There's a New Shoulder Season for Travel, and It's Coming Up Soon

Forget everything you've heard about the spring and fall shoulder seasons

Christkindlmarkt, Marienplatz (square)
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Late spring and early fall are no longer the cheapest times to travel: There's a new shoulder season you should know about if you're seeking a budget-friendly getaway.

A new analysis by Hotels.com reveals that the best times to travel this winter for ultra-affordable accommodations are from Dec. 15 to Dec. 20 and from Jan. 3 to Jan. 8. These dates fall within what the booking website is dubbing the "cold shoulder season," as the cheapest fare can be booked right before and after the holidays.

Just how affordable are we talking about? Hotels.com found plenty of three-star-and-up options for $170 (or less) a night during the cold shoulder season. As of Nov. 29, deals available for December travel include Schwan Locke in Munich (from $126 a night), MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (from $167 a night), and L.A.'s citizenM Los Angeles Downtown (from $169 a night).

The January cold shoulder season has plenty of under-$150 rates, too, with prices at Lake Tahoe's Station House Inn starting at $137 a night, New York City's Aliz Hotel Times Square going for $143 a night, and Tokyo's Hotel Musse Ginza Meitetsu available for as low as $119 a night.

"In a typical year, travelers can find the best deals between Labor Day and Thanksgiving during fall shoulder season," Melanie Fish, a spokesperson for Hotels.com, said. "But travel demand hit an all-time high this summer and never really slowed down, meaning people searching for off-season deals had to do some extra digging to find those price drops. What's great about this latest Hotels.com intel is that we've zeroed in on exactly when to travel for some of the best rates." 

To make its predictions, Hotels.com looked at average hotel rates listed on the app between July 2019 and January 2020. The booking website based its report on pre-pandemic deals, but the analysis still holds if the low hotel rates this cold shoulder season are any indication.

As for travel dates to avoid if you're looking to save a buck, hotel rates are predictably expected to peak on New Year's weekend, with hotels in popular winter destinations like Turks and Caicos and Park City, Utah, going for a whopping average of $800 and $600 a night, respectively.