Summer is coming to a close, and autumn is approaching with a busy slate of back-to-school plans, back-to-office arrangements, and the upcoming holiday season nearer than ever. With so much going on, fall might not seem like the best time to travel -- but, if you can get away, the off-season may actually be the perfect time of year to take flight.
Fall is one of two “shoulder seasons”, meaning parts of the year when tourism, generally at its peak during the summer and winter months, slows down. Because of this, flights are generally cheaper, hotels are less costly, and crowds are much, much thinner. Plus, if the hot weather isn’t your thing, fall travel might actually be ideal, as temperatures in most destinations tend to be cooler and more temperate.
If you’re looking to book a fall getaway this year, we’ve asked the experts about where to book, plus we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get the most out of your shoulder-season getaway.
Why should I travel in the fall?
Simply put: because fewer people tend to travel during the fall months, if you choose to take flight as the weather cools, you’re likely to save a ton of cash on your trip. Hotels, flights, and even local attractions are likely to cost less than they do during the summer or over the winter holidays. Plus, museums and art galleries in many major cities tend to put on some of their biggest, splashiest shows and exhibitions in the fall months, so culture vultures would be well advised to book an urban getaway during this time.
For outdoor enthusiasts, trails, parks, campgrounds and ski trails are less busy as the weather cools. So, if you’re able to bundle up, you’ll have some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes and wilderness all to yourself (or, at least, close to it). And for foodies, getting that coveted restaurant reservation may be easier than ever during the off-season, as fewer tourists means more open tables at some of the country’s hottest restaurants.
How should I plan my fall trip?
Putting together your shoulder season itinerary might look a bit different than planning your summer escape. Here are a few top tips to keep in mind, courtesy of Jordana Manchester, a luxury travel advisor with Tripzter Travel:
Pick a place that’s popular in the summer: Take B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, for example: “While the lakes are epic, fall is really the best time to visit,” Manchester says. “Not only will you find fewer crowds and better deals, it’s harvest season and the best time to tour vineyards and picnic in the orchards.”
Plan for the middle: Mi-September, and mid-week, is the best time to book in the fall, since early September sees a surge in university students (and their families) travelling to and from campus. And if you’re able to travel mid-week, you’ll avoid weekend surcharges on hotels.
Book ahead: Last-minute deals are still rare. Book six to eight weeks in advance for the best deals, or four weeks at minimum.
Pack for all seasons: “Weather this time of year can be wildly unpredictable,” Manchester says. “So, it’s not out of the question to throw a warm sweater, swimsuit and down coat all into the same suitcase.”
Where should I travel this fall?
Short answer: anywhere you like! Longer answer: there are a few destinations that will allow you to get the most bang from your buck during the fall, whether you’re eyeing a European getaway or longing for the beach. We’ve broken it down destination-by-destination below.
Where to go: Lisbon
Why it’s worth the trip: Restaurants, galleries, even nightclubs spill into the cobbled streets in the fall. You can catch free jazz in Parque da Bela Vista every Sunday in September, and the outdoor Fado festival Sept. 23-24.
How much you can save: Direct flights from Toronto or Montreal on Air Canada start at $366, round trip, in October; $312 on Air Transat – down a third or more from summer. Eating is notably reasonable, too – you can get a bounteous breakfast for $5 and fine dining for $20.
Where to go: Athens
Why it’s worth the trip: In fall, you won’t have to compete for tables in the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods, Monastiraki and Kolonaki. And if you haven’t had a chance to visit the Acropolis Museum, go now, for one of Europe’s most important collection of antiquities. On display until January are two Panathenaic amphorae on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum.
How much you can save: In late September, direct flights from Toronto start at $429 on Air Canada, around $100 cheaper than in summer. In October you can fly direct on Air Transat from $410, return – one of the best deals the airline has to offer.
Where to go: Barcelona
Why it’s worth the trip: It has the rich architectural heritage and food culture of a great European capital, with the wild Costa Brava a quick ride out of town. Ferries from Barcelona’s downtown terminal reach the Balearic Islands in six to eight hours. G Adventures offers a program of hiking trips in Ibiza, designed for the cooler months.
How much you can save: In October, flights are $388 return from Toronto on Air Transat, and $402 on Air Canada.
Where to go: Rome
Why it’s worth the trip: Fall is when the locals come out of hiding to enjoy the city, filling the piazzas at night, doing the passeggiata past Gianicolo Park. The Romaeuropa Festival, from mid-September through mid-November, brings live music, dance, opera and art to venues across the city.
How much you can save: If you can travel before November, you’ll pay less than $425, return, with Air Canada and Air Transat (direct from Toronto only).
Where to go: Orlando, Fla.
Why it’s worth the trip: Family travel dips to Orlando in the fall, making it a great time to visit the city’s famous theme parks.
How much you can save: Expect to save $50-100 a night at a hotel compared to peak season.
Where to go: Napa Valley, Calif.
Why it’s worth the trip: You’ll catch the end of harvest season in California’s famous wine region.
How much you can save: You’ll see hotel rooms 25 to 40 per cent cheaper than during peak season.
Where to go: Charleston, S.C.
Why it’s worth the trip: In January 2023, the city will see the opening of the International African American Museum, which will chronicle the history of enslaved Africans and their descendants in the U.S.
How much you can save: Compared to peak season, hotel stays can be $100-$150 cheaper per night.
Where to go: Scottsdale, Ariz.
Why it’s worth the trip: Scottsdale loves Canadian travellers: you can often find specific deals created for us to take advantage of.
How much you can save: For Canadian travellers, the destination has a program called Loonie Love which includes promotions such as 10 to 25 per cent off at several of the area’s resorts.
Where to go: Toronto
Why it’s worth the trip: The Toronto International Film Festival is on from Sept. 8-18, and the season is an opportune time to see five of the city’s main sports teams: the Leafs and Raptors preseasons kick off in September and October, and tickets are usually less expensive than the regular season.
How much you can save: Domestic flights to Toronto are on average 19 per cent cheaper in the fall.
Where to go: Victoria
Why it’s worth the trip: Fall is the best time to go whale watching: the largest groupings of humpbacks appear in September, October and sometimes into November, too.
How much you can save: Kayak’s data shows that flights to Victoria are 13-per-cent cheaper in the fall; Travelzoo reports a 25- to 35-per-cent price drop for hotels.
Where to go: Whitehorse, Yukon
Why it’s worth the trip: the Northern Lights, hands down. Fall is also the best time to spot Yukon wildlife, from bison and grizzly bears to caribou and moose.
How much you can save: Flights to Whitehorse from within Canada are 13-per-cent less expensive in the fall according to Kayak.
Where to go: Charlottetown
Why it’s worth the trip: Lobster season runs from August to October, and the fall foliage is at its brightest in October.
How much you can save: Average savings on flights are aound 20 per cent, according to Kayak.
Where to go: Curacao
Why it’s worth the trip: Natalia Weidner, a virtuoso travel advisor with Travel Professionals International based in Oakville, Ont., calls the island a hidden gem. Major bonus for this time of year: it’s just south of the hurricane zone.
How much you can save: Hotel rates in September through November range from $100-200 cheaper a night than in high season.
Where to go: Turks and Caicos
Why it’s worth the trip: There’s a lot of new development happening on the islands, including a new Ritz-Carlton resort.
How much you can save: Resort stays are $700-$1,000 a night cheaper during the fall.
Where to go: Holbox, Mexico
Why it’s worth the trip: An off-the-beaten-path island comprised of fishing villages and pristine beaches and rich in marine life, Holbox is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, so it’s a car-free nature-lover’s paradise.
How much you can save: Hotel stays in September and October are typically $150-200 lower a night.
Where to go: St. Lucia
Why it’s worth the trip: Jasmin Linton, a travel advisor based in Toronto, says the destination is rich in culture. “They have street parties, and you can experience that with ease,” she says. “Sometimes it’s tough to experience culture authentically.”
How much you can save: For hotel stays in September and October, rates are generally $100 less a night.
Keep up to date with the weekly Sightseer newsletter. Sign up today.