Grace Lower | Mar 28, 2022
Autumn may be the coziest time of year — knit scarves, warm beverages, a toasty bonfire on a mild night — but don't start hibernating just yet. Fall also marks the start of shoulder season, that sweet spot between peak and off-season for many international travel destinations.
The peak season is popular for a reason, so what’s the point of going somewhere when the beaches are too cold for swimming, or the iconic tulips have bloomed out? Before you immediately write off traveling internationally in the fall, check out these seven ways to save money and take an unexpectedly delightful vacation during the shoulder season.
It’s no secret the post-summer travel lull can lead to major savings on airfare. With fewer people booking flights, many airlines slash autumn ticket costs to fill seats. And unlike budget winter flights, autumn flights carry fewer risks of adverse weather.
Pricing will vary based on your destination, when you buy your tickets, and a handful of other factors. In general, though, international trips from late August to early October tend to be less expensive than during other seasons.
Plan ahead to take full advantage of these price breaks. According to some studies, international flights should be booked three to four months in advance for the biggest savings.
These savings aren’t limited to just airfare. Train tickets, even rental cars, tend to be cheaper during shoulder season as well.
In many parts of the world, autumn brings cooler temperatures and less-direct sunlight. That means long afternoons of hiking, touring, and transit might be more comfortable than at the peak of summer heat.
Depending on where you go, you might be treated by bright fall foliage. Even the most beautiful destinations take on a new brilliance with leaves’ vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. The Northeast region of the United States is known for its “leaf peeping,” but equally stunning is the foliage of Italy's Amalfi Coast.
In other regions, fall might be the so-called green season due to heavier rains. While this can deter some visitors — mid-August to November marks the height of Atlantic hurricane season — it can open other opportunities, like the beauty of lush flora, you’d miss at high tourist season. Plus, there are still a number of lower-risk destinations in the Caribbean. If you plan carefully and pack accordingly, even the worst autumn weather shouldn’t get in the way of your experience.
As you can imagine, it’s always important to research your destination’s climate and seasonal temperatures before you book. In colder countries, especially those in northern Europe, autumn comes with plenty of snow and ice. These conditions tend to be more manageable than the frigid temperatures that arrive during winter, though. And who knows? You might be able to catch the first waves of the Northern Lights, typically seen October through April, without freezing while you wait.
Remember that one hemisphere’s fall is another’s spring. South Africa, south of the equator, is shaking off winter in October. If you’ve been dreaming of a safari, this might be the time.
As the summer rush dwindles, the most popular attractions will clear out, making autumn the perfect time to capture that iconic photo or simply take in a view unobstructed by people.
What’s more, it’s easier to snag coveted hotel and dining reservations. Rooms often become more plentiful and at cheaper prices. You might even be able to get an upgrade to your room or amenities for little to no cost.
Smaller crowds mean less foot-traffic, too. You can savor the sights during the fall without feeling guilty about inconveniencing passersby. No matter where your adventures take you this fall, you’re bound to spend less time weaving through gaggles of guests and more time enjoying your adventure.
School is back in season, which means fewer family vacations. Kids can add plenty of liveliness and fun to a vacation, but they can also be challenging, regardless of whether they’re your own or someone else’s.
If you’re used to traveling with your own children, you know how difficult it can be to tailor a vacation to everyone’s interests and needs. Use autumn and back-to-school time to take an adults-only getaway.
Revisit your travel bucket list and leave the kids with Grammy and Pop-Pop. We promise you won’t regret taking that wine-tasting tour through southern France, skiing in the Swiss Alps, or motorcycling through Vietnam with just the grown-ups.
As the buzz of summer travel season begins to die down, staff members at restaurants, hotels, and museums often breathe a collective sigh of relief. With fewer people to vie for their attention, the staff in your destination can take greater care in ensuring that your stay is as comfortable as possible.
When traveling in the autumn off-season, you might get extra recommendations from your concierge, an overview of local cuisine from your server, or a round of post-tour drinks with your local guide (all true stories!).
Of course, no matter the season, you should keep your expectations reasonable, and tip generously when appropriate.
A few years ago, we were writing about how destinations were experiencing unprecedented rates of international visitors, putting strain on local communities. Overcrowding, filling public transit, and extra litter were all concerns.
Following the pandemic, it’s a bit of a different story. Many places are now clamoring to attract visitors again. It’s still important to travel responsibly, however. So that we don’t repeat our past mistakes, try traveling in the fall off-season.
That’s not the only way to travel responsibly. Visiting during the shoulder-season means a city benefits economically longer throughout the year as well. When hotels, attractions, and restaurants see all their tourists during just a few months, it can make it difficult to make ends meet when tourism slows to a trickle. This can also benefit individual employees. A trip during the shoulder season just might mean that an amazing tour guide is able to keep working a bit longer.
Let’s face it: the holiday season comes with its share of stress. From picking the perfect gift, to hosting family, it’s easy to lose that sense of holiday magic amid the scramble. Why not incorporate some spontaneity with a pre-holiday trip abroad?
Throughout your travels, you can enjoy spending time with your loved ones, relish a change of scenery, and even get started on holiday shopping. And on top of that, your autumn trip can be treated as “the big gift” for the year, giving you the perfect excuse to keep the rest of your holiday celebrations simple and stress-free.
Just because it’s not summer anymore, don’t think you have to put your suitcase in storage. It’s never too late to cross another destination off your bucket list. By traveling in autumn, you’re not only saving money and maximizing your stay, but you’re also ringing in the new year with a fresh perspective.
As you decide where to travel in the fall, include travel insurance in your plans. Just because the crowds have left and the snowstorms haven’t blown in yet, doesn’t mean the unexpected still can’t happen. Protect your trip cost and your health with the right coverage for your trip.