Caron is a Holiday Inn Club member, lifetime Ohioan, wife to Rob, mom to three, mother-in-law to three and Nana to one amazing grandson. Caron became a tireless pediatric cancer crusader after her youngest son's diagnosis. She also volunteers for the Cincinnati Arts Association. As retirees, Caron and her husband are adventurous travelers with a crazy bucket list and are always looking for opportunities to hit the road with family and friends.
When it comes to traditional vacation travel time, you might be thinking of a typical 7-day trip beginning and ending on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
To me, it feels like the quintessential picture of loading the family into the station wagon and driving off to new adventures for the week.
However, this style of travel is not one-size-fits-all.
For your own family vacation, you might be wondering when to go. Should you travel during the week or weekend? Which is better? More affordable? Which has more options?
Growing up as the daughter of a funeral director, my family’s vacations were never traditional, as business requirements demanded flexibility.
Similarly, three of my adult children are medical professionals and never work a typical week.
Finally, now that my husband and I are retired, we have the freedom to set our own vacation schedule.
Hi, I’m Caron, and this is my husband Rob. We’re retirees, world-travelers and Holiday Inn Club members.
All that said, I’ve found that the answer to this question on which is better depends on many different factors: your style, budget, what you want to do and your work or school schedules.
Both mid-week and weekend travel have their benefits, and as someone who has been all across the U.S. (and the world), I want to make it a little easier for you to decide when to take your next vacation.
Mid-Week Travel Benefits
There are some definite benefits to traveling during the week vs. the weekends. Here are just a few things to consider about mid-week travel.
You can save on transportation costs.
Transportation is typically cheaper during the week than the weekend. Flying on off-peak days, times and seasons could save hundreds of dollars in fares, especially if you’re taking a bigger family vacation.
Airports and roads are easier to navigate.
Airports are typically less crowded and security checkpoints are easier to get through.
If you’re driving, traffic after the morning rush tends to be lighter on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, as well as early Saturday mornings.
Lodging can be more affordable and available.
Hotel rates can fluctuate based on location, season, festivals, holidays and week day, so before booking, ask yourself the purpose of your stay.
Is it merely a stopover to your destination? If so, simple amenities work best.
You can find discounted room rates during the week, whether you’re booking a hotel or even if you’re using Points through your vacation ownership.
As Holiday Inn Club members, we can book a stay at one of its 28 resorts from Sunday through Thursday using the same amount of Points as what it would cost for a Friday to Saturday weekend.
This is because, more often, people are booking on the weekends, so they’re worth more Points.
By booking during off-seasons (meaning less popular seasons) and using the benefits of our Platinum Member Tier, we can extend our vacations even further with early booking discounts and upgrades.
For our trip to New Orleans for my 60th birthday, we stayed at New Orleans Resort from Sunday through Thursday. Our flights were significantly cheaper, and we spent 5 fun-filled days roaming the city.
(And we were able to make great choices on activities, sightseeing and restaurants to try with recommendations from a local.)
The master bedroom in the two-bedroom Signature Collection villa at New Orleans Resort
Activities and excursions are often discounted.
You can find some great discounts during off-peak weeks, days and certain times of day.
Myrtle Beach is famous for its Putt-Putt® courses, and many offer incentives such as discounts or unlimited play before 5 p.m., which we take advantage of during our trips to South Beach Resort.
Be sure to always check for as many discounts as you can, especially if you’re active or retired military, or a senior citizen. It never hurts to ask if there is any special pricing available.
Cities, activities and excursions are far less crowded.
There are so many activities you can enjoy with fewer people around and shorter lines to wait in.
Try to plan your vacation adventures during the week, especially if you’re interested in any of the ones below.
Cajun Encounters Tour in New Orleans
Speaking from first-hand experience, the hiking trails in the Smoky Mountains and near Scottsdale, Arizona, can get packed on weekends.
We’ve found that during the week, there’s ample parking, and the trails aren’t as heavily trafficked.
We enjoyed a very uncrowded Cincinnati Red’s Spring Training game during our trip to Scottsdale Resort in Arizona. Concession lines at the ballpark had little wait times, making it even better.
Popular Attractions & Theme Parks
On our New Orleans vacation, our boat on the Cajun Adventures excursion wasn’t filled up. Fewer people made it much easier to move about for pictures.
Visiting an attraction like the WWII Museum in New Orleans or Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg is a lot more enjoyable when you’re not fighting crowds or waiting in lines.
The only exception to this benefit is major theme parks, which will likely still have crowds and lines no matter when you go.
If you’re planning a vacation that includes a theme park visit, plan ahead and understand its entry and capacity rules thoroughly so you know what to expect.
Having said that, it’s easier to book a visit to a theme park for a Tuesday in February or October than it is to book during the weekends, holidays or heat of the summer.
For parks that base pricing on demand, weekdays are typically less expensive, and the lines are definitely shorter.
Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World® Theme Parks
Looking for that perfect souvenir?
Shopping during the weekday is significantly less crowded, too — meaning you’re going to have more space when browsing, may be able to find more items and even get more help/attention from the owner — allowing for a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience.
If you have a store that you MUST visit, check ahead for its open hours. Occasionally some small, local shop owners will take advantage of the off-season to make repairs, upgrade facilities or vacation themselves.
Also, don’t forget to check thrift stores to pick up reading materials, forgotten items or even souvenirs.
“Off-the-beaten-path” businesses are likely emptier, so you can really find some hidden gems. Most thrift stores even benefit local charities, so your purchase can do good in the community where you’re vacationing.
Souvenir shopping in Myrtle Beach
Finally, if you have limited luggage space, research the “Best Souvenirs from…” in a search engine to find suggestions for an iconic piece of memorabilia.
That way, you know what you’re looking for and aren’t browsing aimlessly or buying something you might regret later.
A word of advice: Always remember to double-check with TSA rules, especially if you’re only using carry-on luggage.
My husband and I collect wall art to display in our three-seasons room, so we always search for that and consider it when packing.
But sometimes what you’re looking for can be as small as a magnet, which is always easy to pack.
Hotels & Resorts
Many hotels and resorts may have lower occupancy during the week, so they’re more likely to be less crowded and quieter.
At Holiday Inn Club Vacations resorts, in my experience, this means you can more easily grab a front-row pool chair and the kids can probably hop right on the waterslide without waiting in line.
Some cities are simply more popular and there will likely be more people during your visit.
For example, Gatlinburg can get busy on weekends, and you might have to wait longer in traffic or for certain attractions.
Mid-week vacationers will find some towns much more enjoyable to explore the many shops and venues they have to offer.
Exploring the downtown area in Galveston, Texas
Weekend Travel Benefits
Despite the many benefits of taking a mid-week vacation, there are some areas where the weekend has its pluses, too.
Restaurants are almost always open.
Many establishments are closed on Mondays, and possibly Tuesdays and Wednesdays, too.
You’re almost always going to find more options open on the weekend, but again, they can consequently have longer wait times.
The effects of the pandemic on the hospitality industry are still being felt, so patience and planning are key.
If you’re visiting during the weekend, consider dining at an off-time, between 4–5:30 in the evening. This earlier meal leaves plenty of time for an ice cream nightcap.
Or enjoy a heartier meal at lunch or brunch and a lighter dinner in the evening.
Consider not even sitting down in a restaurant at all.
One of our favorite meals in New Orleans was when we purchased the famous “muffuletta” sandwich at Central Grocery (where it was originally created) and ate it on a bench overlooking the river.
You can also book accommodations that have in-room kitchens or kitchenettes to cook your meals in instead of going out.
When we stay at Holiday Inn Club Vacations resorts, the kitchen in our villa helps with meals and snacks, which can be a significant cost-saver, especially when feeding a family.
You don’t need to take more vacation time.
If you’re someone who works a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job, mid-week travel requires dipping into your vacation time.
Saturdays and Sundays are essentially “free” vacation days and don’t count toward your yearly allotment.
However, this can be balanced with the idea of stretching your time, budget and vacation experiences even further by doing several, shorter mid-week vacations.
Or, see if you can take a “workcation” and spend some time getting work done during the day and exploring at night.
Your kids won’t miss school or extracurriculars.
If you have children in sports or extracurricular activities, they won’t miss too much school or practice if you’re traveling on the weekend (with the exception of games, recitals or tournaments).
To work around school and activity schedules, see if it’s possible to combine potential off-school days with vacation time.
We always made a point to have morning “vacation classes” on the patio to help keep our children current with studies – never more than an hour and always worth the effort.
Remote learning and Zoom meetings can help keep school and work obligations on track during mid-week travel. It’s worth checking if that option is available to you and/or your kids.
Major festivals and events are usually scheduled on weekends.
Traveling mid-week can help you avoid festival crowds, but if you don’t want to miss the festival itself, you’ll have to reconsider your plans.
(Although occasionally there can early bird entries on a Wednesday or Thursday.)
Searching for festivals or major events in your destination ahead of time can help you understand the impact on your travel, including pricing and crowds.
Smaller events, like farmer’s markets, are only open on the weekend, but there are some weekday markets held on Wednesdays or Thursdays.
Consult the internet, social media or blogs to check out all your options, but just know that there will be some things you might miss out on if you’re traveling during the week.
Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day seeing the green Chicago River, an annual tradition
So, is it better to travel during the week or weekend?
It depends. Personally, how my family travels has changed over the years.
As a retired couple, my husband and I now prefer the benefits of mid-week travel when we’re visiting new cities, allowing us to stretch our vacation budget while sampling the destination.
Places that we fall in love with are earmarked for a longer visit in the future, including weekends and occasionally big festivals.
Knowing the benefits of both, hopefully, you can decide what’s best for your next vacation based on your style, budget, schedule and activities you want to do.
My Tips & Tricks for Traveling During the Week or Weekend
Here are a few tips and tricks we’ve learned to make your trip smoother and more enjoyable, whether you’re traveling during the week or weekend.
Set reasonable expectations.
If you begin your vacation after work or school on a Friday night, traffic will be a challenge and everyone’s patience will be thin.
Allow plenty of time to reach your destination or the airport.
We learned that on family road trips, leaving very early in the morning on a Saturday, around 4 a.m., gives us several hours of stress-free, quiet driving.
When flying, we’ve always found it’s more relaxing to enjoy a beverage in the airport, arriving early for our flight rather than waiting and worrying in long lines.
Think outside the box for holiday travels.
Traveling during a holiday week or weekend? There will be a lot of joy, fun and activities to experience. But of course, everyone else has the same idea, too.
Honestly, there’s nothing worse than coming back from a vacation feeling like you still need a vacation! So consider narrowing your options to just a few experiences or consider smaller, outside-the-box ideas.
For example, Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee has an amazing Night of a Million Lights event in December, which benefits the village and gets visitors into the holiday spirit while giving back.
My family loved seeing the Night of a Million Lights displays during our stay at Orange Lake Resort
Check the city’s event calendar.
If you’re looking to avoid unexpected crowds, thoroughly check a city’s event calendar.
Bike Week in Myrtle Beach is always in May, but other weekend activities like marathons, Iron Man competitions or food festivals might’ve been moved from their usual months due to the pandemic.
Some new experiences can be fun to try, but typically all will affect traffic and crowds to some measure. “Know before you go” is crucial.
Try to remember small, local experiences, too.
Keep your eyes and ears open for signs and ads about local festivals or fairs.
For example, we stumbled onto an Antique Fly Wheel Festival while on a trip in Petoskey, Michigan, and it left my husband in engineer heaven!
Live like a local!
Living like a local can give you real insight into a city’s charms. You can make wonderful meals and experience its culture and cuisine by strolling through a farmer’s market.
We love making fresh meals with ingredients bought from Ain’t Yo Mama’s Baked Beans or Orlando City Pasta at the Winter Garden Farmer’s Market.
Take a rest day.
It goes without saying that we all want our vacations to last as long as they can.
But we discovered early on that — whether we traveled on a weekend or weekday or as young adults, a family of five or now as older, retired codgers — building in a day of rest leaves everyone feeling rejuvenated and ready to return to the “real” world.
I hope my experiences and tips helped answer your questions about whether you should travel during the week or the weekend.
Personally, whether we travel mid-week or full-week, we always enjoy our Holiday Inn Club membership. The comfort and convenience of our villas make us feel at home while we’re away from home.
Our guest bloggers are compensated for their writing contributions and honest opinions.
All information is subject to change. This article is a curated guide and is neither sponsored nor considered an official endorsement. Please be sure to check information directly with any/all tours, guides or companies for the most up-to-date and direct details.
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