September is here, and although I’m sad to say goodbye to summer, fall is one of my favorite times of the year. As temperatures drop and kids head back to school, it’s a great time to avoid the crowds and find this year’s best travel deals. Here are a few timely tips for fulfilling your fall wanderlust on a budget.
- Score cheap flights — By mid-September, airfare deals start popping up for just about any destination. Sign up on sites like Skyscanner or Airfarewatchdog or download Hopper to get alerted when prices drop. You can also subscribe to airline emails to find out about their travel deals directly from the source.
- Board a boat — Fall is a great time to book a cruise. Ships are not as full, and most cruises-goers tend to be just adults rather than families with kids. If you’re willing to risk it in hurricane season, sailing to the Caribbean can save you some cash. Just be sure to get travel insurance in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. For serious savings, book between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Escape to the mountains — Ski resorts tend to clear out in the fall, just in time for perfect weather and foliage-covered mountains. Enjoy an autumn wonderland at altitude without paying peak prices. You can save big until the first snowfall when the ski lifts open.
- Hit the beach — Once the kiddos head back to school, prices can drop by more than 50% for mid-week stays at popular beach destinations from Myrtle Beach to Miami. Even Hawaii can be affordable with flight and hotel deals from September through Christmas.
- Visit a national park — This year, we’re celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the National Parks Service. Take advantage of fee-free days on September 24 (National Public Lands Day) and November 11 (Veterans Day) at one of the 400+ national parks across the country. With affordable lodging and camping available at most park locations, this fall is the perfect time to get out and find your park.
- Find peak foliage — Autumn is famous for its fiery red and golden yellow treelines across the country. Finding peak foliage is all about timing and location. Plan a road trip using the Weather Channels foliage mapper and search Airbnb to find cheap and charming accommodations along your scenic drive.
- Avoid big cities — One big exception to the fall shoulder-season savings? For major cities, autumn is typically convention season which means rack-rate rooms and sold-out hotels. If you need to travel to major metros like New York, D.C., Chicago or San Francisco, aim to visit on the weekend to avoid peak pricing and those lanyard-wearing crowds.