Off-peak travel can mean real steals, fewer crowds, and more personalized service. By Diane M. Byrne

September might mark the end of big family vacations, but for some travelers, it’s the beginning of the best vacation time—at least in Florida, the Caribbean, and even the Middle East. Known as “shoulder season” for its occurrence on either side of high season, this off-peak travel period can mean fewer crowds and an increased opportunity to enjoy destinations that just weeks before were overrun with tourists. Even better, there’s the opportunity to receive more personalized attention and see your dollars go further.

Of course, these shoulder season perks donÂ’t come entirely without effort. ThatÂ’s where the advice of John E. DiScala, a.k.a. Johnny Jet, comes in. A travel writer and expert regularly interviewed by media outlets like USA Today, Time, CBS, and PBS, Jet logs an average of 150,000 miles each year. He also updates his own site,, and newsletter with various travel deals, as well as photos and information from his own trips. Following are a few of JetÂ’s tips for successful shoulder season travel.

Watch the weather.

“Weather can be iffy—you’re rolling the dice,” Jet warns. This is particularly true of Florida and the Caribbean come September and October, the tail end of hurricane season. In the Middle East, temperatures soar May through June, the first of its three shoulder seasons (the others are September, because of Ramadan, and December, because it follows Islamic holy periods). Jet recommends considering travel insurance and consulting weather websites, particularly for hurricane information, before you pack.

Make personal contact.
“Call up and speak to the manager. Don’t just go online or call the front desk, which will route you to the 800 number,” Jet says. Especially in this economy, you can get extras if you ask: a restaurant credit, a free spa treatment, even a night free if you book a certain length of stay.”

Fly frequently.
Airlines are stingy with free upgrades, even if you belong to a frequent-flyer program. But, “It helps to get the status,” he says.
More is available for less. Airlines, hotels, and resorts often lower prices. The Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay resort in Oman, on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, takes $300 off the high-season rate of $3,850 per night for its beachfront Zighy Pool Villa Suites. Better yet, when it comes to the hotels and resorts, “You get great service because there’s no one else there,” Jet says. Another benefit: “You’re not fighting for a table at the restaurant or a chair at the pool.”