Anyone who has ever dreamed of a round the world trip will have asked themselves the same question – when is the best time to travel the world?
Embarking on a round the world trip is normally dictated by how much money you have saved, your work commitments or your housing situation.
But, if you are able to choose the exact timing of your trip, knowing the best time to travel around the world can have a huge impact on your budget and your experience of the places you choose to visit.
So, at the same time as planning where to go on a round the world trip, don’t forget to consider when is the best time to go on your adventure of a lifetime.
When is the best time to travel the world?
Sorry, but there isn’t one! There is never going to be the perfect time, age or situation to embark on extended travel.
There will always be worries about having enough money or about the effects of long term travel on your studies, job, career and relationships.
Families with children will worry about their child’s education and social development and about taking children away from extended family.
So there is never going to be a ‘best’ time to go travelling – but there is going to a right time for you.
Luck, work, money, opportunity and the will to travel will coincide at some point and, though it may not be the ideal time in all aspects of your life, you will know when it is the right time for you. And try not to let the opinions of others sway you into when to travel, or when not to travel.
I travelled for 2 1/2 years in my twenties leaving a great job to do so. Looking back, it may not have been the best time to leave my career to travel but at that time, it was the right time for me.
When we were planning our family gap year, we had sooooo many people say to us ‘why not wait until the children are older, or have left home?’ They missed the whole point of our family trip! We wanted to travel when our kids were young.
And if 2020 has shown us anything, it is why wait? You never know what life has in store for you around the corner.
What is the best age for children to travel the world?
There are pros and cons of extended travel with children no matter what the age of your child. You can read about these in detail here.
The simple answer is that there is no ‘perfect age’ for a child to travel around the world. It depends on your child and family – every child is different and every family is different.
It also depends what you want out of your trip. If you want to tour museums, then travelling with a toddler will be challenging. If you want lots of couple time, then travel with a baby. If you want to see the world through your child’s eyes then travel when your child is older.
Children are more capable, resilient and adaptable than we give them credit for, especially in the helicopter parenting of the western world.
You know your child best. If you think your children will cope with unfamiliar people, places, sleeping arrangements and food then they are ready to travel.
But whatever age your child is, they will need support with this enormous transition and input into your planning and decision making. You can read our post on how to prepare kids for travel here.
It is important to recognize that family problems you may have at home will still be family problems when travelling. If your child is a fussy eater or does not sleep through the night at home, these issues won’t magically disappear when travelling.
A big worry for parents is a child missing out on education, learning and social experiences. I am an ex teacher but I strongly believe that not all learning takes place within the four walls of a classroom. Nor does it need to!
You can read our tips for homeschooling while travelling here.
We are constantly surprised by our children on each trip we take. Places we thought they would love, they have hated. Experiences we were worried would be challenging proved to be plain sailing.
Our children were 6, 9 and 11 when we started our family gap year. We had made the decision to wait until our youngest was old enough to remember the trip and to have some safety awareness and independence.
Why the best time to come home should determine when you leave…
Why think about coming home before you have even left home?!
Well, the truth is that coming home at a ‘bad time’ can have a huge impact on you so it is worth considering during your travel planning.
Consider the seasons
If you are planning to travel for a year, think about what that means for when you return.
You may, understandably, want to escape the cold, dark winter by starting your gap year but if you leave in winter, you will return in winter. Post travel blues are real and can be difficult; returning in winter will not help.
We returned home from our family gap year in Autumn. Winter came early and was one of the harshest and longest winters in living memory. This did not help our post travel blues! Next time, I will aim to arrive home in Spring with the Summer to look forward to.
Return home to an event or national holiday
This will give you something to look forward to, to focus on and can be helpful in dispelling any post travel blues.
We returned home in September and were not able to see family and friends until Christmas. It felt very flat to come home after one year away and not see any loved ones!
Returning to work
Is there an optimum time for you to return to work or to start looking for work?
When is the best time to return to school?
What do you plan to do about schooling when you return?
If your children are returning to mainstream education, arriving home for the start of the school year in September may be your best chance of securing a school place. It will also help your child to settle as they will start the year at the same time as everyone else.
Talk to your child’s headteacher to find out what time of year school places arise and research admissions guidelines for your education authority to know the ‘cut off’ deadlines for applications. You may have to apply for a place whilst travelling so make sure you know what documents you will need access to.
Our children returned to the oversubscribed schools they had left. Before we left for our trip, we knew the best time to return in order to secure a place was September. We had to apply for these places in March.
Which season is the best time to travel the world?
An endless Summer
Us Brits love to follow the sun! And following the sun on a round the world trip has many benefits.
Visiting warm countries means you can get away with lighter, less bulky luggage thereby avoiding costly, checked baggage fees or having to wear your most bulky items on flights.
You are guaranteed good weather for long days exploring (or relaxing) outdoors which can help to keep your sightseeing costs low.
In good weather, it can be easy to keep costs low by camping and self catering with picnics and BBQ’s.
But if it is too hot, you will quickly wilt when sightseeing and may yearn for air conditioning in your accommodation. This may be spending more money.
In Australia, we spent all our time outdoors visiting beaches and national parks and spent very little money.
In Hong Kong, we paid extra in an already expensive city so we could have a room with air conditioning. Sightseeing during the day became so unbearable so we went to the cinema just to enjoy cool air conditioning.
We originally planned to follow the sun travelling hand luggage only.
Well, we managed to travel hand luggage only but failed dismally to follow the sun as we wanted to visit so many places.
There were times when we lugged winter woollies around tropical climates because we knew we were headed to winter again in our next destination. At other times, we were woefully unprepared for freezing temperatures; after arriving into -8 in New York City from a balmy 32 degree Florida, we spent the first day in NYC shopping for cold weather gear.
Next trip, we WILL follow the sun! After all, isn’t life better in flip flops?
Winter travel offers picture perfect landscapes, crisp air and skies and, for our U.K based family, winter travel gave us the opportunity to try new winter sports.
Plus, unless you visit a ski destination, winter is usually an off peak travel time offering cheaper accommodation and quieter locations.
But winter means shorter, darker days for sightseeing, potential travel disruptions, and being cold!
You will also need to carry around bulkier items such as boots, thick socks, hats and gloves which will quickly use up your baggage allowance.
Plus, if you plan to do ANY winter sports and wish to be covered by your travel insurance, you will need to declare this and may need to pay a premium.
But not all winter destinations are cold and cold is relative!
We visited Florida in December and the temperature was 32 degrees Celsius. We drove the east coast of Australia during winter and wore shorts and t-shirts the entire trip.
Both Florida and Australia were warmer on a winters day than the average summer day in the U.K. In Australia a few people in winter clothes remarked on our summer gear by saying ‘you gotta be Brits.’
Seasons to avoid – or hit
Find out the timings of weather extremes for your potential destinations. A hurricane or monsoon rains can seriously affect your travel experience.
Other destinations have ‘best’ weather times to get the most out of that location. For example, the best time to visit South America if you want to hike in Patagonia will be during their summer whereas the hiking season in Nepal is their Spring or Autumn.
School holidays and national events
As soon as domestic school holidays start, travel costs soar.
Accommodation and transport prices are inflated and attractions will be busier. It will be impossible to find bargain deals or negotiate discounts. But different countries have different school holiday dates – even in a country as small as the U.K!
You may know the dates for Eid, Christmas, Easter or Divali but do you know the dates of Nadaam in Mongolia or Australia Day?
Furthermore, certain countries virtually shut down for national sporting events (either home or away). Apia was deserted the day the Samoan rugby team played New Zealand!
However, you may decide that rather than avoid some of these national events you choose to time your visit to coincide with them.
Yes, it may mean higher prices and busier locations but you will also enjoy a unique experience – and isn’t that the point of travelling?
Although a national event will be a great experience. I do not recommend school holidays as the best time to travel the world. Which makes travelling so much harder for families of school aged children!
Shoulder season travel
Travelling in shoulder season – the time immediately before or after peak season – usually offers the same benefits of peak season but at a reduced cost. The weather will be acceptable, attractions and local restaurants will be open and locations quieter.
But shoulder season for some is not shoulder season for all! If in doubt, ask the local tourist board for advice.
We arrived into New Zealand at Easter, in what we thought was Spring shoulder season for domestic travel and for visitors from the northern hemisphere.
However, we did not realise that Spring is the most popular time for tourists from Asia to visit New Zealand. We continually struggled to find available, affordable car rental and accommodation. Thankfully, we were saved by discovering relocation vehicles (see below)!
Low season travel
Low season is the best time to pick up bargain deals and discounts.
Attractions and popular locations will be quieter. Local people will have more time and be more willing to engage with you. Always ask for accommodation discounts during the low season, especially at Airbnb’s.
We visited Samoa in their Autumn. I emailed a five star hotel asking for prices, stating what our budget was. I didn’t expect a reply but received an email offering us a ‘soon to be demolished bungalow’ on their resort that met our budget. The two bedroom, ocean front bungalow was amazing and a huge step above our usual standard of accommodation. In fact, I think we may have been forever spoilt by that bungalow!
However, attractions may have shorter opening hours or close for maintenance. Local restaurants may close.
We visited Crete in low season and although we got a great deal on accommodation, it wasn’t easy to find an open restaurant.
Practical tips to help you decide when is the best time to travel the world
Find out when major airlines have their flight sales. A fantastic, money saving special offer may determine when you leave to travel.
Sign up for seat release alerts from your preferred airlines or route. Flights tend to be cheaper the earlier you book. I often get up at dawn to catch seat releases from Easyjet.
Join flight deal specialists such as Jack’s Flight Club. This comprehensive website regularly has fantastic deals.
Research new flight routes; when new routes open, the first flights are significantly discounted to raise public awareness of the route.
Sign up to airline company newsletters or follow airlines on social media.
Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flight to your chosen destination. Why leave on Saturday when you can save money by leaving on Wednesday?
Alternatively, if you know the date you would like to leave but are not sure where to go first, use Skyscanners’ ‘Everywhere’ option to find the cheapest flight to anywhere on your chosen departure date.
We had a chosen date – dictated by work commitments and renting our home – and knew we wanted to fly ‘west’ somewhere. So we used Skyscanners’ ‘Everywhere’ option. We found flights to Iceland for just £17 for adults, £11 for our children. So the first destination on our round the world trip was Iceland.
Research travel bargains so you can ‘hit’ them at the right time
Have you heard about repositioning cruises? We wish we had before we left home!
A repositioning cruise is when a cruise ship is moved from a route at the end of a high season in one location to a new route at the start of high season elsewhere. For example, at the end of the Alaskan cruise season/the start of winter, the ship will be moved to the South Pacific for its peak season. And at the end of that peak season the ship will travel back to Alaska for its summer.
Cruise ships regularly cross hemispheres and oceans in order to follow the peak season of different locations and cruising companies offer hugely discounted tickets on these trips.
Reposition cruise travellers will receive the same standard of accommodation and food as regular cruises but will not receive the same range of entertainment or the same number of sightseeing stops. And fewer sightseeing stops means more consecutive nights at sea.
But limited stops and entertainment is a tiny price to pay for the significant savings on offer.
However, with repositioning cruises, timing is key.
Firstly, you will need to be following the same seasons as the cruise ships. Unfortunately, we were travelling the ‘wrong way’ round the world to take advantage of any of these offers so repositioning cruises have been added to a future ‘to do’ list.
Secondly, you will need to be a given location at a given time and may have to plan your trip around this. Alternatively, if you are looking for a last minute deal, may have to hang around in a port for the right trip to arise.
This is one form of budget travel we DID take advantage of. Travelling using relocation vehicles has to be one of the cheapest ways to travel the world; we discovered this budget friendly mode of travel during our gap year and are now hooked!
Relocation vehicles are vehicles that have been hired for a one way journey and need to be returned to their home base for the next rental. Car rental companies advertise for willing travellers to drive to these one way rented vehicles back to their home base – for significantly cheaper than hiring a one way vehicle yourself.
Vehicles range from compact cars to six berth motorhomes. Applicants need a clean license and you will be required to pay for petrol and insurance. You must pick up and drop off your vehicle to a given place and at a time specified by the rental company.
If there is a tight time frame for delivery, vehicles will be very cheap to hire; we hired motorhomes for just $5 a day.
However, most companies will offer a flexible deal, especially in low or shoulder season that allows you to purchase extra days for your journey. These flexible days will allow you to sightsee rather than have to travel direct to the home base.
For example, in New Zealand, we had a total of 8 days to drive a five berth motorhome from Queenstown to Christchurch. To encourage us to get to Christchurch quickly, four of these days cost $5 a day. But we had the flexible option of purchasing an extra four days at $75 a day. $75 is a huge saving on a vehicle that usually costs around $200 a day to hire.
We travelled all over New Zealand and down the east coast of Australia using a series of relocation motorhomes and cars.
Deals are widely available in peak season but flexible deals may not be offered due to the increased demand for vehicles. Flexible deals will be more available during shoulder and low season.
The downside of using relocation vehicles is having to travel to a schedule. We also found that the drop off point was usually in an industrial estate miles from anywhere. Plus, as we preferred to use motorhomes, we found it time consuming and frustrating having to pack and unpack into a new van on each leg of the trip.
But the upside to using relocation vehicles are the huge savings that can be made. And, as relocation vehicles are more common in expensive locations like Oceania, North America and Europe, it can be a cost effective way of travelling in expensive locations.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is no ‘perfect’ time to start your trip around the world.
But if you do your research and use our travel tips, you may be able to manipulate your departure date to give you the very best possible experience on your once in a lifetime, round the world trip.