Offseason travel – this post has been in the making for a long time. In fact, ever since I realized how nice it is to swim in a deserted pool during a rainstorm in Sri Lanka.
Without realizing it, I have done a lot of offseason travel this year. This happened for two reasons: tourism boards prefer to invite bloggers when it is not too crowded and when I find a place I want to go to, I want to go now, season be damned.
So I didn’t think twice when the Crown Lanta Resort & Spa in Koh Lanta invited me for a stay. I needed to extend my Bali visa in any case and what better way to do this than with a visa run, a few Pad Thais, and some Andaman Sea diving?
Only upon arrival did I realize that it was still offseason on Thailand’s west coast. Ups.
Needless to say, I did not bring an umbrella and stoically refused to buy one. In my mind, certain places are meant to be sunny and warm and if they are not I will make them so. I usually end up getting soaked, but I guess learning to dance in the rain is a lesson to be had.
Besides the getting soaked part, I thought I would use the occasion to share some thoughts with you about offseason travel. Let’s call it the good, the bad and the practical.
The Price is right
Nothing beats prices when you do offseason travel. I had a beautiful pool access room at the Crown Lanta which cost a quarter (!!!) during what they call Green Season between May and October. It also came with a literal pool access so I could basically roll from my bed into the pool which I usually had all to myself. That I think is a good reason in itself.
Prices drop everywhere in offseason and now is the time to indulge and get some serious splurges for a bargain. If the hotel of your dreams doesn’t offer low season prices, ask and negotiate. Extra nights for free, spa treatments – you name it! Most hotels are happy to offer you extras when they don’t have a full house.
Not only hotels will offer better deals, but tour operators, restaurants and really any business that relies on tourists. If they don’t state a deal or special offseason prices, again, it doesn’t hurt to ask, many will be happy to provide a discount when prompted.
I honestly loved being treated like a princess on my recent trip. It seemed that due to me being one of only a few guests, the staff was extra attentive and went out of their way to help me.
Yes, theoretically that should always be the case especially in a 4-star hotel, but the reality is, people get exhausted and overwhelmed and anybody who has worked in the hospitality industry knows that it ain’t a walk in the park. During offseason, however, the staff has a bit more leisure time at hand and to me, that translated into better service, more smiles, and people really going the extra mile for you.
Some may complain about a lack of atmosphere or gossip material but personally I love a hotel where I have all the facilities to myself. The Crown Lanta not only comes with two pools that were blissfully empty of screaming kids but also their own tiny private beach. Honestly, there is nothing better than having a beach all to yourself. Nothing! Makes you feel like royalty.
Just don’t growl at other people when they disturb your paradise like I did. Apparently even in offseason sharing is caring though I promise you won’t have to do very much of it. And needless to say, you will not have to get up at 6am to reserve the best lounge chair either!
I have said it before and I will say it again, a really great sunset needs clouds. A really great sky photo needs clouds. Romantic atmosphere needs clouds. And you are in luck because usually there is no shortage of clouds during the rainy season. So don’t look at them as the things that hide the sun but as the things that will enhance your pictures and your sundowners!
Every single hotel I have been to during offseason travel was under construction. I know they have to – you want shiny new rooms and offseason is the time to do it, but it comes with certain…annoyances. You will have to deal with building noise and trash and often pools, rooftop bars, and other facilities are closed for maintenance.
Mind you, I have never felt that has been a major inconvenience during any stay and found that the great prices make more than up for it.
While some use offseason to renovate with business as usual still running, especially on islands like Koh Lanta or in little resort towns a lot of businesses will close down. Either to do major mantainance, for staff holidays or simply because the overheads are too high with fewer customers. That means that your restaurant options can be somewhat limited as are operating hours for tours and also things like ferries, trains, and busses. The passenger ferry to Koh Lanta for example only runs November until April. Outside of these months, you will have to use the car ferry.
I also had to learn the hard way that especially tours that rely on certain weather conditions, will have to alter routes and itineraries. Definitely, check out bad weather alternatives before to avoid disappointments.
The time is now
So you think you have time? You may but that doesn’t mean the sun will join you. If I have learned one thing about traveling in offseason is to take full advantage of any sunshine you get. Don’t wait to go to the beach because chances are by the afternoon rain has come in. Don’t wait to take that picture for which you would like blue skies*, because if you do Murphy’s Law will send a bunch of clouds your way. Just don’t ever wait to do any nice weather activities – if there is sunshine, go and bathe in it. Now!
*Can you tell by my pictures that I didn’t follow my own advice?!
Mosquitos love me. Looooove me. As in they want to marry me! And of course, rain brings out that love even more so when offseason means rainy season I bathe in mosquito spray. I have yet to find something better than the hardcore Deet versions as the natural stuff doesn’t seem to work for me. If you have any advice on something nice smelling that is really strong, let me know.
If you have similarly juicy blood, lather up, wear your long sleeves and ask for mosquito coils to be lit if you are sitting outside. Most hotels and restaurants will provide them and they are a lifesaver. Just don’t put your foot in it – they don’t look it but they do burn. And yes, this may or may not have happened to me…
An offseason traveler doesn’t know bad weather, an offseason traveler only knows bad clothing. Pack well and don’t be like me, thinking you could make the sun shine with pure will power! Chances are it will rain during offseason travel. Sometimes that means a five minute downpour followed by 23 hours and 55 minutes of clear skies, sometimes it doesn’t. Make sure to take shoes that can get wet and take a rain poncho for excursions. In my experience rain jackets don’t really help much during monsoon so I would go for a sturdy yet disposable poncho.
Take a few more options of clothing than you usually would, I find that drying clothes in humid weather can be a pain in the ass and even Thailand gets cold when you are wearing drenched cotton. Remember that there is such a thing as an involuntary wet t-shirt contest, make sure you don’t become a contestant.
And always, always take a dry bag for your camera, phone, laptop. If you don’t you may or may not get stuck next to a lotto shop for an hour while waiting for the rain to ease or sporting a pretty trashbag to keep your laptop dry. And yes, again, I am speaking from experience.
What are your experiences with offseason travel? Are you a fan and have any tips to share?