mabombo advises those not bound by these holiday periods, such as retired people and those without children, to consider visiting their bucket-list destinations out of peak season. “If you want to enjoy the summer but avoid the crowds, consider visiting Cape Town (or any place in South Africa for that matter) after mid-January when the holiday-makers have largely left to go back to their daily routines. Although there may still be some tourists around, it’ll be nothing like two weeks earlier when you can barely move on the beach and when it’s difficult to get a table at your favourite restaurant.”
A big advantage of travelling out of the busiest season is that prices can be significantly lower. Because demand is down, hotel room prices may be more affordable. For example, a room at a good hotel near the Cape Town city centre is about 25% less per night in the last week of January than in the week between Christmas and New Year. During June – a full off-season period – the price can drop by up to 45%.”
“This shows clearly the savings that are possible if you select dates to travel when the demand is lower,” Mabombo says. “The cost of flights and other transport also goes down when demand drops, and many restaurants offer special deals during the off-season.”
The savings by travelling off-season can let you see and do a whole lot more. “Treat yourself to a meal at a top restaurant that you wouldn’t usually be able to afford,” Mabombo suggests, “or buy tickets for prime seats at the theatre.”
If you’re not a beach-goer, you can benefit hugely from travelling during the Spring or Autumn months. “April and September can be great from a weather perspective,” Mabombo explains, “with pleasantly cool temperatures and little wind. And you’ll still get the benefits of better prices and no crowds if you choose dates outside the school holiday period.”
And for those who use loyalty points to cover their travel costs, such as Marriott Rewards, the less popular times mean that there’s more choice of flights and hotel rooms.
“Whether it’s Pretoria, Port Elizabeth or Pofadder that tickles your fancy, you can get a whole lot more if you travel when the holiday crowds aren’t around,” Mabombo advises.