While summer might be your favorite time to travel, it might not be the best time if you want to save money and beat the crowds. Many countries, states, cities and amusement parks that have a summer peak season will often have pricier hotels, airfare and activities.
Instead, consider taking your vacation sooner rather than later. Click through to see some of the best travel hot spots to visit in the springtime instead of the summer.
Yosemite National Park
National Parks are a huge hot spot for summer travelers. In fact, Yosemite National Park — one of the most iconic national parks in the U.S. — saw more visitors during the summer months than in the spring from 2001 through 2015, according to statistics from the National Park Service. For example, the average number of visitors in March was fewer than 150,000. But the average in August was more than 600,000.
So, visit Yosemite in the spring before summer vacationers invade the park. With fewer people and less demand, you might be able to save money on Yosemite’s common expenses.
Olympic National Park
Located in Port Angeles, Wash., Olympic National Park offers some of the most breathtaking views in the Pacific Northwest. And, you’ll be able to visit this park and others without paying an entrance fee on select weekends during National Park Week — April 15 to April 16 and April 22 to April 23.
“If you plan to explore the outdoors, the temperature during shoulder season is ideal for visiting national parks, and they are not nearly as congested as they are during peak summer travel season,” said Russell Hannon, owner of travel tip website BreaktheTravelBarrier.com.
If you want to take the family on a vacation to the country’s capital, you’ll likely experience fewer crowds if go in the spring. Plus, you’ll get to see the beautiful cherry blossoms.
“Spring is the perfect time to visit Washington, D.C.,” said Theresa Hewston of the Life Riding Shotgun Family Travel Blog. “The temperatures are mild, and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. Summer can lend to hot, humid days and crowded museums, monuments and attractions. Beat the heat and the rush by going in the spring. You’ll enjoy it so much more.”
New York City
No matter the season, you can find tons of fun and free things to do in New York City. However, when it comes to finding the best hotel deal, consider visiting between the first of the year and early April, recommended Frommer’s, a travel planning site.
If you’re an avid movie-goer visiting the Big Apple during springtime, check out the Tribeca Film Festival in April, recommended Suzanne Wolko, a travel blogger and luxury travel advisor. Other fun spring activities in New York include attending a Yankees baseball game, seeing a show on Broadway and visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Head to Philadelphia in the spring instead of the summer, when tourists tend to invade the big city. It’s also cooler during the spring, perfect for exploring the outdoors, walking or biking. And, you can save money on a hotel if you visit between March and May. According to U.S. News’ travel guide, hotel rates are modest during these months.
Don’t know what to do in Philadelphia during the spring? For the 21-and-over crowd, Philly Beer Week takes place from June 2 to June 11 and is a great event to attend during the offseason, said Wolko. There’s also the South Street Spring Fest on May 6. This high-energy festival is like one giant block party with dozens of bands, hundreds of vendors and tons of delicious food.
Traverse City, Mich.
Retreat to this cozy northern town in the spring, and you can explore more than 40 wineries in the area, indulge in fine dining and stay at one of the many charming bed and breakfasts. Traverse City in the spring is quieter than summer, but it’s just as beautiful. Wildflowers, orchids and other colorful plants are in bloom, making the city a romantic destination for lovesick couples.
Walt Disney World
On every child’s list of dream vacations, count on Walt Disney World ranking near the top. Although it might be easier to take the kids to the theme park when they’re out of school, one of the worst times to go to Disney World is during the summer — especially midsummer, according to MouseSavers, a website that provides tips on how to save money at Disney theme parks.
Instead, consider going during the first three weeks of May. Hotel prices aren’t cheap, but they’re usually “moderate.” MouseSavers does note, however, that Easter week is typically a busy time to visit Disney World. And, you might encounter spring break crowds if you visit before May.
Cedar Point Amusement Park
Visit the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World” in Sandusky, Ohio. Located along the banks of Lake Erie, Cedar Point Amusement Park attracts thrill-seekers, roller coaster enthusiasts and families. In addition to dozens of rides, the park offers a sandy beach, live shows, events and more.
But if you really want to have fun, save money and beat the crowds, don’t visit Cedar Point in the summer — go in May before the heavy summer crowds and traffic hit.
Maine is another destination that is ripe for travel during the summer, especially for those who want to head to the seaside or go to one of the state’s many summer festivals. But popular beach destinations can be less crowded and less expensive prior to the start of summer.
For example, the best time visit Kennebunkport for better prices and fewer tourists is March through May, according to U.S. News. Certain lodging, such as bed and breakfasts, typically have lower rates during the off season and might even offer specials.
Utah is home to not one, but five national parks. “Spring is quite possibly the best time of year to visit the National Parks in Utah,” said Hewston.
If you visit Utah in the spring, you can explore the beautiful state without melting in the summer heat. “Southern Utah days can reach the 100-degree mark during the summer, so a springtime visit offers perfect temps for hiking the unbelievable red rock formations and fewer crowds to boot,” said Hewston.
“North of the border, the U.S. dollar commands a 30 percentage currency advantage over the Canadian loonie (dollar),” said Hannon. This means you can save big on your international trip to Canada. Just make sure you don’t go during the summer months, which is the peak tourist season, reports U.S. News.
This year, entrance to all National Parks in Canada is free of charge to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday, said Hannon. But if you prefer sports over nature, you can always catch a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game in the spring. The Hockey Hall of Fame is another popular tourist destination.
Wolko said she loves to travel to London — and Paris — during the spring because of fewer crowds, great pricing and nice weather. “I’m currently planning a solo trip to London in May for six days for under $2,000,” she said.
If you do visit London in the spring, check out the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in May. It’s one of the world’s most prestigious flower shows where you’ll see innovative garden exhibits and eye-opening horticultural displays.
Keeping with the theme of enjoying spring flowers in full bloom, Wolko also recommended visiting Amsterdam in the spring to avoid the summer crowds and to enjoy the spring tulips, which she describes as “stunning.” One of the best flower gardens in the Netherlands is the Keukenhof Gardens and Tulip Fields, which features dazzling and colorful displays of tulips.
According to U.S. News’ analysis of weather and price trends, some of the best times to visit Amsterdam is during the end of March to early July. So if you always wanted to see the Anne Frank Museum or the Van Gogh Museum, springtime might be the most affordable time to visit Amsterdam.
In Hannon’s experience, the best time to visit Europe — you guessed it — is in the spring.
“The temperature is comfortable in spring, and you don’t have to deal with the crowds of tourists that come with summer. Flights can be less expensive as well,” he said. “I visited Venice a few months removed from summer and had no large crowds to deal with, and the sewage odor that persists in summer was nowhere to be found.”
And since the U.S. dollar is trading near all-time highs against the euro, now could be one of the most affordable times to visit Europe, he said.
“Another favorite spring travel option — for those with time — is the repositioning cruises from the East Coast to Europe as the cruise ships look to move the fleets for the season,” said Wolko. “When I did the cruise, it was cheaper than being at home.”
April is repositioning month, according to Wolko. “Generally, what I like to suggest to people is to find a theme or interest and plan around that,” she said.
A Caribbean cruise in the spring is also ideal if you don’t want to deal with summer’s sweltering heat. Cruise bargains can be found from mid-April to end of May.
Sydney Champion contributed to the reporting for this article.