September marks the start of deal season when it comes to travel, particularly for anyone who doesn’t have school age children.
“If you don’t have kids or are retired or an empty nester or if your kids are under school age, right now is a good time to find deals in very popular destinations,” says Andrew Young, editorial director for Travelzoo.
This is shoulder season and prices are lower than they are during summer’s peak but the weather is still pleasant and the crowds are smaller, especially at the big tourist destinations, Young says. While September offers the best combination of summer weather and fall pricing, some of the deals will continue throughout the fall until late November and mid-December.
Cruise ships for example, are not as full right now and the crowds are more adults-only than families. Sailing to the Caribbean will also save you some cash since it is hurricane season. But for the lowest cruise pricing all year, look to travel during the window between Thanksgiving and Christmas when prices can drop to less than $100 per person per day even for ocean view or balcony cabins. Popular beach destinations such as Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach cost 50 to 60 percent less for midweek stays than they would during peak summer travel.
Airfares too will be lower than normal. Fall fare sales are happening now and airlines are really dropping their prices, Young says. Frontier has been particularly aggressive with sale pricing this season, he says and Southwest is offering their regular sales though prices vary depending on the destination.
If you have your eye on a European vacation, fares to Europe and South America are down to $700 – $900 compared to $1200 – $1500 in the summer. The other advantage to international travel is the strong dollar.
“I live in New York and I have been telling people to go to Canada where the dollar is getting you 25 percent more than it would have about a year ago,” Young said. And Toronto is an easy flight from most of US airports, he adds.
The one exception to the fall travel rule? Hitting major cities on weekdays during convention season. For travel to cities like New York, Washington, D.C. or Chicago, plan to visit on the weekend when business travel dies down.
Here are Travelzoo’s 9 tips for an affordable fall vacation:
- Hop a Flight: Travelers can expect to pay 25% – 50% less on tickets compared with peak summer dates.
- Hit the Beach: It’s shoulder season – the period between peak summer season and off-peak winter season – and travelers can enjoy beach trips with fewer crowds and big savings.
- Check out Orlando: With kids back in school, September is the rare time where you can find Disney deals with up to 65% off hotel rates and free extras.
- Say Aloha to Hawaii: From Labor Day through Christmas, fewer people visit Hawaii, resulting in flight and hotel deals. United Airlines just launched a fall sale with fares starting at only $273 each way.
- Cast off to the Caribbean: Travelers can find 50% savings in the Caribbean due to Hurricane Season, but make sure to purchase travel insurance in case Mother Nature throws a curveball on your planned travel dates.
- Climb Every Mountain: If you’re ready for fall, head for Colorado, New Hampshire, Utah or Vermont for sight-seeing at non-peak prices.
- Hop the Pond: Shoulder season offers affordable flights, fewer crowds, comfortable weather and great deals for cities like London, Paris and Rome.
- Cross Over to Canada: A weaker dollar and lower demand makes Canada great for a budget-friendly getaway, and popular summer destinations like Niagara Falls, Mont Tremblant, Ontario cottage country, Whistler and Prince Edward Island offer savings of up to 45% on fall travel.
- Avoid Big Cities: Business conventions are picking up again after the summer lull, so avoid visiting big cities in the fall, as prices will go from summer rates of around $200 go up to $300 – $400 per night.