When the kids were little, we made off-season travel a part of our plan every year. We would take the kids out of school on non-break weeks to take our vacations, especially if we were going somewhere touristy. The kids were strong students and could usually get most of their work ahead of time to work on as we drove. It’s what made for shorter lines at Disney Land and pleasant trips to the beach in San Diego when we lived out West; it’s what makes for a better experience in Montreal now. It’s far more difficult for Anika now that she’s trying to graduate early and has hours of homework every night. But last week, for Thanksgiving, we went to Niagara Falls.

We only live a little more than two hours from Niagara Falls, so we’ve been there more times than I can count. We have been there twice in December for Kira’s cheer competitions, but most of our trips have been in the height of tourist season. Both December (because of the Festival of Lights) and May-September are peak tourist times in Niagara Falls. People come from everywhere in the world to see the falls, with good reason. It is a beautiful, spectacular site. The Ontario, Canada side of the falls (where we go) is built up with hotels and entertainment galore and more restaurants than you can imagine. And it’s normally shoulder to shoulder people. It’s like being in a hallway at an overcrowded high school when everyone’s trying to get to their locker.

But on Thanksgiving day – America’s Thanksgiving, since Canada celebrated theirs on the second Monday of October – it was delightfully quiet. Sure, there were a few other tourists, but there was no waiting in line for anything, from glow-in-the-dark golf to the Fallsview Buffet where we had dinner (that normally has a line out the door). There was no waiting four people deep to get a good view of the falls; there was no long line of cars waiting to drive through the Festival of Lights display.

Short lines and no crowds are two benefits of off-season travel, but there is also the cost factor. The hotel we stayed at – the Best Western Fallsview – was offering a special deal where the rooms were only around $50 American and came with coupons for free games at the Fun Center, restaurant coupons (like $70 off at Ruth Chris Steak House and $15 off at the IHOP), and free tours of the Chocolate factory for the whole family.

We’re not always able to take advantage of off-season travel, but it definitely is worth it when you can.