Last February, I searched for a vacation rental in Door County, the wayward spear of Wisconsin that juts into Lake Michigan, for an early May getaway, confident that I had beaten the summer rush to the popular vacation spot. But Airbnb occupancy calendars for lovely converted farmhouses and log cabins were already full.

When I called a local vacation home rental agency, the agent said they were almost completely booked through the summer. That’s how I ended up in a one-bedroom shack last spring with a wobbly card table in an ant-infested kitchen and a new awareness of the shrinking off-season.

From Miami to communities around national parks like Zion in Utah and Joshua Tree in California, high-occupancy rates during traditionally off-season times of the year are muddling what was normally a reliable way to save money — traveling when few others are.

Continued work-from-anywhere policies have freed travelers from their homes, and as they have flocked to places like Jackson Hole, Wyo., and the Florida Keys, lodging rates have soared.

In 2020, a survey from found that 58 percent of American travelers were more likely to travel during off-peak seasons — to avoid crowds and the risk of contracting or spreading Covid-19 — than they were before the pandemic. In 2021, it found the sentiment grew: Nearly seven in 10 travelers said they would choose an alternative destination to avoid peak season.

But there are bargains to be had. Consider traveling mid-week, the new “off-season.” Or travel between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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By MD Abdullah

Abdullah is a former educator, lifelong money nerd, and a Plutus Award-winning freelance writer who specializes in the scientific research behind irrational money behaviors. Her background in education allows her to make complex financial topics relatable and easily understood by the layperson. She is the author of four books, including End Financial Stress Now and The Five Years Before You Retire.

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