Lonely Planet Writer

Travel debate: summer or winter holidays?

We’re all going on a summer holiday... Or would you rather stay home until it cools down? In general each season has its supporters and detractors, but when it comes to picking holiday dates, arguments can heat right up and get quite icy.

Sun or snow? Or a bit of both?

Throwing on his scarf and zipping up his parker to fight for the winter months is Talk2Us Coordinator Trent Paton:

Most travellers descend on popular regions (like Europe) during the summer months, as this often coincides with their own holiday periods. The result? Hordes of tourists descending on the attractions that you want to see, booking out the funky hotel that you wanted to stay in, and packing out the tables in that restaurant that you didn’t want to miss, all on the day you’re in that town that you wanted to visit because the pictures you saw made it seem so quiet, serene and delightful.

Well, let me tell you something – that town is serene, delightful and quiet – but only in winter. You’ll need a warmer coat, perhaps some gloves and a hat, but you’ll have that town and all it offers, to yourself...with the exception of a few other intelligent, winter-loving travellers. Tourist towns revert back to their natural state of being during the quiet season, when the local populace forgets about selling tourist tat to sheep-like summer travellers and gets on with the business of living like normal people. A recent visit to Bruges in February confirmed this – we seemed to be the only visitors and were able to wander the canals of this notoriously hectic town with hardly a soul in view, never having to book a table or even our accommodation.

Winter might be cold, but that doesn’t mean it has to be grim. The season can offer up magnificently crisp, clear days, unlike summer’s hazy skies (for example, you’ll never see Mt Fuji from Tokyo in summer). If you’re lucky you might get a romantic dusting of snow on rooftops in some cities.

It’s much easier to keep warm on a cold day than it is to cool down when it’s sweltering, particularly when you’re walking long distances as travellers often find themselves doing. And did I mention that winter is also cheaper? Hotels often halve their prices while transport operators offer deals to get bums on seats, just so they can reduce their losses during quiet times.

So, winter is a cheaper, quieter, more relaxed, more beautiful and more comfortable time to travel. I wouldn’t travel at any other time.

Research Librarian Mark Broadhead gets his hammock swinging as he sticks up for summer:

For some reason I feel the need to defend summer rather than attack winter. Is it because winter is the underdog? It is accepted that winter is bad for everyone except those after snow sports. Poor winter, but must we really love you just because you are under-appreciated?

Don't get me wrong, I like winter as much as the next guy. It makes me appreciate the summer even more (I shall compare thee to a summer’s day). But I wouldn't go on vacation during winter. Well, that's not entirely true. I may go on vacation in winter to experience some of the events that happen during those months, but all the while I want it to be hot, not cold.

More than the other months, people travel during summer, and so they find themselves among a multitude of other travellers, and higher prices abound wherever they go. I say to you, it isn't that bad. Sure, there are queues at the major sights, but read your Lonely Planet guide and it will tell you the least crowded time to go and the least expensive place to stay. And a touristy place is a touristy place the whole year round. Get away from the main thoroughfares and you'll experience the real destination where most travellers don't tread.

Meanwhile, summer is also great because of other travellers. I like meeting like-minded people, and travellers are by far the best people to meet. While it is annoying if travellers get in the way of you engaging with a destination, it is good to meet both locals and travellers. I often long for more travellers, not fewer. Bring on summer every time.

And now for the rebuttal:

Trent: Why are other travellers better people to meet than locals? Hanging out with hordes of drunken summer tourists is surely no attraction, nor is rising at the crack of dawn to get to tourist sites or spending hours in line. Give me the peace and quiet of winter any day.

Mark: Ah, Trent, you forgot to mention the rain, sleet, hail and wind. Having a ghost town all to yourself just isn’t fun.

What do you think? Are you more snow bunny or sun lover?