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Super off-peak: the cheapest times to visit your favourite destinations

Itching to book a break away but wary of splashing too much cash? We’ve pored over flight prices to five of the most popular destinations to figure out the best-value time of year to travel. While we were at it, we picked out some pretty cool places to stay, too. Don’t say we never spoil you.

1. New York – January/February

If you fancy nipping over the Atlantic for a buzzy few days in New York, take advantage of the slight tourism dip early in the year, when return flights start from around £212. Sure, the weather in January and February isn’t exactly balmy (wear your thickest coat and boots, pack lots of winter layers and prepare for sub-zero temperatures and every chance of snow) but the pay-off is fewer tourist crowds. That means museums and galleries are quieter, tickets for the big Broadway shows are easier to come by and you might even get to bag a table in the most in-demand restaurants. Better yet, if you come at the end of January/beginning of February, you’ll coincide with NYC Restaurant Week (21 Jan-8 Feb) and NYC Broadway Week (21 Jan-10 Feb) when hundreds of restaurants lay on special fixed-priced menus and many theatres offer two-for-one ticket deals.

Stay: Base yourself near Times Square and you’re right in the heart of the theatre district. At LUMA Hotel Times Square (where a night’s stay in January starts from around £123), you get bright, well-designed rooms and an in-house restaurant fronted by an award-winning chef. Oh, and Alina, a robot butler, who springs into action if you need extra towels or toiletries delivered to your room.

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2. Paris – February

Given its city of lurve reputation, you’d think a February jaunt to the French capital would be off-limits for bargain hunters, with smoochy Valentine’s couples pushing up prices for the rest of us. Turns out Paris is anything but, with plenty of good deals on flights – London-based travellers, for example, can pick up returns from around £58. There’s also plenty to do that doesn’t involve roses or romance. Sports fans can head to the Stade de France to catch some of the fixtures in the 2019 Six Nations tournament; arts-lovers can check out the works of the 2,000+ artists who exhibit at Art Capital in the Grand Palais (13-17 Feb); and for something more offbeat there’s one of the world’s biggest circus festivals, Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (31 Jan-3 Feb), and Paris Face Cachée (1-3 Feb), a weekend of opportunities to visit sites that are normally closed to the public.

Stay: Glossy magazines love Hotel Henriette and it’s easy to see why. A sweet little boutique hotel on a cobble-stoned street in the 13th arrondissement, it’s owned by a former fashion stylist who’s brought her design-savvy eye to bear on the interiors, combining an eclectic mix of colours, fabrics and furnishings to give each of the 32 small bedrooms its own extremely photogenic boho-chic style. In February rooms start from £107 per night.

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3. Dubai – Early March

Dubai’s not the cheapest of destinations and pinning down the best time to book a bargain break there is a tricky one. If you’re quick, there are good deals to be had on flights in January, with return fares from less than £300 – but hotel rates then are high, so any savings on transport might be eaten up in extra accommodation costs. You‘ll find cheaper rooms in July/August, when flights start from a still reasonable £330 or so – but you could end up spending a fortune in the shopping malls at this time because the summer weather is too hot for sightseeing and all you really want to do is hide out in air-conditioned cool. What to do for the best? Compromise. In early March you can still find flights from around £300, hotel rates are down from their high season peak, and temperatures hover happily in the mid 20˚Cs. Win, win, win.

Stay: Dubai hotels may be famous for OTT glitz and expense but if fun and funky is more your style, check out Rove Hotels. There are five dotted around town (and more in the pipeline), all with pool, gym and eminently Instagrammable interiors. At the newest, Rove Dubai Marina, you’ll find double rooms in early March for around £94, while at Rove City Centre they’re an even cheaper £67.

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4. Bangkok – March

Peak tourist season in the Thai capital is during the cooler winter months, so once visitor numbers thin out a bit at the end of February you stand a good chance of nabbing a bargain to Bangkok, with return flights in March starting from just under £300. Temperatures and humidity may be starting to pick up but it’s still nothing like as hot (or as rainy) as it will be come April. Do your sightseeing early in the day, take all the usual heat precautions, and it’ll be all hunky dory. Going at this time of year brings a delicious bonus for foodies as well: March is the start of mango season, when the ripe, fragrant fruits start to appear on market stalls and local chefs vie to see who can whip up the best mango sticky rice, so massively popular that it’s practically the national dessert.

Stay: Go for a hotel where the bedrooms have air con rather than just a ceiling fan and you’ll appreciate it as the mercury begins to rise. At the rather chic 50-room akyraTAS Sukhumvit Bangkok you’ll find cool, calm decor, plenty of going-out options right on the doorstep, and rooms from around £90 a night.

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5. Singapore – November

If this year’s Christmas build-up has been more ho-hum than ho ho ho, jazz things up a bit next year. November’s the month to pick up bargain flights to Singapore, with return fares currently available for around £462. Go mid-month and you can be there for the start of the Christmas festivities, when the Orchard Road lights are switched on and shopping malls and hotels start to go into full twinkle mode. Leave it till the end of the month and you can check out Christmas Wonderland at Gardens by the Bay, where the already somewhat surreal setting of the Supertree Grove gets even more wonderfully bizarre with the addition of huge light sculptures, fairground rides, Santa’s grotto, a European style Christmas market and regular ‘Blizzard Times’, when fake snowfalls from the Singapore skies.

Stay: Rooms at M Social Singapore (from £84 in November) aren’t huge but, designed by Philippe Starck, they’re cool and quirky with chapel-style ceilings, oversized bedheads and sometimes their own little terrace. Plus the whole hotel was created for ‘the Adventurers, the Explorers and those who live for new experiences’ – and they probably have far more exciting things to do than fret about room size.

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Ready to book your next off-peak adventure?

All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of publication on 18 December 2018.