The ‘shoulder season’ secret in retired budget travel

I’m going to share a secret with you about saving money on accommodations in retired budget travel. It’s called, “shoulder season.”

Since we are retired, we have the time to adjust our travel schedule in order to get the best price available. We often stay in a city or town in the month or two leading up to, or following, the busy tourist season. These time frames are commonly called shoulder seasons. But not-so-common: we actively seek out rentals during these seasons to save money on monthly rentals. So far, we’ve had great luck with discounts. The keys to success in finding shoulder season deals are to have a flexible travel schedule and book early.

Let’s use Mexico as an example, since many Americans and Canadians often go to Mexico in the winter to escape snow and cold, so winter is “high season” in Mexico, meaning that’s when more tourists stay in hotels and apartment rentals. Shoulder seasons in Mexico are October into November, and April into May. This is when prices drop because demand is lower.

Paseo Claussen, Mazatlan
The view from our Airbnb balcony in Mazatlan, Mexico, in late 2017.

One example of a discounted rental in Mexico was our Airbnb unit in the wonderful city of Mazatlan. We saved hundreds of dollars on an oceanfront unit over the course of our stay from mid-October to mid-December in late 2017.

We toured Italy in the spring shoulder season, including Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice. While these places always have many tourists, the hordes had not yet arrived on their summer vacations and holidays. Our rentals in these places would have been double or triple the price if we had gone in July or August.

Now I’ll give pricing examples for our stay on Croatia’s Dalmatian coast in mid-May. Our fabulous rental apartment cost about $880 for the month on Airbnb, or about $220 per week. If we had come during high season, the price would have been closer to $300 a week, and would have cost us another $320 for the month.

Omis beach view
The view from our Airbnb deck in Omis, Croatia, mid-May 2018.

We got the discount because Tedly asked the owner if a price break was an option for a monthly stay during the shoulder season, and the owner agreed. The owner was guaranteed a tenant every night of the month during shoulder season, and has less turnover to deal with. We had to book several months in advance to ensure every night during the month we wanted was available. (Read more details about how we stay in continuous Airbnb rentals here.)

Even without the discount, this was a fair price for all that comes with the rental: a one-bedroom apartment with an amazing deck and breathtaking views, perfect location close to the beach, and modern amenities, such as a clothes washer, dish washer, high speed internet, cable with some English channels, and an air conditioner, although we didn’t need the air conditioner because the temperatures was perfect – usually in the 70s – during our shoulder season stay.

Omis bay
View of the Omis Bay from the town’s dock walkway in June 2018.

That’s another boon to shoulder seasons – sometimes those months have better weather than high season months. Unlike Mexico, where shoulder seasons can be hotter, more humid, and have a hurricane risk, places like Omis in May and early June are not yet sweltering. The sea may be a tad chillier, but it’s still great for swimming.

The water has gotten warmer, the days longer, and it’s almost time for us to leave this place as more tourists arrive each day. There are distinctive signs we are at the dawn of the high season: beaches are packed with visitors by mid-afternoon; the town set up a rope barrier to keep swimmers out of the boat traffic lane; there is more trash (although I must say Omis is great about garbage collection); there is heavy traffic on the two-lane road from Split; stores keep longer hours; restaurants are filled with patrons and are open every day. Locals told me many stores and restaurants don’t open at all in January, February, and March. Omis is a small place — it’s a special place.

Omis road to the east
View of the road into the Cetina River Canyon from Omis, Croatia, in May 2018.

Aside from the good pricing, fewer tourists, and good weather in the shoulder season, the magic of Omis includes the people and the views. My god, the views. If you missed some of my previous pictures, see those here.

We were in Omis long enough to make some new friends, break bread, share some belly laughs and make great memories. We are invited back any time, in any future year, and I can easily see us returning here — in another shoulder season.










  1. Good stuff and some very useful tips! We find that local hosts on Airbnb’s (as opposed to expat owners) are usually more likely to give monthly discounts. Our seven weeks in a penthouse in an upscale neighbourhood in Guadalajara came with a 40 per cent discount, in February and March no less!
    Looking forward to your next destination.

    Liked by 1 person

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