TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The best time of the year to visit a destination can often be a subjective decision. It depends on what you're really after as a visitor. Are you seeking a bargain on accommodations and other expenses? Or long days of sunshine? Fewer tourists to jostle with at attractions? These are just some of the questions to keep in mind when planning a getaway to some of the world's most popular destinations. Still, there are definitely better times and bad times to be a tourist in iconic places such as Paris, Tuscany, and Barcelona. Here's what travel industry insiders had to say about the best and worst times to visit some of the world's greatest travel spots.
When to avoid: Summer
Why: Tourism has been kind to Portugal in recent years, with Lisbon in particular experiencing record-breaking numbers, says Bisesto. Summer sees crowds filling the streets and the beaches.
When to go: Skip the hustle and bustle that accompanies summer and visit Lisbon during the winter for deals on accommodations and flights. Lisbon offers plenty of colorful Christmas markets, lights, and activities to keep you entertained during winter. Also consider September through October, when you'll also find diminished crowds but still may be able to enjoy a beach day or two.
LIMA AND CUSCO, PERU
When to avoid: Late July
Why: Few travel experiences compare to the stunning view of Machu Picchu on a clear, sunny day in July. Since the best months to travel to the famed citadel of the Incas fall between May and September, that's when many travelers find themselves in the Peruvian capital of Lima and also the city of Cusco, (where many spend a few days acclimating before finishing the journey to Machu Picchu.) But July 28 is Independence Day in Peru, and that means the majority of locals have the day or weekend off to celebrate. The streets of Lima and Cusco are clogged, lines are longer and restaurants fill up with locals, says Brian Bultema, a sales manager with Lima-based Dargui Tours.
When to go: If you can, hold off on visiting until August, when the weather is still great and the only thing you have to worry about avoiding is having one Pisco Sour too many (Peru's popular local drink).
When to avoid: Summer
Why: Come summer, Italy's famed region of Tuscany is incredibly hot, crowded with tourists, and void of locals, says Beckah Ripley, operations manager for Yonder Travel Insurance.
When to go: The best time to visit the small hill towns of Tuscany is October, when flights are cheaper, the weather is mild, and it's harvest season -- which means there are plenty of locally made wines and olive oils to sample.
NEW YORK CITY
When to avoid: December
Why: Sure the Big Apple can be charming in winter with the snow and holiday lights, but New York City tour guide and blogger Alicia Butler, says it is the busiest month of the year. "It's also more expensive as many bars and restaurants forgo their typical happy hour specials because it's so busy, they don't need to run them," says Butler. Most New Yorkers steer clear of Midtown Manhattan in December because of the influx of tourists.
When to go: Between late October and the end of November. From late fall through early winter the temperature in the city is moderate and the crowds are negligible, said Butler. "To me, this is the sweet spot to come visit and my absolute favorite time in the city," she said.
When to avoid: Last week in April through first week of May
Why: Golden Week in Japan (when four national holidays occur), takes place the last week of April through early May bringing huge crowds to the city that you might want to avoid. Prices at hotels, which are booked to nearly full occupancy, are at their peak, says Marian Goldberg, of Goldberg On Travel, who served as a public relations manager for Japan for 11 years. Also try to avoid visiting in summer (June through August), says Goldberg, when it can be unbearably hot and humid and airfare is expensive.
When to go: Mid-May through early June. There are the most daylight hours in Tokyo during this time of year, said Goldberg. "It gets light out at 4 a.m. and dark at 8:30 p.m.," she explained. That means plenty of time to take in all the sights. In addition, the weather is particularly pleasant during the late spring through early summer.
When to avoid: February
Why: Not only is it cold and rainy, prices are also marked up for Valentine's Day, says Paris-born Géraldine Lepère, founder of Comme une Française, a site offering French language lessons. Paris is the city of love all year long. No need to try and see it at the same time as hordes of other romance-seeking couples, said Lepère. Also be cautious when booking a visit in May, a month when there are several holidays that mean many shops, restaurants, and museums are closed.
When to go: September through October. If you want to actually see Parisians, September is a great time, says Lepère, because many are returning from summer vacation and getting back to work. You will also avoid the crowds of summer by visiting this time of year. While the City of Light can be expensive, there are also numerous free and cheap activities to enjoy, too.
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
When to avoid: June through August
Why: From early June until late August, Prague fills with visitors eager to stroll across one of the city's most famous attractions: the 14th-century Charles Bridge, says Katie Matthews, a full-time travel blogger who, along with her husband, Geoff, created the site Wandertooth. "Unfortunately for those who arrive in the Czech Republic's fairytale capital during the summer months, expectations of a relaxing or a romantic stroll across the bridge don't fit with the reality of severe overcrowding," said Matthews, who lived in Prague from 2014 to 2015.
When to go: Late April through early May, or September to mid-October. The weather is still pleasant in these months, sometimes with even less rain than summer, said Matthews. Best of all, you'll have far more breathing room while enjoying Prague's popular attractions.
When to avoid: Last week of December through first week of January; last week of March through the first week of April.
Why: It should come as no surprise that the busiest times in a city known for its kid-friendly theme parks coincide with school breaks around the country, says Jonathan de Araujo, who runs Magic Guides, a website designed to help travelers find the best time of year to travel to Orlando and its many attractions. The site has a Crowd Calendar page that helps travelers identify the busiest (and least busy) times of year in the city. Bottom line: Avoid school breaks when there are endless lines for attractions, rides, and restaurants, and when prices are at their peak. This will make it easier to visit Disney World if you're on a budget.
When to go: Second week of January through first week of February, and the month of September. With kids back in school, you'll find the lines (and prices) far more manageable.
When to avoid: July through August
Why: The height of summer is the busiest travel season throughout all of Europe. Big cities and coastal hotspots throughout Spain are packed and pricey, says Matt Kiefer, founder of Hostelgeeks, who has lived in Barcelona since 2011.
When to go: June and September. The weather is warm in both months, prices are lower than in peak season, and beaches remain half empty, said Kiefer. Winter is another cheap time to visit Barcelona. With the exception of New Year's Eve, accommodation prices drop by as much as 50 percent.
When to avoid: July
Why: New Orleans is certainly one of the country's tourism hotspots. However, hot is the key word when it comes to reasons to avoid the city in July. The average temperature is around 91 degrees, and with humidity, it can feel far hotter, and wetter. "Just because your kids are out of school, it doesn't mean NOLA is a good summer vacation destination," says Sophia Borghese, consultant for the New Orleans-based La Galerie Hotel. In addition to the sweat factor, July falls in hurricane season, added Borghese.
When to go: October. Not only is the temperature more comfortable (with highs around 80 degrees), there are also plenty of fun events to experience. Halloween in the city is second only to Mardi Gras for its wild and crazy costumes and fun. "People in New Orleans really go to town for Halloween," said Borghese. In addition, there are countless haunted tours around the French Quarter that include the city's famous and historic cemeteries. Voodoo shops throughout New Orleans also make the most of the holiday.
When to avoid: Chinese New Year (Feb. 16 this year)
Why: When travel blogger Scott Leazenby noticed bargain airfares to Taipei in early 2017, he decided to take a spur of the moment trip to the city. When he arrived, Leazenby discovered why prices were so cheap -- it was Chinese New Year, which meant the entire city was eerily empty and very few businesses were open. Translation -- not an ideal time to visit. It's also a good idea to skip summer in Taipei (June through August), when the weather is hot and humid. Temperatures can get as high as 95 degrees.
When to go: Fall in Taipei (September through November) is a better time to visit. The weather is cooler, and rainfall is minimal. Taiwan National Day is Oct. 10, a time when there are colorful parades and fireworks to take in.
When to avoid: Summer
Why: Famous for its blue-domed buildings and stunning views of the Aegean Sea, this jaw-dropping Mediterranean island is what dreams are made of and definitely a destination worth saving up for. Like so many other famous destinations, Santorini experiences high volumes of tourists during the summer months because of the beautiful weather, says TravelPirates Senior Editor Jessica Bisesto. It's also a wildly popular stop on cruise itineraries, with a regular parade of ships lining up to drop off hundreds of visitors at a time.
When to go: Plan a trip during the fall shoulder season (September to November) when the weather is mild, the streets are less crowded, and prices of accommodations favor budget tourists.