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Michael Bennett is the former Senior Producer of the Travel Channels west coast operations and is currently a travel writer for Savoy and Black Enterprise Magazine. Michael is the host of Globetrotting on BET's BET on Jazz Network. For travel question write to

What to do after the ratings period

OK, the ratings period is finally over. You're cranky, irritable and exhausted after working 18-hour days for the past month. Your spouse or significant other wants more of your time. The house needs painting. The kids are wondering about the stranger hanging around the house barking out orders like a drill sergeant.

There's a much-needed vacation in your future, but you're not quite sure when to take it or where to go. Like most Americans, you are conditioned to vacation over the summer. The kids are out of school and the weather is warm. But is that the best time to take a vacation?

If your goal is to avoid crowds, get a little rest and relaxation, or you're on a tight budget the answer is a resounding NO. You work in a profession where requesting a vacation during sweeps is tantamount to career suicide. But that doesn't mean you have to take your vacation during the busy summer travel season. A little advance planning and thinking "out of the box" could get you a great vacation, away from the crowds, at an affordable price.

Spring and fall are the best times to travel. You'll see this time of year listed as "shoulder season" in most brochures and rates will be adjusted accordingly. Shoulder season is that time of year between peak travel periods and off-season travel, usually late May to early June, and again in late August into September and October.

That's a great time for most journalists to travel if you don't have kids. The planet is yours, just pick a destination and have fun. For those of you with children planning a vacation around shoulder season can be difficult, but all is not lost.

If you must travel over the summer there are places you can visit here in the United States where it's actually off-season. How about Florida? July through October is considered off-season in Florida. The weather can be uncomfortable, but you can't beat the airfare, hotel room rates and slightly smaller crowds.

June through October is also considered off-season in the Caribbean. Most travel professionals would advocate avoiding the Caribbean in August, September and October because of hurricane season.

If you don't mind taking the risk, there are some great bargains on airfare, hotels, vacation packages and cruises. Cruising can be especially inviting at this time of year. The major cruise lines have so much capacity you can almost name your price. In the event a hurricane does come along, your ship will be out of harms way with a day or two notice.

Hawaii is another great location if you can get there during the month of June.