Last Updated on May 28, 2023 by Ellen
I’m going to share a way we save money in our slow travel budget in retirement: we use what some people call the shoulder season secret — that is, we rent during off-peak tourist months.
These months surrounding the most popular tourism times are called the “shoulder season.”
Rentals can cost less in the shoulder season. After doing this since 2015, we have three easy travel hacks so you get the most out of your money.
Tip #1: Have a flexible schedule.
As early retirees, we have the time to adjust our travel schedule in order to get the best price available. We rent in the months before or after busy tourist seasons whenever possible when we are in places with high demand – such as Europe or more popular tourist cities around the world.
We actively seek out rentals during shoulder seasons to save money on monthly rentals. So far, we’ve had great luck and had some deep discounts.
Let’s use Mexico as an example. Many Americans and Canadians often go to Mexico in the winter to escape snow and cold, so winter is “high season” in Mexico. That means popular beaches will be in higher demand, and prices will be higher. Shoulder seasons in Mexico are October into November, and April into May. This is when prices drop because demand is lower.
A specific example could be our discounted Airbnb rental in the wonderful city of Mazatlan. We saved hundreds of dollars on an oceanfront, two-bedroom apartment from mid-October to mid-December in late 2017. We left right before the Christmas season, and the winter, when the unit cost much more money.
Europe can be another example. We toured Italy in the spring shoulder season, including Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. While these places always have many tourists, the hordes had not yet arrived on their summer vacations and holidays. Our rentals in these places would have been double or triple the price if we had gone in July or August, instead of March, April or May.
Now consider specific pricing examples for our stay on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. We went there one year in mid-May. Our fabulous rental apartment cost about $880 for the month on Airbnb, or about $220 per week. If we had come during high season, the price would have been closer to $300 a week, and would have cost us another $320 for the month.
Travel hacks #2: Book early.
We had to book that Croatia stay (and many others) several months in advance to ensure every night was available during the month we wanted to rent the unit. Many owners will give monthly discounts – but you can’t get the discount if a night or two in your desired month is rented to someone else.
By the way – our place in Omis, Croatia, was fantastic! It was a one-bedroom apartment with an amazing deck and breathtaking views. It was in a perfect location steps from the best beach south of Split, with modern amenities such as a clothes washer, dish washer, high speed internet, cable with some English channels, and an air conditioner. We never needed the AC because temperatures were perfect – usually in the 70s – during our shoulder-season stay before the hot summer months on the Adriatic Sea.
That’s another boon to shoulder seasons – sometimes those months have better weather than high season months. Unlike Mexico, where shoulder seasons can be hotter, more humid, and have a hurricane risk, places like Omis in May and early June are not yet sweltering. The sea may be a tad chillier, but it’s still great for swimming.
Tip #3 for shoulder season rentals: Make an offer.
While some owners offer monthly discounts upfront during low seasons, some do not. When a discount is not readily available, it can’t hurt to ask for a discount, or to make an offer for the month.
That’s actually how we got to the price at our beautiful Omis rental – Tedly asked for a discount, and haggled a bit with the owner. The owner was assured of a monthly income, and didn’t have to bother with several tenant changes that month, and we loved living in a gorgeous place that fit our retired budget travel lifestyle. Win-win!
Other useful retired budget travel hacks:
- Top 10 items on our pack list – some of these are a bit unusual…
- Continuous living in Airbnb units – how we do this
- Pep talk: How to travel the world in retirement