TRAVEL OFF-SEASON AND SAVE
As the summer rush winds down, anyone lucky enough to have leftover vacation days can score some cheap travel deals. In many places, fall means cooler weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices for everything from accommodations to tours to plane tickets.
Traveling to the Caribbean in late fall, for instance, can yield savings up to 60 percent on hotels, according to Caribbean Travel & Life. A room at Disney World's All-Star Movies Resort costs about 25 percent less during fall weekdays compared with summer weekdays. And fall plane fares to far-off destinations can drop more than 30 percent compared with summer fares.
Whether you want a quick, close-to-home getaway or a trip abroad that otherwise may be out of reach, here are 30 enticing destinations that cost less in the fall.
New Orleans offers a cultural mashup unlike any other. Creole architecture, Cajun food, and the nation's best jazz are just some of the draws in this tourist mecca. It's a wise idea to keep an eye on the weather — tropical storms and hurricanes are a risk in the Big Easy during the fall — but hotel rates remain low through the beginning of winter. Wait until October or November for the most comfortable temperatures, with highs in the 70s, but be sure to visit before tourists come storming back for Mardi Gras and other spring festivals.
A classic family-friendly Caribbean getaway, the Bahamas are much cheaper in autumn because most visitors hold off until colder weather hits on the U.S. mainland. Of course, fall is also hurricane season. For travelers willing to roll the dice (travel insurance might come in handy), resort prices can plummet by half or more during the off-season. Warm temperatures remain — average highs don't dip below 80 until December — but September can be a bit rainy. Hold off until late October or November for more sunny days and a lower risk of hurricanes.
Long days at the beach may be out of the question, but Cape Cod is a much less pricey destination in the fall. When the weather is too chilly for a dip in the sea, the towns are just as quaint and the seafood just as delicious. Highs around 70 in September and in the 60s during October make autumn prime time for other outdoor activities, such as biking, hiking, and horseback riding. Fall foliage is also a draw, but it doesn't peak on the Cape until late October or early November.
UPPER PENINSULA, MICHIGAN
Leaf-watchers who can't stomach the high prices in much of New England will find that Michigan's Upper Peninsula is an economical alternative. Fall foliage usually peaks here in early October. Leaves aren't the only attraction, though: The U.P. boasts more than 40 lighthouses, 300 waterfalls, and several casinos. Hikers will find more than 100 miles of trails and views of sandstone cliffs at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior's southern edge. Expect highs in the mid-50s and lows in the mid-30s.
Bali's temples, beaches, resorts, and scenic rice paddies beckon visitors from around the world. A trip to Bali doesn't come cheap — but it is somewhat budget-friendly during the autumn months. In late September and October, summer crowds depart and this Indonesian island transitions from dry season to rainy season, making it a good time to find bargains at resorts. Although temperatures stay warm, the chance of wet weather jumps significantly in November and lasts through March.
With Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, and Legoland, Orlando is a theme-park paradise. That makes it enormously popular with families, which means shorter lines and falling hotel prices once kids head back to school. The weather is also nicer in autumn: Waiting until October, for instance, means pleasantly warm days with highs in the low 80s and a lower risk of rain. Avoid long weekends around Labor Day and Columbus Day, and remember that crowds surge around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Summer is the height of tourist season in the Windy City. In the fall, visitors don't have to fight as many crowds — or pay as much for hotel rooms — while enjoying attractions such as the Field Museum, Navy Pier, and Millennium Park. Pleasant weather in the 60s and 70s is welcome compared with the hot summer, but bring a jacket to guard against the stiff breeze off Lake Michigan, especially in the mornings and evenings. Consider skipping the weekend of the Chicago Marathon, slated for Oct. 7, which draws about 40,000 runners.
THE ABC ISLANDS
Want a fall Caribbean vacation without worrying about hurricanes? Crowds are light and prices more forgiving from September through November in Aruba and its lesser-known siblings, Bonaire and Curaçao. These islands are so far south — just off the coast of Venezuela — that storms usually bypass them. Resorts, casinos, beaches, and colorful colonial buildings beckon in Aruba and Curaçao, while Bonaire is known for abundant diving and snorkeling. Expect beach-friendly temperatures in the high 80s. Rain is more likely later in the season, peaking in November and December.
Many tourists venture to Canada only during the summer months, making fall an opportune time to score cheaper hotel rates at the country's top tourist destinations. Among them is French-Canadian mecca Montreal, which offers beautiful parks, impressive museums, and a unique fusion of old cobblestone streets and modern cityscapes. If the weather gets too chilly — expect highs in the 50s in October — head down into the Underground City, which boasts an array of shopping and several connections to the city's metro system.
YELLOWSTONE AND THE GRAND TETONS
Bears and buffaloes, mountains and geysers: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons are two of the most popular national parks for a reason. When summer ends, there are far fewer visitors obscuring that perfect view of Old Faithful, and it's a good time to see migrating bison and elk. Visitors should be prepared for chilly weather, especially after sunset, and check on campground and lodge availability before setting out — remember, the best deals may be outside the parks. Many park facilities close for the season on varying dates throughout September and October, and most park roads close in November.
Barbados, at the Caribbean's easternmost edge, offers a lower risk of hurricanes, and fall ushers in much-lower-than-normal prices at its resorts. Compared with Aruba's arid landscape, Barbados is lush and green, and offers a unique fusion of British and Caribbean culture — think cricket matches and some of the world's best rum. This is the island's rainiest time, but locals say most showers pass by fairly quickly.
The City by the Bay has much to offer visitors: the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Chinatown are just a smattering. In the fall, the tourist rush slows, the fog lifts, and hotel rates drop. The city's temperate weather is also at its warmest: The average high hovers in the low 70s in September and falls slightly in October. Rain typically holds off until November. Just don't forget a jacket — evenings can be quite chilly.
A relatively quick five-hour flight from New York, Iceland wows visitors with glaciers, waterfalls, and otherworldly geothermal features. Most tourists rush home by September to avoid cooler weather and shorter days, but for anyone willing to layer up, prices for hotels, tours, and car rentals are much more manageable. Another bonus: Travelers may be able to catch the stunning Northern Lights starting in the fall. It's also worth noting that, despite its name, Iceland isn't all that frigid. Expect average highs in the 50s in September and 40s in October.
Seattle boasts urban attractions such as the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, but pay heed to its outdoorsy side — sea kayaking, hiking, biking, and whale watching are on offer, too. Visiting in early to mid-fall should coincide with warmer weather and a lower chance of the city's infamous rain. Hotel rates are discounted after the summer rush. Jazz lovers might hold off until later in the season — the city's month-long Earshot Jazz Festival begins in October and runs through November.
Most tourists visit Alaska during summer to take advantage of warmer temperatures. For visitors willing to bundle up a bit, autumn means cheaper rates on cruises or trips to popular glaciers and fjords. Just be sure that tours are still running — many wind down by the end of September, and average temperatures in Anchorage fall into the 30s by October. Shuttles that take visitors beyond Denali National Park's initial 15-mile stretch of paved road also cease operations in early September.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Heading to Buenos Aires in autumn can be a real treat — especially because it's actually springtime in the Southern hemisphere, and most hotel rates stay reasonable until December. The city's jacaranda trees bloom in October and November, and temperatures are comfortable, with highs in the 70s. That makes the perfect backdrop for savoring a meal at an outdoor café, gaping at the monuments at the ornate La Recoleta Cemetery, exploring the colorful buildings in the bohemian La Boca neighborhood, or — of course — taking a quick tango lesson.
Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada line, promises some serious deals in September and October. That's because there's a lull between the usual summer crowds and the skiers who begin to descend in November. While high temperatures in the 50s and 60s probably make it too cool for swimming, there are many other choices for recreation in this mountain resort town, from hiking, fishing, and golfing to boating, rafting, biking, and waterskiing. Oh, and don't forget the casinos just over the Nevada border.
Travelers flock to Hawaii for summer vacations and others come during winter to warm up and enjoy the holidays. The season in between means fewer visitors, lower rates at resorts, and better airfares. That makes it an ideal time to take in active pursuits such as surfing, snorkeling, hiking, and golfing and more passive pastimes such as lying on the beach, staring in awe at a volcano, watching a hula dance, or driving along the beautiful coast-hugging Hana Highway in Maui. Travel before November to avoid the greatest chance of rainy days.
Ancient ruins, whitewashed cliff towns, white-sand beaches, nightlife — Greece has it all. It's not a cheap destination, but fall is a good time to save a few dollars if it's on the bucket list. Even luxury accommodations lower their prices in autumn as crowds thin and the broiling summer heat abates. The popular Aegean island of Santorini sees average highs in the 70s through September and October. Consider traveling by November, when some tourist hotspots begin to shut down and the chance of rain increases significantly.
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Much like Orlando, Myrtle Beach is a prime destination for vacationing families, so it empties out once school is back in session. That means cheaper vacation rentals — yes, even beachside — and much shorter lines at those ubiquitous mini-golf courses and seafood buffets. For vacationers who still want to feel the sand underfoot, good news: Temperatures remain comfortably warm, with highs well into the 70s even in October.
HOLMES COUNTY, OHIO
Most people associate Amish Country with Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but Ohio boasts a larger Amish population. Holmes County, the heart of Amish Ohio, is less of a draw — and because of that, less pricey, as well. Crisper weather and turning foliage make fall one of the loveliest times to visit. Don't miss the cheese and chocolate shops, and spring for a leisurely canoe trip on the Mohican State Scenic River. For a change of pace, make the short drive to roller-coaster mecca Cedar Point on nearby Lake Erie. It's open on weekends through September and October and visitors can save more than 25 percent by buying tickets online in advance.
Prices are still high in the fall throughout most of Europe, especially in popular cities such as London, Paris, and Rome. But Eastern Europe offers similar culture and charm at a fraction of the price, especially once summer crowds dwindle. Budapest is one of the region's crown jewels, showcasing a wide range of architecture, museums, and religious sites. And if the fall temperatures get too chilly — highs in the low 60s are typical by October — the city's famed thermal baths offer a classically Hungarian way to warm up.
This winter playground of the rich and famous is much less crowded in early autumn. Aspen still isn't a budget destination at this time, but lodging is much more reasonable and the normally high-priced restaurants offer some compelling dinner specials. Skiing is off the table, but world-class hiking and rafting are among the outdoor activities that remain. Don't miss the Maroon Bells, which are among Colorado's most-photographed mountains. Expect highs near 70 in September and just under 60 in October. Skiers return — and prices zoom up — by mid-November.
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
Mexican, Spanish, Pueblo: Santa Fe draws from all these cultures, and they're woven throughout the city's world-class dining, shopping, and art scenes. Fall offers a breather from crowds and costly room rates in between the peak summer and winter ski seasons. But there's still plenty to do, including late September's Wine & Chile Fiesta. Outdoorsy types will find hiking, biking, and rafting in the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Don't forget a coat — although highs are in the mid-60s in October, lows dip into the mid-30s.
Even though temperatures are blazing in Morocco during summer, it's peak season for tourists. Winter brings another rush of visitors, especially Europeans in search of warmer temperatures. In between, fall offers lower prices and more temperate weather -- expect highs around 80 in September and 70 in October in Marrakesh. Don't miss getting lost in that city's atmospheric Medina, or old city. Farther afield, visit the blue city of Chefchaouen and enjoy a camel trek in the Sahara now that the heat is dwindling.
With kids back in school, there are fewer tourists heading to Washington. That means lighter crowds at museums and other attractions, which makes visiting in the fall a capital idea. Also gone are the summer’s sweltering temperatures, with low temperatures of 40 to 60 degrees in the fall and highs of 50 to 79 degrees. From the Capitol Building to the National Mall and dozens of memorials, Washington abounds with cheap activities and sights to see.
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
The Grand Canyon tops many bucket lists. Summer is a popular time to visit, even though temperatures may exceed 100 degrees on the West Rim and canyon floor, but crowds thin out significantly in the fall, and temperatures become more moderate. Camping is one way to make this national park trip extra affordable, and going by RV is another option.
A popular destination for family summer vacations, a trip to Gettysburg National Military Park is just as appealing in the fall as crowds thin and temperatures grow crisp. It is also must for any history buff. Located about two hours west of Philadelphia, Gettysburg is where the tide of the Civil War turned against the Confederacy. In addition to being home to the famous battlefield, Gettysburg has thousands of acres of apple orchards, dozens of farm markets, and an emerging hard apple cider scene. The first two weekends in October, Gettysburg hosts the The National Apple Harvest Festival, with apple butter, apple pancakes, apple jelly, even apple pizza.
ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA
America's oldest populated city, St. Augustine is a tourist favorite for its beauty and charm. After summer beachgoers depart, visitors can still enjoy the surf as well as affordable historic local attractions like the ancient Spanish fort Castillo de San Marcos, which costs $10 for adults. Temperatures stay in the 80s in September and October.
Texas cities are super-affordable places to explore. In particular, San Antonio — ranked No. 8 in Best Affordable Destinations in the USA by U.S. News & World Report and named the most affordable “foodie city” by WalletHub — is a must-visit spot in the state. San Antonio's burgeoning restaurant scene, the Alamo historic site (the five area missions are Texas' only UNESCO World Heritage site), the city’s famed River Walk, and the nearby Natural Bridge Caverns make it a unique place to explore on a budget. With numerous theme parks and other attractions, the city is a popular summer destination for families, despite blistering temperatures and high humidity. In November, temperatures move into the 70s, and hotel rates also ease.