Affordable options beckon for fall travel
It’s time to start working on your fall travel plans. And if your schedule permits, fall remains a top time for vacation travel for at least two reasons.
First, throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, the summer heat is largely over, but winter chill hasn’t yet set in. Second, families with kids are back home with kids in school.
The net result is that, historically, the fourth quarter of the year has almost always been the least busy and least expensive. And I see no reason why 2019 should be any different.
The period between Labor Day and the week before the Christmas holidays is the slowest time of the year for major beach destinations in the U.S., the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe.
Seasonal hotel and resort rates and airfares are well below summer and year-end holiday levels, and you aren’t likely to have a problem with availability of whatever sort of accommodation you prefer.
Cruise lines continue to operate in the Caribbean and Mexico, generally with good base rates and often with promotional offers, including upgrades, ship credit and free port tours.
One caveat: Fall is also a high season for hurricanes, so if you do book a cruise, buy trip-cancellation insurance so that you can abort or change your trip if bad weather hits.
Fall is also the season when the big cruise lines reposition many ships from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. If you would like a cruise with comparatively few port calls and lots of time on the open seas, you can find quite a few transatlantic options from Europe to the U.S. in September, October and November, when starting prices get as low as $50 per person per day.
I’m a big fan of visiting Europe in the fall — England, France, Germany and Scandinavia in September and early October; southern Europe until early December.
It’s very refreshing to be able to visit the top museums and visitor attractions without coping with huge lines and wall-to-wall people — and to take the Amalfi Drive without fighting bumper-to-bumper traffic.
You can find off-season hotel deals in the countryside, but not in the big cities, where business travel replaces tourist travel.
The official Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany will run from September 21 through October 6. If you don’t want to go that far for beer and pretzels, the big Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, runs October 11 through October 19, and Cincinnati, Ohio’s runs October 20 through October 22.
The similar Wurstfest in New Braunfels, Texas, runs November 1 through November 10. And if those are still too far, funtober.com/Oktoberfest/us lists Oktoberfest action in all 50 states.
The 2019 “October Classic” runs October 22 through October 30, and although nobody knows for sure which teams will be in it, FiveThirtyEight gives the Los Angeles Dodgers a close to 50-50 chance of playing. Consider a cancellable hotel reservation.
Peak fall foliage months generally run from September through early November, with the peak season early in the north and later in the south.
The official websites that track foliage aren’t up yet for 2019, but keep checking foliagenetwork.com, with separate regional reports for the northeast, midwest and southeast, and stormfax.com/foliagemap.htm, with a national map and links to state and regional fall foliage websites and hotlines.
How to find a deal
Start monitoring fall deals through a few of the free deal bulletins: airfarewatchdog.com and others for airfares; cruisecritic.com and others for cruises.
You have plenty of time to wait for a good deal — until about a month before you want to travel — but as soon as you see a good deal, pounce on it.
At this writing, for example, United is offering round-trips from Newark to Paris for $257. Don’t hesitate to make a fully cancellable hotel reservation as soon as you see a good price; cancel and rebook if you find a better deal later on.
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