In this post-pandemic summer, everybody seems to be traveling—which makes it a lot tougher to find hotel and airfare deals, score a great table at that hot new restaurant, or savor blissful solitude on a hiking trail. For your next trip, flip your schedule upside down and travel midweek instead of Friday to Sunday. You'll circumvent the crowds, get access to special offers and promotions, and enjoy a slower pace at California's top destinations.
Scroll through these reasons why weekday travel is the brainy choice, then book a midweek getaway and congratulate yourself on your travel smarts.
1. Score hotel perks
Many hotels offer discounted rates Sunday through Thursday nights, or they'll throw in free perks like complimentary parking, dining or resort credits, or a free extra night. For example, guests who stay two nights Sundays through Thursdays at San Diego's La Jolla Shores Hotel get a third night free (valid Sept. 1–Dec. 31). At The Ranch at Laguna Beach, guests who book three midweek nights in July or August receive a $100 credit toward a round of golf or dining. San Diego Mission Bay Resort offers a midweek "sneakaway" deal with a $25 food and beverage credit and free parking.
Several Santa Barbara hotels offer a free extra night for guests who book two midweek nights, including the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort, Cheshire Cat Inn, and the Hotel Californian. The Ojai Valley Inn offers a midweek escape package with a complimentary room upgrade and $50 nightly resort credit. And at San Francisco's Hotel Zephyr, guests whose stays fall within Sundays through Thursdays enjoy free parking—a $58 per night savings.
Even if your favorite hotel doesn't offer midweek deals or perks, it may have empty rooms on weekdays, which gives you a shot at a free upgrade. (It can't hurt to ask if the penthouse is free.)
2. Pay less for airfare
Not surprisingly, the most expensive days to fly within the United States are Fridays and Sundays; the least expensive days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Tom Spagnola, senior vice-president at the online travel agency CheapOair, says that demand drives the price difference. "Most people travel on weekends, so airlines have more trouble filling their seats on weekdays. Typically, traveling midweek offers the lowest fares due to limited demand. If you're looking to save money, avoid traveling on a Friday or Sunday."
As a corollary, don't neglect this no-brainer: Book your weekday flights a few weeks before your trip for the best deals. If you're flying from San Francisco to Los Angeles midweek, you could pay as little as $70 if you book three weeks in advance, but if you wait until the day before, you'll pay $200 or more.
3. Savor alone time
Imagine having the hotel pool all to yourself for a midday nap on a balmy afternoon. That sounds like a fantasy, but it's far more likely to happen on a Tuesday than on a Saturday. If your vacation plans include wine tasting, visiting theme parks or museums, exploring nature preserves, or just lounging at the beach, you'll have much less company on weekdays.
In Napa Valley, for example, weekend appointments for popular tasting rooms like Far Niente, Shafer, and Schramsberg are often booked far in advance, but they're much less busy on weekdays. If you want to catch the morning boat to Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, weekday tickets are easier to come by. Even Yosemite National Park recommends weekday visits to help reduce traffic and parking problems. And if you want scenic singletrack mountain bike or hiking trails to yourself in places such as Truckee-Tahoe, avoiding the weekends is key.
4. Nab a sought-after table
Maybe you've always wanted to nibble on 13 kaiseki courses at L.A.'s n/naka or nab a rooftop seat at Perch LA. Boost your odds by requesting a midweek reservation at these or any super-buzzy restaurant you’ve been yearning to try. You'll feel like a V.I.P. when you bag a prime spot at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday—a feat that's nearly impossible on a Saturday.
5. See amazing art for free
Arts-minded travelers can plan midweek trips around free-admission days at California's world-class museums. In San Francisco, for example, the de Young Museum offers free admission on the first Tuesday of the month; SFMOMA has free access on first Thursdays. For San Diego residents, Balboa Park provides free admission to the San Diego Museum of Art on the third Tuesday of each month.
6. Keep your weekend intact
When you travel Friday to Sunday, you barely get a chance to relax before you head right back to work on Monday morning. This is where midweek travel really shines: Take a trip and return home on Friday, and you still have the weekend to unwind before jumping back into the hustle-bustle. Your kick-back state of mind will flourish for two more days—and you might even have time to do your laundry.