What is Peak Season?

Most destinations have different seasons when they’re more or less popular with tourists. The least busy season is known as the “low season” or “off season,” while the busiest season is called the “high season” or “peak season.”
There are different factors that can determine how appealing a place is to visit, the main one usually being climate-related. It’s not always about warmer being better, however. Beach destinations hit peak season in the summer, for instance, while high season for ski resorts is winter. Extreme weather conditions—like searing heat, blizzards, storms—usually mean off season. Temperate conditions often mean peak season.
While peak season may be ideal weather-wise, there’s a price to be paid—literally. Prices on everything from airfare to hotels are at their highest during peak season, and crowds are bigger, too.
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When is peak season?

Because climates can vary considerably from country to country (and, often, region to region), peak season isn’t the same everywhere.

On a very general level, you can roughly say that peak season is summer—which is June–August in the northern hemisphere and November–February in the southern hemisphere. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are also peak seasons in many parts of the world.

In addition to those generalities, specific countries or regions or even cities may have their own peak seasons because of popular local festivals, holidays, special events, or microclimates. Knowing when it’s summer in one or the other hemispheres is a good start, but you’ll be much better off with details on the exact places you’re visiting.

  • Australia and New Zealand: Summer, usually December–February
  • Caribbean: December–April
  • Hawaii: Summer, usually June–August; Christmas and New Year’s
  • Europe: Summer, usually June–August; Christmas and New Year’s
  • North America: Summer, usually June–August; Christmas and New Year’s; long holiday weekends such as Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving in the United States; southern beaches are also busy during Spring Break; some destinations are the exact opposite, however, such as ski resorts (winter is peak season)
  • South America: Summer, usually December–February; some exceptions to this are the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu (high season is July–August and the Galapagos (high season is July–November)
  • Africa: Travel seasons vary significantly by region on this enormous continent; in East Africa, peak season is July–November (dry season); in North Africa it's June–September (dry season); in Southern Africa it's April–October (dry season); and in West Africa it's November–April (dry season)
  • Asia: Travel seasons vary significantly throughout Asia, particularly between mainland countries and island nations; peak season in Central Asia is typically April–June and September–October; in East Asia peak season is typically festival-based (such as Golden Weeks in China around May Day, National Day, and Spring Festival; cherry blossom season in Japan in March or April); in South Asia peak season is November–March; in Southeast Asia it's June–August and December–February; and in West Asia and the Middle East it's December–February

How does peak season affect airfare?

Airfare changes with the seasons, as you might expect, with higher demand making for higher prices. What you might not expect, however, is that price changes are based not just on the season in your destination but also sometimes the season in your departure region.

The price differences become particularly pronounced when you’re traveling between hemispheres. For instance, US travelers going to Australia are going to pay much less if they travel in January than in July. Even though June is Australia’s winter and therefore low season, it’s the high season in most of the United States and more Americans are traveling so fares are generally higher.

Last Updated 
September 16, 2019