Don’t even think of locking up your holiday home for the winter! There’s just as much fun to be found off-season, with cheaper flights and cooler weather. And who doesn’t need a bit of winter sun?
The obvious time to enjoy an overseas home is during the hot summer months. But even out of season they can be fun places to visit. Here are six reasons that heading out to your second home during the quieter and cooler times of the year can be just as rewarding.
Holiday resorts are usually cheaper to visit during the low season. Flights and car hire cost less, and once you’re there you often find that restaurant and bar prices are lower than during the height of summer too. Christmas is the obvious exception on flights, although booking early will help keep fares down. You’ll soon learn when your local airline releases its flights and be ready to book.
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The other benefit of winter is smaller crowds forcing their way through the airport. The obvious problem is those places which offer no winter flights at all. You will need to be realistic in choosing a location that won’t be too much of a hassle to reach off-season.
As soon as the New Year kicks in, we book EasyJet flights to Barcelona for our Easter holiday trip to the Costa Brava. At the same time we start planning our summer hols there.
Get fit and healthy
Autumn and springtime in the sun offers the perfect conditions for enjoying a round of golf and other outdoors sports. The temperatures are balmy without being hot, the days are still long and rain should be scarce. It’s no surprise that courses in popular golf destinations like Florida, Portugal’s Algarve, Spain’s Costa del Sol and Balearic Islands, and Belek on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, are busier then, rather than during the hot summers. Tennis and cycling are other sports that are most enjoyable without a sweltering sun beating down on you.
One of our favourite things to do during Spring visits to the Costa Brava is hiring bikes and gliding along the car-free trails that wind through our local countryside.
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Get to know the locals
Most holiday resorts have a permanent local population, as well as a crowd of resident foreigners. Which means that a sufficient number of shops and amenities will have to stay open for them throughout the year.
Inevitably, those restaurants and bars open during the colder months are frequented by locals and expats and have a different vibe to the busy bars flooded by tourists in high season. They tend to be less stressed and friendlier than during the crazy summer season when their home patch is over-run with holidaymakers. Of course, there is much less traffic and no queues to have to deal with too.
There’s always life around a fishing harbour. One of my favourite places for a drink and bite of local fish on a fresh winter day in the Costa Brava is the bar-restaurant in my local port, looking at the fishing boats moored up at the quayside.
Enjoy a festival!
Many countries enjoy a communal celebration or street party, and have all sorts of reasons to celebrate them. A whole range of festivals – ‘fiestas’ in Spain or ‘fêtes’ in France – take place across Europe throughout the year. Get hold of a schedule of the festivals in your local area abroad and for some added excitement during your next out-of-season trip there time it to coincide with an event that takes your fancy. Chances are you’ll go back at the same time the following year!
My local town holds a jazz festival in the port in September, when selected bars host live music. I discovered this by chance one year – what an unexpected treat! My town’s annual ‘fiesta mayor’, the main one of the year, is also in September – when most of the tourists have left! Meanwhile, Easter is a huge occasion in Spain and involves majestic candle-lit processions through the streets.
Explore new places
For most holiday homeowners summer is about maxing out your time around the pool or on the beach, mixed with stints chilling with a drink by the sea or enjoying a long lazy lunch. It’s too hot to move much, let alone venture outside the resort. Head out to your place in the cooler months though and the conditions are ideal for getting in the car or jumping on a bus and exploring new places. Find some interesting towns or sites to visit, wander inland into the countryside or mountains, or venture to your nearest city for the day.
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There so much to do near us. This Easter we spent a day exploring the medieval city of Girona, another half-day being wowed by the Salvador Dalí museum in Figueres, and it’s become a family tradition to climb to the old fort on top of a hill overlooking the town of Torroella de Montgrí – something you’d never dream of doing in the summer.
Catch up on maintenance
Who wants to be stuck inside decorating rooms or outside painting the front of your property in the sticky summer heat? The paint dries too fast anyway. Far better to save up any DIY jobs for when you visit your holiday home in the cooler months. You don’t have to do everything all at once, but spread jobs out over a few days, leaving you time to enjoy yourself too.
I always put aside half a day to attack my garden during stays at my place.