Most people travel during predictable periods (summer, the holidays, spring break) out of habit or necessity, so it’s easier to dodge them if you travel during the “off” or shoulder season.
We’re approaching one such season: fall. Unless you’re going to peak leaf-peeping destinations, many of the world’s loveliest places see fewer travelers around September, October and November.
It’s not like no one is traveling this fall. Ben Julius, founder of the travel planning platform Tourist Journey, says his company is seeing 25 percent growth in searches for shoulder season trips across Europe. That makes sense: Fall weather (in many popular travel spots) is more comfortable than summer weather, the crowds have dispersed and prices are “far more accessible,” Julius said.
So where should you go this fall? For your brainstorming pleasure, here are nine ideas to consider:
This is a particularly good time to see the country’s most famous national parks, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, Acadia and Zion. With the crush of peak-season tourists gone, you have a better shot at exploring the parks in peace. Camp. Glamp. Make a weekend getaway or all-out vacation week out of exploring some of America’s greatest outdoor treasures. Here’s a guide to all 63 to get your planning started.
One of the West’s food capitals, Portland is a year-round destination for travelers who love to eat. But for Ben Jacobsen, founder of Jacobsen Salt Co. in Tillamook, Ore., the tail end of summer and early fall are his favorite times of year in the region. Tomatoes are still lingering, early apples are starting to ripen and “the daytime is warm with just a slight chill in the air,” he said.
If you rent a car for your trip, Jacobsen recommends taking a day trip to drive the Fruit Loop through Hood River, stop at Hiyu Wine Farm and get back to the city in time for dinner at Kann, the long-awaited Haitian restaurant from “Top Chef” star Gregory Gourdet.
July through October is the best time to see wildlife on the spectacular Great Migration in the Masai Mara. Laura Burdett-Munns, managing director of the travel company Journeysmiths, says visitors can expect to see huge herds of elephants, wildebeest and zebras in temperate dry-season weather.
Burdett-Munns expects prices at safari lodges to go up next year with hotels attempting to make up for lost pandemic revenue. But for now, this fall is still a great value for visitors. “It is also possible to fly direct from JFK to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, making your journey to East Africa much easier,” she said, adding that the country no longer has covid-era entry requirements for vaccinated travelers.
Palm Springs, Calif.
It’s too hot to go to Palm Springs in the summer, anyway — and winter is high season. Enjoy something in the middle by going between October and November, when temperatures drop into the 90s and 80s by day and the 60s and 50s by night. For day trips, visit Joshua Tree National Park for hiking or the Salton Sea for an unexpected art scene.
According to Instagram, everybody went to Italy this summer. Don’t feel left out; going in the offseason is your opportunity to have a different Italian adventure than the bulk of tourists. “It’s such an amazing country, but most people see it in the summer with the density of the people and high heat of the summer,” said Kristen Slizgi, travel adviser from the Luxury Travelist. Trust us: There’s more to Italy than its beach culture. Spend a fall trip exploring its historic sites, sipping Aperol spritzes and watching locals dress impeccably for the season, whether you’re in Tuscany or Trani.
With covid-era travel restrictions loosening in the region, it may finally be time to get back to Asia. South Korea is welcoming back travelers, and a fall trip to Seoul promises radiant foliage (in October), street food, festivals, shopping and spas. For side excursions, use Korea’s extensive bus and train network to get to hiking destinations, picturesque islands and historic sites.
Caddo Lake, Tex.
For a rustic trip, visit Caddo Lake, Tex., a protected wetland decorated with otherworldly bald cypress trees covered in Spanish moss. The 26,810-acre lake and bayou on the border between East Texas and Louisiana is popular for fishing, boating and kayaking; Caddo Lake State Park has more than 50 miles of paddling trails for visitors. Those interested in seeing fall foliage in Texas should aim for later in the fall. Rough it and camp (October here means average highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s) or look for a lakeside cabin rental.
Come fall, mosquitoes, middle school tourists and humidity release their vise grip on the nation’s capital city, making it a more pleasant time to visit its outdoor attractions. Once you’ve taken in the most famous sites, rent a kayak or canoe for a close-up view of the Anacostia or Potomac rivers.
La Paz, Bolivia
For a more adventurous fall break, Matt Berna, president for Intrepid Travel’s North America operations, recommends heading to La Paz in the Bolivian Andes. Located in a canyon at 11,893 feet, “you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world in La Paz,” Berna said. “It will literally take your breath away.” September, October and November are the dry season, meaning visitors can expect a comfortable climate for exploring the market-filled streets, museums and cathedrals.
A previous version of this article incorrectly said La Paz is located in a volcanic crater. It is in a canyon. The story also misspelled the name of the managing director of travel company Journeysmiths. She is Laura Burdett-Munns, not Laura Burdett-Munn. This version has been corrected.
More travel tips
Planning: Your guide to traveling again, in 5 steps | How to move to Europe | Less busy national park alternatives |Protect your plans from covid chaos | Save on wedding travel | How to cook at a vacation rental | How to travel with kids under 5
Road trips: How to find a rental car | Snacks | National park tips | Rental car disasters | Try Kevin Costner’s road trip app | Trying a fancy bus from NY to DC | How to save on road trips as gas prices soar | What it’s like to rent from Turo
Flying: What to do about lost luggage | Getting through to airline customer service | How to get a refund | Extend your flight voucher | Find a good neck pillow | How to deal with chaotic airports | Cut the line at the airport | Get your kid a frequent flier account | Plane workouts | Why you should pick your seat | Can you fly with edibles? | When an airline bumps you | Your canceled flight emergency kit