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Choosing the off-season will mean big savings and smaller crowds. (Catherine Yeulet)
Choosing the off-season will mean big savings and smaller crowds. (Catherine Yeulet)

Save hassle, and money, by taking family vacation off-season Add to ...

There was a time when March break was pretty much the only time a kid could hope for a family trip outside of summer vacation. The only time I ever got on a plane before age 18 was during that magical week when the weather is sloppy and homework is optional.

Now that I’m a parent, however, March break is the time of year my family is least likely to take a trip. For me, March break travel means two things: busy and expensive.

According to cool-kid parenting site Bunch Family, I’m not alone. In a column for Toronto weekly The Grid, Bunch editors said modern families think nothing of pulling their kids out of class and traveling during the school year. (They dubbed parents like me, appropriately, "the Bueller Generation.")

If you are braving crowded airports this week, good on you. But for those of us looking to find the best travel bargains in the off-season, what’s the best time of year to take an un-March Break?

Corinne McDermott runs Have Baby Will Travel, a website devoted to smart and thrifty travelling with children. She says that some of the best times of year to snag travel deals are from September to early December, and April to June.

“April is a great time to visit down south, as you've just slipped out of high season, but the weather is still usually quite good … and you're not yet in hurricane season,” Ms. McDermott said. “The first couple of weeks in January are often deeply discounted as well.” (Just remember to avoid high-travel weekends like Labour Day and U.S. Thanksgiving.)

“Hotels often offer Web-only specials, like seven nights for the price of five, so if you've got an idea of where you'd like to stay, it's a good idea to follow their websites for possible deals,” she said.

When it comes to those meccas for kids - Disney World and Disneyland – you can save a bundle by traveling off-season, Ms. McDermott said. “Disney frequently offers great deals, often rolling in their dining plans and park tickets into a package price.” Not only will you find deals, but you can avoid the throngs as well.

“Early January and early November are great times to visit - not too hot and the parks are not crowded,” she said. “The only difficulty with visiting at these times is some of the water attractions may not be open.”

In order to find these off-season discounts for your Disney vacation, Ms. McDermott recommends booking with a travel expert who specializes in these destinations, particularly if you’re heading there for the first time (she recommends Clickthemouse.ca, and I’ve heard good things about FairytaleDreams & Destinations, too.

Another bonus about booking outside peak season is that it allows you to splurge a little and still save money, Ms. McDermott said.

“For example, beachfront accommodation is typically more expensive, but if you're planning on spending the majority of your time at the beach, you'll save on taxis, transit or a rental car if you're already there,” she said.

Ms. McDermott also recommends checking out local parenting websites in your destination city. “You'll get the inside scoop on local playgrounds and parks, as well as great options for family friendly attractions and restaurants. Often they'll offer discounts and Web coupons as well, so a bit of surfing beforehand can equal a great deal of savings while you're there,” she said.

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