Off-season and low-season bargains can be wonderful as long as you are careful

Puerto Plata DROne bit of advice you’ll get from most seasoned travelers is that off-season and low-season are where you find the best bargains in resort areas. It’s true, but not always, and there are of course many downsides as well as upsides to traveling when few other people are willing to.

For city travel it’s easier to decide whether or not it’s worth it to you because you’ll usually be going for some specific reason to begin with. For example, you aren’t going to plan a trip to Stockholm in December just because you see low hotel rates, but you might be tempted to head to Bermuda if rates were low enough.

In tropical areas you need to check the rainy season schedule

Most of us live in the Northern Hemisphere where we have 4 distinct seasons, or at least in places like California where summer is at least warmer than winter in most cases. But in the tropics (near the equator) they famously have two seasons, which are a dry season and a rainy season. For most tropical countries in the northern hemisphere the dry season tends to be from December through April, which is perfect for those looking to escape the winter.

But in the southern hemisphere it’s usually reversed, although not always. So places like Bali or Bora Bora or even Rio de Janeiro tend to have dry seasons from June through October, more or less. When looking for low season resort deals it’s critical to look at the rain patterns before deciding whether it’s worth it or not.

Many places get only a little more rain, and others a lot more

Okay, here’s where you really need to pay attention if you want to have confidence that the low room rate might be worth it. In most of the Caribbean they get maybe a couple inches of rain per month in the dry season, and maybe 5 or 6 inches per month in the rainy season. In other words, the difference between the two is usually slim, and if you get lucky you might even get less rain during the wet season. So booking a room in Montego Bay or Cancun for half the price in August might be an amazing bargain.

But in many other parts of the tropics, including much of Central America, the wet season can get out of control. In Costa Rica they might get 3 inches per month in the dry season and 20 inches per month in the worst part of the rainy season. The same is true in Phuket and in Bali, at least for two months or so each, so that half price hotel room might only be good as a place to stay out of the rain and watch TV.

The truth is there are some incredible bargains during the off season for those who pay attention, but those who don’t risk being trapped in their room most of the time, which isn’t worth much at any price. Hurricane season is usually overblown, but an area that gets massive rain storms every year is worth avoiding.