15 Affordable Fall Getaways for Empty Nesters
Waving goodbye to children leaving home can be highly emotional for parents. As difficult as it can be to get used to an empty nest, parents can look forward to having the freedom for a child-free getaway -- at a lower price than they would pay for a family vacation. Good deals abound during the “shoulder season” between summer travel and the winter holidays, as hotels and attractions are eager to lure visitors.
With hurricane season running through November, traveling to the Caribbean in the fall can be risky, but prices are low. Minimize the chances of a rained-out vacation by heading south: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago are rarely affected. Even so, some restaurants close and hotels undergo renovations during the off-season, so choices may be limited. Be sure to ask for a room away from any construction to minimize noise.
After sailing the same routes all summer, some cruise ships switch their main ports for the season, and passengers can find discounted rates on one-way repositioning cruises. Ships might travel between Europe and the Caribbean, or between the Pacific and Atlantic coasts via the Panama Canal. Keep in mind that there is no return trip, and the price doesn't include flights to or from the ports.
Those looking to travel in late fall may want to consider San Diego. The southern California city stays warm throughout the year, and it's not uncommon to have days in the 60s throughout November. Time a visit to coincide with one of the city's November festivals, such as the San Diego Jazz Fest (Nov. 22-26).
Visitors can expect plenty of heat and some rain, but temperatures drop and rainfall tapers off in September in New Orleans. It's off-season in the Big Easy, and there's still plenty to do, including many free and cheap activities. In the fall, there are several food festivals, such as the Louisiana Seafood Festival (Oct. 27-29), the Carnival Latino (Sept. 30), and Oktoberfest (Oct. 6-7, Oct. 13-14, and Oct. 20-21).
September and October can be two of the best months to visit Vancouver, as hotel rates drop, tourist crowds thin, and relatively sunny weather shows off the scenery to its best effect. Visitors can take a short, steep hike up Grouse Mountain for a great view, or opt for an easier stroll in Stanley Park. Fall also brings a few festivals to the city, including the Fringe Festival celebrating the performing arts (Sept. 7-17), with tickets starting at $14. The Vancouver International Film Festival (Sept. 28 to Oct. 13) is one of the largest in North America and most tickets are $12 and under.
After the peak tourist season ends in August, prices drop along with the temperature in this North Atlantic nation. Iceland has about 13 hours of sunlight daily in September and an opportunity to see the Aurora Borealis (aka the Northern Lights). Early fall is also when one of the country's oldest traditions takes place -- the réttir, or annual rounding-up of sheep. Iceland is close enough for a short getaway from the East Coast; a flight is less than six hours from New York.
Many people make leaf-peeping trips an annual tradition in the fall, when the green leaves of summer turn glorious shades of orange, red, and yellow. In the Northeast, it's hard to go wrong: Vermont's Green Mountains, New Hampshire's Lake Regions, and the Adirondack Mountains in New York are all hot spots. Out west, Leavenworth or the Enchantments in Washington, McKenzie Pass in Oregon, and the Columbia River Gorge, which runs between both states, are golden.