Off-peak travel can refer to any “unpopular” time zone. It can mean particular hours of each day, days of the week, or months of the year. Train, plane and bus companies are required to offer a full schedule on their main services. This means they run off-peak services at unpopular times or by longer routes than normal, which they can have difficulty filling up.

You can take advantage of this by buying a ticket for an off-peak travel time, and paying a fraction of the price. On some routes off-peak fares can be as little as a quarter the price of a full price fare.

Consider purchasing tickets through consolidators, who buy blocks of airline tickets and sell them at a discount to help an airline fill up all available seats. Check the travel section of the newspaper under “ticket consolidators”. However, consolidators may delay in delivering your tickets, don't allow refunds or exchanges and don't take reservations. To protect yourself, purchase through a travel agent, pay by credit card and consider buying travel cancellation insurance.

Other off-peak travel tips:

  • Enquire about standby fares if you are flying internationally and off-season. These fares can be even lower than off-peak fares
  • When fares are divided into peak and off-peak travel times, the least expensive times to travel are generally Tuesdays and Wednesdays and sometimes Thursdays and Saturdays. The most expensive times to travel are generally Fridays, Sundays and Mondays
  • Check out budget airlines. These often have a “continuous” off peak reservation system, pricing tickets differently at different times of every day depending on the day's level of demand
  • Indirect flights tend to be discounted, so if you are not in a hurry check these out
  • Book tickets early. You can purchase advance ticket discounts by reserving 21, 14, seven or three days in advance
  • Keep yourself updated on airfare wars by watching the news, tracking travel websites and reading the newspaper. Focus on smaller, newer airline companies, or look for limited-time promotional fares from major airlines.
  • Some transcontinental flights departing late in the evening (such as 11:30 p.m.) or very early in the morning (such as 1:30 a.m.) offer lower fares
  • Watch out for restrictions on off peak travel. Often these are not refundable and travel times cannot be changed. You may even have to stay a Saturday night or longer in the destination country, which will have cost implications.