The Sweet Spot

Travel is a one-way ticket to adventure, inspiration and delight, but it can also deliver unwanted surprises if you don’t do your research. Covering 11 popular destinations, this guide will help you find the ultimate time to travel.

For most people, travel plans demand some thought to help the journey run as smoothly as possible. Yet considerations such as peak and off-peak seasons, weather conditions, school holiday periods and cultural events don’t always occur to the uninformed traveller. That’s why we’ve pinpointed the best times to travel to some of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations. These sweet spots can deliver the best value for money, fewer crowds and other unexpected benefits for the luxury (or luxe-for-less) traveller.

 

BALI | FIJI | MALAYSIA | THAILAND | DUBAI | SOUTH AFRICA | JAPAN | ENGLAND | ITALY | MEXICO | USA

BALI

 

With an influx of design-focused resorts, cutting-edge restaurants and high-end shops, Bali is much more than just Bintangs and beach bars these days. Beloved by Australians year round, it has something to suit every type of traveller. 

Peak season

Hordes of school-aged children and their families descend on the major hubs of Kuta, Seminyak and Nusa Dua during the Australian school holidays, especially in the winter months of June and July. This is also the middle of Bali’s dry season so swapping the cold with Bali’s tropical climate is an easy sell. Expect additional flights from high-end airlines like Qantas and Virgin, extra staff in the kids clubs, and large groups of travellers. Beware, family rooms book out months in advance. 

Shoulder season

Easter usually falls towards the end of the rainy season, with passing showers but blue skies and sunshine for most of the day during April. Temperatures drop from around 27°C to an easy 22°C at night. This is a perfect time to visit the mountains and rice paddy fields of Ubud. Expect extra lush greenery and plenty of birdsong as the backdrop for your daily yoga.  

Low season

The wet season descends on Bali from October through to April. Like most tropical destinations, Bali sees its fair share of rain but often it’s a passing shower in the afternoon, which brings a respite from the higher humidity at this time of year. Better yet, you won’t have any trouble getting dinner reservations at Seminyak’s famous eateries. High-end hotels often offer spa discounts or even free upgrades to entice visitors, and flights drop to as little as $300 return on budget airlines.

Times to avoid 

If you want to ring in the New Year at iconic bar Potato Head surrounded by hundreds of complete strangers, book your flights now. Otherwise, the period between Christmas and New Year is not the time for you. Expect expensive flights, heaving crowds, big parties, high hotel prices and plenty of loud merrymaking.  

Sweet spot

By February and March the heavy downpours ease and the crowds dissipate. Locals return to their favourite Seminyak hotspots, surfers have the swell to themselves on the west coast and resorts are no longer overrun by children. You’ll find low season rates for flights at about $400 to $500 return and luxury hotels for around $200 a night, but still enough occupancy to bring a bit of atmosphere to the pool bar. 

Lisa Perkovic

 

FIJI

Tyler Rooke / Shutterstock.com

 

Fiji has a year-round mild climate, with temperatures rarely dropping below 20°C, so when looking for the destination’s sweet spot, it’s best to go when airfares are a little cheaper and chances of rain are low.

Peak season

Being a family friendly destination, Fiji’s peak seasons follow the Australian school holidays. Its busiest seasons are also the hottest (during the Christmas school holidays) and the coolest (as everyone escapes the winter months of July and August). Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) is the national carrier, and its specials are as unpredictable as those of the Australian carriers – all of which have regular flights to Fiji. That said, flights are always at their most expensive over the summer months, and over the Australian and New Zealand school holiday periods. The top surfing seasons coincide with these peak seasons too: the summer hot season has shorter swells and lighter winds while winter produces the biggest waves. 

Shoulder season

Fiji’s shoulder season is between the summer and winter peaks. As it tends to have a moderate mid-20s temperature without too much humidity, it is also the best time to visit climate-wise.

Low season

There isn’t really a low season in Fiji. Though the temperature varies from the low to high 20s, there are no extremes so it’s ideal as a beach holiday destination pretty much all year round. If you are specifically looking for good-value deals, look out for hotels that are undergoing major refurbishment. Often there are great deals around the time the upgraded accommodation is first made available. 

Times to avoid 

Fiji, being a Christian country, has no major festivals other than Christmas and Easter, which resort and hotel staff treat as just another working day – enjoying the festivities with guests.

The only period to avoid is late November, during ‘Schoolies Week’, when flocks of high school students head to Fiji’s island resorts for a couple of weeks of serious partying.

Don’t think you can avoid the rain by going in the cool ‘dryer’ months. Fiji’s rain comes in showers, which can be more prolonged in the wet months, but they’ll come anyway, whatever month it is. Unfortunately, they don’t confine themselves to any particular time of day either. Like the rest of Fiji, they run on Fiji time. But don’t worry, though you might go a whole week without rain in the winter, you’re unlikely to experience several consecutive days of rain – even in the summer.

Sweet spot

Fiji’s sweet spot is definitely the shoulder season between the summer and winter peaks, as it tends to have a moderate mid-20s temperature without too much humidity, and there are usually some great deals to be found.

Deborah Dickson-Smith

 

MALAYSIA 

 

Home to tropical rainforests, buzzing cities, tranquil beach resorts, delicious street food and some of the world’s best dive sites, Malaysia’s equatorial climate sees warm temperatures all year round. There are, however, distinct wet and dry seasons that you should consider when planning where and when to visit. 

Peak season

Daily averages range from 22°C to 32°C, while temperatures in hill resorts such as the Cameron Highlands are usually cooler, at around 21°C during the day and 10°C at night. Peak season coincides with several national holidays – Chinese New Year in January and the end of Ramadan celebrations (Hari Raya Puasa), which fall in June or July. During these times accommodation is at a premium with high season surcharges in place. On the east coast, school holidays in Europe and the Middle East mean visitor numbers are high in July and August, and it’s a good idea to book well in advance. 

Shoulder season

Wet and dry seasons should play a major part when deciding whether to focus your plans on the east or west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, or east Malaysia on the island of Borneo. Aim to visit outside of peak season and the monsoon months – from March to May, and September to October – to take advantage of quieter resorts and promotional hotel offers. At these times it’s usually possible to secure direct return flights with many carriers for around $400 to $500. Journey time from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur is just over eight hours. Flights to Kota Kinabalu usually cost a little less during the same period. 

Low season

The west coast and the islands of Penang, Langkawi and Pangkor experience less rainfall than their east coast counterparts, however the heaviest downpours occur in July and August. Jungle treks in east Malaysia are less popular in January and December as rainfall and rough waters limit wildlife-spotting opportunities. 

Times to avoid 

Peninsular Malaysia’s east coast experiences around 2500 to 3000 millimeters of rain per year, forcing many island resorts – Perhentian, Redang and Tioman – to close from November to February. During this time the sea is too rough for watersports throughout the region, and destinations on Borneo such as Kota Bharu and Kuantan can experience flooding. Singapore’s school holidays run from mid-May to the end of June, and again during November and December, meaning beach destinations are especially busy. If you’re looking for a couples holiday, try to avoid family resorts during this time.

Sweet spot

To enjoy the best of Malaysia, April and May are a great time to visit. Calm seas enable the snorkelling and diving season to get underway on the east coast, while the coral reefs and white sand beaches aren’t too busy just yet. On the west coast, Kuala Lumpur and the highlands are sunny with the odd shower, and in east Malaysia it’s the start of turtle season. Thankfully, airline prices remain relatively low outside of peak season. Direct return flights from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur can be found during April and May for around $300 to $400. This is also usually the cheapest time of year to fly from Australia to Kuching. 

Helen Alexander

 

THAILAND 

 

From its northern regions to the far south, the weather conditions in Thailand change considerably, moving from temperate to tropical. Even the beach holiday regions of the south have different rainy seasons, so it could be said to have several sweet spots.

Peak season

Thailand’s northern landlocked provinces have three seasons: hot (March to June), rainy (July to October) and cool (November to February), whereas the southern coastal provinces, being closer to the equator, have just two: rainy and dry. 

Fortunately, for those planning a beach holiday, Thailand’s two coasts have slightly different rainy seasons. On the Andaman coast, where Phuket, Krabi, and the Phi Phi Islands lie, the southwest monsoon brings heavy storms from April to October, while on the Gulf of Thailand, where Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, and Koh Tao sit, most rain falls between September and December.

So, the cooler months of December through to February, with less chance of rainfall, make this period Thailand’s peak season.

Shoulder season

The shoulder season is from March through to June as it gets progressively warmer but wetter. 

Low season

Low season is July through to October, due to the higher chance of rainfall, especially around the Andaman coast in the south. It can be quite rough on the water during this time and some tour operators and speedboats do not operate. Andaman coast hotels usually have promotions during this season, and some can be as low as half price. Bargain airfares abound, too. 

The coastal resorts within the Gulf of Thailand are less affected by the weather, as it usually rains in the evening, or even overnight, by way of a heavy thunderstorm which quickly passes and mercifully clears the air.

Times to avoid 

There are many festivals throughout the Thai calendar – but rarely do they cause much inconvenience to travellers. Quite the opposite:  most festivals are great fun and, as long as you join in, they can be a highlight of your visit.  (Check out all the Thai festivals here: thaifestivalblogs.com). 

For snorkelling or scuba diving in the Andaman Sea, the time to avoid is July through October as the water is very rough and currents can be strong. Some diving tour companies don’t even operate during these months and some national marine parks are closed to visitors. But note, this does not apply to scuba diving in the Gulf of Thailand.

Sweet spot

Thailand’s sweet spot is in the shoulder season, with the driest, but hottest month being April. This also happily coincides with the cheapest time of the year for flights. The cost of flights to Thailand does not vary a great deal throughout the year, however they are at their lowest between January and April. DDS

 

DUBAI

 

Dubai is blessed with glorious weather for eight months of the year and a surfeit of sensational hotels and attractions. Time your visit right and you can enjoy the famously extravagant emirate without breaking a sweat (or the bank).

Peak season

From December to March, the mercury averages a pleasant 26°C during the day, making it ideal for the beach, waterparks and desert safaris. The winter festival season is in full swing, with major events such as the Dubai World Cup horse race in March. The city is also a top New Year’s Eve destination thanks to its spectacular firework displays, although celebrations will set you back an average of $808 per person versus $335 in Sydney, according to Travelex. 

Shoulder season

If you’re looking for value, April and May or October and November are your best bets, as airlines and hotels drop their prices – although keep an eye out for annual conferences, such as the Arabian Travel Market in April, which causes room rates to spike. Weather-wise, you can expect sunny days in the low to high 30s.

Low season

From June to September, Dubai is a popular stopover for Australian travellers en route to Europe for summer. But with temperatures averaging 43°C with 95 per cent humidity, many locals and expats head for cooler climes. As the mercury rises, hotels offer excellent deals and all but the hardiest visitors are limited to indoor attractions – something Dubai does incredibly well, with air-conditioned theme parks, mega malls and ski slopes.

Times to avoid 

Unless you’re heading to Europe, give the sweltering summer months a swerve. The atmosphere is subdued during the holy month of Ramadan, expected to begin this year on 27 May, while religious holidays, such as Eid al-Fitr (expected to start on 25 June) and Eid al-Adha (1 September), attract large numbers of regional visitors for up to 10 days. “Hotel room rates tend to escalate substantially during Eid holidays, with most hotels charging 100 to 200 per cent more,” says Rashid Aboobacker, a senior consultant at TRI Hospitality Consulting. 

Sweet spot

With average highs of 31°C and the sea temperature of around 27°C, November is ideal in Dubai. There are no major school holidays for key inbound markets such as Saudi Arabia and the UK, so hotel rates remain competitive. Return economy fares from Sydney with Emirates, meanwhile, cost $1679 from mid-October to the end November, compared to $3079 during the peak pre-Christmas period from 6-23 December 2017.

Lara Brunt

 

SOUTH AFRICA

 

A country of great contrasts, you’ll find everything from sprawling vineyards to hippo-filled waterholes in South Africa. Be strategic about where and when you experience both and you’ll never want to leave.  

Peak season

South Africa’s key drawcard is its safari experiences. The best time for animal viewing occurs in the dry winter months around May to September – the grass has thinned out, making it easier to spot lions stalking their prey and leopards slinking through the grass. However, the safari lodges will be at their busiest (with prices upwards of $800 per night), the safari vehicles packed to the brim and flights into Johannesburg sitting at a high $1400. 

Shoulder season

The tail end of summer, between February and April, sees comfortable temperatures on safari, with baby animals being born every day. 

You will have to peer through the long grass, but it’s also a great time for bird watching. Save some money on your long haul flights, with fares as low as $750 return, and splurge on light aircraft transfers to the safari parks for $600 per person. 

Low season

You might have a better chance of a private safari, but sitting in the rain in an open air Jeep for several hours during South Africa’s wet season is never fun. You take that risk between October and January, so a better bet is to head south to Cape Town where the south-easterly Cape Doctor wind provides a respite from the 35°C-plus temperatures. The city comes to life in summer, with sundowner concerts in the Kirstenbosch gardens, champagne festivals and Minstrel Carnivals. 

Times to avoid 

Cape Town’s summer months are popular with beachgoers – local bars and restaurants are packed to the brim over the festive season and into January. Expect hotel prices at beachfront Camps Bay to skyrocket, at more than $500 per night during New Year festivities. 

Sweet spot

If it’s your first time to South Africa, consider a trip during the end of April and early May. Spend a few days touring the vineyards of Stellenbosch during April’s harvest season, when the wine community is abuzz, before heading up to Kruger National Park to watch baby impala take their first steps. Hotels will still be readying for the winter months, so you might find well-priced lodges at $600 per night, and you’ll be able to fly in to major cities for under $1000. 

LP

 

JAPAN

 

Many will argue there’s no bad time of year to visit Japan, but depending on your interests, there are a number of considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. Also remember that Japan is a long country, so the weather on the chilly northern island of Hokkaido is vastly different to the subtropical islands of Okinawa, regardless of the season.  

Peak season

You will be hard-pressed to get a hotel room on Japan’s main island of Honshu during sakura (cherry blossom season), which runs between late-March and mid-April. Expect the same crowds and expensive hotel rooms in autumn (October to November), when the leaves begin to change colour. The weather in spring can vary from close to freezing overnight to 20˚C during the day, but there’s little rain and skies are clear. Autumn daytime temperatures are mild (15-22˚C), humidity is low and nights are crisp. Hotel prices during peak seasons can surge between 80 and 180 per cent on shoulder and low season rates, and guides are more expensive as well. You can still get good flight deals, though, with rates only about 10 per cent more than shoulder seasons.

Shoulder season

Early March and most of September are the preludes to Japan’s busiest seasons. The former sees the weather begin to warm: Tokyo’s average daytime temperature is 15˚C, days are clear and humidity is low. September days are warm (27˚C), but only have four hours of sunshine. September is also one of Tokyo’s wettest months. Hotel rooms and flights are at their cheapest, guides are available at short notice and you generally don’t have to queue for attractions. 

Low season

Travelling in Japan from late November through to mid-March will not only save you money, but will also mean you can visit attractions without the crowds. There are exceptions, most notably the days around Christmas and the New Year, plus destinations that target winter-loving travellers: Japan’s ski fields, which are at their best and busiest at this time of year. Winters in Tokyo see average temperatures around 10˚C, with days dry and skies clear. Flights out of Australia in mid- to late-December through January are notoriously expensive, given school and public holidays falling around this time – as are return flights into the country in January. Domestic Japanese flights over the festive season also reach a peak, and at this time many hotels have a minimum length of stay. Some attractions and restaurants are closed from the end of December until early January. November and March see flight fares drop to shoulder season rates.

Times to avoid

The most frustrating times to travel around Japan are during national holidays. An increased demand for public transport and accommodation means expensive hotel rooms and crowded trains and attractions. Avoid Golden Week (end of April to first week of May) and Obon (mid-August). Parts of Japan (Okinawa and the southwest) are prone to typhoons between May and October. This can impact travel plans and cause flight delays. Summers (in particular July and August) are hot and humid and uncomfortable for sightseeing – because of the temperature and also summer school holidays in Japan. 

Sweet spot

If you don’t mind rugging up, early February to mid-March is the perfect time to visit Japan – locals are back at work and school, luxury hotels offer their cheapest rates of the year, flights from Australia are at an annual low, shops and museums have re-opened and festivals are in full swing. Mid-May also tends to have a good combination of warmer temperatures in Tokyo (23˚C) and fewer tourists, and you’ll still catch cherry blossoms in northern Hokkaido at this time of year. 

Natasha Dragun

 

ENGLAND 

 

While England’s weather rarely gets rave reviews, on the whole summers are pleasantly mild and winters don’t get very cold – there’s not a great deal of regional variation, either. That said, it’s wetter in the west than the east, and the south gets more sunshine than the north.

Peak season

England is at its busiest and most expensive over the warmer months, from the end of June through to early September, when London’s daytime temperatures can reach 20˚C, humidity sits between 46 and 85 per cent and rainfall is low. Other peaks are in December: Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day – it’s colder (around 10˚C during the day) and there is often snow, but there’s also carolling, Christmas markets and ice skating. It can be crowded, so book tickets to attractions in advance. You can get reasonable flights from Australia through England’s summer months, but prices can increase by 50 per cent or more in December and January; expect the same hike for hotel room rates compared to the low season. 

Shoulder season

Hotels start to get more expensive as the weather warms after winter (mid-March to early June) and when things start to cool off after summer and school holidays (September through October). At these times of year, the temperature sits between 10 and 17˚C and rainfall is relatively low, except in October, which is London’s wettest month. Accommodation is generally 10 to 20 per cent cheaper in shoulder periods than over the summer months. 

Low season

The cheapest time to travel to England is from November to early December and from January to mid-March. While airfares to and from Australia are still at their peak in January, hotel rates are at their lowest and there are few crowds. London’s average temperature in January is 5˚C, and November through January are among the wettest months with drizzle, rather than heavy downpours. The winter season is one of England’s top times for theatre, opera, ballet and classical music.

Times to avoid

Schools in England break up towards the end of July and go back during the first week of September. July and August are when most Britons take their holidays. While these months are England’s warmest, they’re also the busiest so as well as higher prices for hotels, guides and restaurants, you’ll have to deal with crowds and limited availability.

Sweet spot

September ticks all the boxes when it comes to weather, accommodation and travel. Temperatures are pleasant (12 to 19˚C), there’s an average of six hours of sunshine a day, and humidity rarely goes above 65 per cent. The month can be wet, but it’s usually a light rain. September heralds in the cheapest international flights of the year from Australia, and while hotel rooms and car hire are not at low-season rates, they’re 15 to 20 per cent cheaper than busy periods. 

ND

 

ITALY

 

In a country blessed with so many natural and manmade assets, the Italians certainly know how to make the most of it and live la dolce vita. A lot of that has to do with the weather. 

Peak season

When in Rome the saying goes, and one of the simplest pleasures when in Italy is eating gelato. Who wants ice cream in winter? That’s just one of the many reasons Italy’s peak season is during summer. The Amalfi Coast is a sea of brightly coloured umbrellas and dazzlingly tanned Italians. Almost every town in Tuscany throws a festival or two. Evenings in Florence are spent drinking Aperol Spritz on the piazza.

Shoulder season

Autumn is often considered the tail end of the tourist season, with the crowds falling away just as the leaves start to drop. You’ll find the beach umbrellas packed up and the big-name exhibitions winding down. For shoppers, this is a great time to find sales across the flagship stores of luxury brand names in Florence. With early-bird rates and more airlines flying into Europe, expect to find fares dropping to around $1000 return for this time of year, leaving travellers with a little extra spending money.  

Low season

Winter is definitely the quietest time of year to visit Italy, with snow falling across the Alps, Milan and Venice. There’s a charm to Venice without the crowds, although expect them to arrive in droves during Carnival in February. Temperatures drop to just above zero, so rug up, and splurge on one of the many hotels housed in beautiful palazzi around the city. You’ll find hotel rates at the more reasonable $300 mark as opposed to the warmer months where prices start at $600 a night, and a glass of Chianti served in Murano glass inside a 15th-Century palace is worth the extra layers you’ll need to pack. 

Times to avoid 

Italians know how to holiday. They choose the hottest month of the year and head to the beach, shutting up shops, restaurants, even galleries, and making a beeline for the coast to escape the stifling dry heat of August. Save your trip to Tuscany for another time, as you will find it hard to get a meal during Ferragosto, the holiday season during the last two weeks of August. Expect flights to nudge upwards of $2000 into more popular airports of Rome and Milan. 

Sweet spot

Swap the glitz and glamour of the Amalfi Coast for the rugged, peaceful beauty of the Cinque Terre in June. The weather is warm, but never in the high-30s, while the sea breeze and the seafood are sublime. Even better, non-resident cars have to stay outside the designated UNESCO World Heritage areas. You’ll find flights under $1600 if you travel and return before the peak months of July and August. This is also a great time to head inland to Florence, which celebrates its patron Saint San Giovanni’s birthday on 24 June with a historic parade, fireworks and festivals in almost every piazza.   

LP

 

MEXICO

 

Mexico is rich with secluded beaches, sparkling cenotes (natural swimming holes) and ancient ruins, but that’s not her only charm. The rustic streets and vibrant culture suck you in and leave you hypnotised, while its sensuous, elegant hideaways epitomise luxury. 

Peak season

Throughout the high season of December to April, rainfall is minimal, varying from 12 millimetres in Cabo San Lucas and 70 millimetres on the Yucatan Peninsula, while temperatures sit around 25°C. This dry climate makes it the perfect winter escape for American holidaymakers, while hotel rates on the Yucatan Peninsula can increase as much as 50 per cent between December and January. December airfares are 20 per cent more expensive than average, with the price tag leaping to around $1700. 

Religious festivities tend to take over during the Christmas period, with re-enactments of Mary and Joseph’s pilgrimage to Bethlehem, along with a similar pilgrimage to Mexico City in honour of patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Similarly, Easter celebrations dominate April, which coincides with a two-week holiday for locals, leaving tourist hotspots jam-packed. 

Shoulder season 

Mexico’s shoulder season, stretching from July to August, experiences some of the highest temperatures of the year (think 30°C and up), but also some of the wettest periods for the Pacific Coast. Prices at popular resorts and beach destinations tend to spike in this period as it intersects with a national summer vacation.

For the rest of Mexico’s luscious coastlines, the shoulder seasons experience a bout of heavy rainfall in the afternoons, however these showers usually clear the increased humidity and bring temperatures down.

Low season 

Peak temperatures, high humidity levels, and a hurricane season across the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts exemplify Mexico’s low season, spanning May to June, and September to October. September is the heart of the hurricane season, and while this doesn’t always guarantee a storm, it does bring between 150 and 300 millimetres of rain and strong winds. If you’re willing to brave the low season, airfares start from $930 return in May.

Times to avoid 

Be sure to steer clear of hurricane season, which reaches its peak in mid-September, as well as the United States’ Spring Break period from March to April. 

Sweet spot

An indulgent getaway in Mexico is best planned for November, when the rainy season has all but dried up, and the tourists are yet to descend on the stunning beaches. Temperatures sit at a comfortable 28°C with far lower humidity than the low season. Flying to Los Angeles from Australia in November will score you some of the cheapest flights of the year, according to Skyscanner, with prices likely to drop by 12 per cent to around $1200.

The essential places to experience the pinnacle of luxury include Tulum in the Riviera Maya region, with high-end hotels like Be Tulum offering suites for over $100 less than the peak season price tag. 

Cabo San Lucas is another decadent gem on the peninsula of Baja California Sur, and is home to resorts such as The Cape, which offers a deluxe king room from $700 per night, while Esperanza Resort suites are over $100 cheaper than during high season. 

Hannah Edensor

 

USA

 

From east to west, America is a country of extreme contrasts. When it’s sunny in Los Angeles, it could be snowing in New York. Here is when to visit these two dynamic, yet completely different, cities. 

Peak season

NYC: Hotel room rates peak during autumn (September to November) and the end-of-year festive season. The city is a continual party from late November through to the New Year, with events such as the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and New Year’s Eve in Times Square. It’s cold outside at this time of year (6-12˚C), but that doesn’t stop vacationing families and European travellers flocking to the streets. Airfares from Australia begin getting expensive in November and peak in December and January. Autumn temperatures, meanwhile, fluctuate between 10 and 16˚C, with flights from Australia at this time around 10 per cent more expensive than the shoulder season.  

LA: The summer months (June-August) see temperatures hovering around 24˚C, with long days of sunshine and next to no chance of rain. Smog levels and humidity can be high (90 per cent), which means that beaches are crowded. This time of year is also the main school break, so expect popular tourist destinations and hotels to be extremely busy and expensive. December and January are also busy thanks to an influx of international travellers over the festive season; flights from Australia are 15 to 50 per cent more expensive than the low season. 

Shoulder season

NYC: Mild weather makes spring (March to May) a popular time to visit, although travel numbers are not at their peak and you can still find hotel deals – earlier in the season, discounts of 30 per cent are not uncommon. On a blue-sky day in spring, when the temperature is 18 to 20˚C and humidity is 55 per cent, there’s nothing better than exploring parks in bloom with cherry blossoms. But the season is known for its unpredictable weather, with lots of rain. There’s plenty to look forward to, including the Tribeca Film Festival and the beginning of the Broadway awards season. Flights from Australia are at their cheapest in March. 

LA: Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October) see temperatures vary from 18 to 23˚C. There are fewer crowds and the air is clean, making it a great time to enjoy outdoor pursuits, not to mention LA’s theme parks. You can expect to pay 10 to 25 per cent less for hotels at these times, and flights from Australia are at yearly lows across both seasons.

Low season

NYC: With the New Year rung in, NYC begins to hibernate. January through to early March is the only time of the year when hotel occupancy dips below 90 per cent, which means that rates are also more affordable. In January and February when the weather is at its coldest (a few degrees above freezing), snow is common and the events and festivities calendar slows; these are the quietest months on Broadway, making it a good time to buy tickets and get tables at popular restaurants. Hotel rates can be 50 per cent cheaper than in the high season.  

LA: January, February and November are the quietest time of year in LA in terms of visitor numbers. Average temperatures in February sit around 18˚C, but the humidity is high (85 per cent) and this is LA’s wettest period, with rain predicted for about a third of the month. Flights out of Australia are slightly higher than during spring and autumn, and you can still find good hotel deals. November is warmer than February and equally humid, but there’s less chance of rain. Flights from Australia are at their cheapest of the year, and hotel rooms are a minimum of 20 per cent cheaper than peak season. 

Times to avoid

NYC: February is windy and bitterly cold: snow turns to slush, people retreat indoors and it gets dark by 5pm. On the positive side, you can get 50 per cent discounts on hotels and will rarely have to queue for attractions. Flights from Australia at these times are around 30 per cent cheaper than peak season.

LA: One of the main reasons tourists visit LA is for the theme parks, which become extremely busy around major public holidays, driving up ticket and hotel prices as well as car rental rates and domestic flights. Avoid days surrounding New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr Day (mid-January) and Presidents’ Day (mid-February). Also avoid the Spring Break and Easter period (mid- to late-March), the summer vacation period (late May to September), and the Christmas season, which begins at the end of November and runs to the New Year. 

Sweet spot

NYC: The peak of summer during July and August can be hot, with July daytime temperatures averaging 30˚C while humidity hovers around 64 per cent. The weather keeps many domestic visitors away, and local New Yorkers use these months to escape to holiday homes. Which means you can get great hotel deals at this time – 30 to 50 per cent off peak rates. Airfares from Australia are also decent (around 30 per cent cheaper than Christmas), and it’s a good time to book tables at in-demand restaurants. Summer music festivals are also in full swing.

LA: Over the first two months of autumn, September and October, the air is clean, there are fewer crowds, and you can get great deals on luxury hotels and resorts (25 per cent cheaper than high season) plus cheap flights from Australia. Expect temperatures in the mid-20s and high humidity (90 per cent), but low rainfall. 

ND

 

* All prices are Australian dollars.

We’ve pinpointed the best times to travel to some of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations. These sweet spots can deliver the best value for money, fewer crowds and other unexpected benefits for the luxury (or luxe-for-less) traveller.

 
 
 
 
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