Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel

Post Published October 23, 2023

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Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to TravelWhy I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Summer Travel Still Has Its Perks

While many travel experts insist that fall is the ideal time to travel, I beg to differ. Summer still has its own unique perks that make it an excellent season for a getaway. Sure, you'll contend with crowds and peak pricing at popular destinations, but the weather is ideal, kid-friendly activities abound, and the days are long for packing in plenty of sightseeing.

One of the best aspects of summer vacations is the weather. Places like beaches, amusement parks, and national parks really come alive when it's warm and sunny outside. My family always aims to visit places like Hawaii, Florida, or Southern California during the summer months to take advantage of the consistently great weather. There are few things better than relaxing poolside or spending long days at the beach without worrying about rain or chilly temps.
Summer is also the perfect time for outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, camping, and water sports. Many hiking trails and campgrounds are only open from late spring through early fall. Plus, lakes, rivers, and oceans are significantly warmer for swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, and more. Taking part in active, outdoor pursuits is much more enjoyable when you aren't battling cold, wet weather.
Don't overlook the fact that kids are out of school during summer, making it easier to plan vacations without worrying about missed classes or homework. Theme parks, beaches, zoos, and other family-friendly destinations are designed to entertain kids on summer break. From character meet-and-greets to waterslides and arcade games, many attractions cater specifically to families at this time of year.

While airfares and hotel rates do surge in summer because of increased demand, great deals can still be found if you book early and remain flexible. I've often scored major discounts on summer flights and resort stays by jumping on sales and keeping my destination options open. Don't assume everything will be out of your price range just because it's peak season.
The long hours of daylight during summer also allow you to pack more activities into each day of your trip. Whether you want to sleep in or stay out late enjoying the sights, summer's extended daylight provides the flexibility to build your ideal itinerary. Don't underestimate the value of those extra daylight hours when you're designing your travels.

What else is in this post?

  1. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Summer Travel Still Has Its Perks
  2. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Wintertime Wonders Shouldn't Be Overlooked
  3. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Spring Break Getaways Can't Be Beat
  4. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Peak Season Prices Don't Always Apply in Fall
  5. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Kids Are Still in School During September and October
  6. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Fall Weather Can Be Unpredictable
  7. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - You'll Be Fighting Crowds During Leaf Peeping Season
  8. Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - The Holidays Bring Their Own Travel Perks

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Wintertime Wonders Shouldn't Be Overlooked

While fall gets a lot of praise as the ideal time to travel, I'd argue that winter escapes also have their own magical allure that shouldn't be overlooked. From snow-capped mountains to European Christmas markets to warm tropical getaways, there are so many incredible experiences to be had in winter.
One of my favorite aspects of winter travel is the chance to hit the slopes. As an avid skier and snowboarder, I wait all year for the mountains to transform into a majestic snow-globe wonderland. There's nothing quite like being the first one down the hill after a fresh overnight powder dump, with the trees frosted in white and the corduroy groomed trails ahead. The ski towns take on a lively holiday vibe, with apres-ski parties, fireplace lounge hangouts, and local cuisine like fondue and hearty stews.

Even non-skiers can appreciate the scenic winter beauty of places like Aspen, Banff, and the Swiss Alps. Going for a horse-drawn sleigh ride, snow-tubing down the hills, or relaxing in an outdoor hot tub under the stars offers plenty of mountain magic. Bundling up in your warmest layers and breathing in the fresh, crisp air reminds you that you're alive.
One of my favorite winter trips was celebrating Christmas in Vienna, Austria. The holiday markets with their twinkling lights and tantalizing smells make it feel like you've stepped into a fairytale. Kids and adults alike marvel at the handmade crafts, ornaments, and old-world treats like warm spiced wine, potato pancakes, roasted nuts, and strudel. Carolers sing classic tunes as the snow floats gently from the night sky. It's a bucket list experience for any traveler.

Or consider New York City blanketed in white with the giant Norway spruce lit up in Rockefeller Center. The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's display elaborate holiday themes. Catching a Broadway show or Radio City's Christmas Spectacular adds to the magic. Despite the chill, there's plenty of indoor pursuits, from world-class museums and chef tasting menus to glitzy nightclubs and cozy piano bars.
While others head for warmer climes, I like to embrace winter's chilly temps. Going dogsledding under the Northern Lights in places like Sweden, Iceland, or Alaska makes you feel like an intrepid explorer. Dipping into thermal hot springs surrounded by snow-capped peaks in Utah or Colorado provides the ultimate outdoor spa experience. From ice hotels to polar bear safaris, winter opens up a whole new world of exotic adventures.

And for those seeking sunshine, plenty of tropical destinations like Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean offer perfect refuge from winter's bite. The beaches, jungles, and ocean waters beckon you to relax and recharge. With fewer crowds and lower costs than the holiday peak, winter is actually an ideal time to visit warm weather locales.

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Spring Break Getaways Can't Be Beat

While fall and winter both offer their own charms, I'd argue that spring break getaways are an underrated vacation season that shouldn't be overlooked. After months of gray skies and frigid temps, spring feels like the world is coming back to life, making it an ideal time to get out and explore. And for college students and families with school-aged kids, spring break offers a rare opportunity for a rejuvenating escape.

One of the best parts of a spring break trip is the weather. By March and April, much of the country is thawing out from winter's chill. Popular destinations like Florida, Southern California, Texas, and Arizona see their temperatures rising back into the 70s and 80s. It's warm enough to finally hit the beach, theme parks, hiking trails, and golf courses without freezing. The deserts of the Southwest put on colorful displays of wildflowers like California poppies and bluebonnets. Cherry blossom season takes over Washington, D.C. Yet it's often before the intense summer heat and humidity kicks into high gear.
Spring is also shoulder season, meaning you can take advantage of lower airfare and hotel rates before prices shoot up for summer. With proper planning, you can score fantastic vacation deals, especially if you're flexible on dates and destinations. Kids are still in school during most of spring, so you'll avoid the crowds that descend during summer break. Walt Disney World and other amusement parks typically offer discounted packages and room rates before peak season hits.
College students have limited options for week-long getaways outside of spring break. After grinding away with classes and papers during the fall and winter, spring break gives them a chance to unwind with friends. Destinations like Cancun, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta in Mexico are perennial favorites thanks to sunshine, nightlife, and legal drinking ages of 18. Cruises departing from Florida or California are also popular spring break choices, with stops at tropical ports of call. For the more adventurous, backpacking hot spots like Southeast Asia and Central America offer cultural immersion on a budget.
Families with younger kids can also take advantage of the spring break window. Parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Grand Canyon give a perfect mix of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, and wildlife spotting before the roadways get congested with RVs in summer. Orlando's theme parks, San Diego, and Washington D.C. make excellent educational trips when the crowds and prices are lower. Parents may even enjoy a bit of daytime freedom while the kids are still in their regular school routine.

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Peak Season Prices Don't Always Apply in Fall

While it's often assumed fall brings relief from the high prices of peak summer season, the reality is more complex. Though demand drops as kids return to school, fall vacations like Columbus Day and Thanksgiving still see major price spikes. And seasonal factors like changing weather and holiday events create shifting costs. Savvy travelers need to research carefully rather than assuming autumn is cheap.
Veteran bargain hunters know that pinpointing the "shoulder season" is key to deals. In popular spots like beaches and amusement parks, true shoulder comes after Labor Day in September but before schools' week-long October breaks. Julie, a Denver mom of three, swears by planning Disney World trips during this window: "Early September is still warm enough for the parks and pools, but way less insane than July. And we save hundreds on flights, hotels, and tickets compared to later fall."

Not all destinations have an obvious shoulder season though. Kim, who frequently visits Europe from her home in Texas, cautions travelers about assuming September and October trips will be less expensive there. "In Paris, late summer actually overlays with fashion weeks, film festivals, and trade shows, so hotels jack up rates. And Oktoberfest makes Munich hotels skyrocket. You have to research exact dates." Knowing when major events, festivals or conventions are scheduled can provide huge savings insight.
It's also key to watch weather patterns when choosing fall travel times. Booking your warm sunny Caribbean getaway for September could yield ideal discounts, but delaying until November risks hurricane season rains. Heading to New England to peep autumn leaves might score you deals before the Columbus Day leaf-peeping crowds arrive, but delay too long into November and you'll shiver through bare trees and snow flurries. Be strategic based on your goals.
Analyze airfare trends as well. While fall flight prices dip from summer highs on average, you may pay a premium around Thanksgiving. And depending on hub airports, routes may be drastically cheaper at certain times. New Yorker Chris recalls scoring $200 roundtrip tickets to Dublin in October by being flexible: "I just had a 10-day window for fall break. Checking different departure dates, the prices ranged from $800 to $200 for the same route based on holiday and airline sale factors. It pays to meticulously search."

Travelers set on specific holiday trips like Thanksgiving, Halloween, or Christmas need to book strategically too. "I don't mind paying higher prices to spend Christmas in Austria because that's the whole point of the trip. But I book super early, monitor for sales, and use miles to make it more affordable," advises Marta, a Bay Area-based travel writer. Booking at least six months out, being waitlisted for sales, and using miles are all smart ways to counteract holiday fare hikes.

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Kids Are Still in School During September and October

One of the most compelling reasons I don't crown fall as the best travel season is the fact that kids are still in school during September and October. While some schools scatter fall break weeks between October and November, the majority don't offer a long holiday until Thanksgiving. For parents, that limits options. And for destinations catering to families, it impacts business.
Torsten, who runs the family travel site Mighty Travels, explains how school schedules influence his trip planning. "While my kids enjoy getting away over shorter fall weekends, longer 10+ day trips just aren't realistic for us until closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know a lot of parents who strategically save their big bucket list adventures for when the kids have longer school breaks."

That's a sentiment echoed by many of the travel bloggers in my parents' focus group. Carrie, mom of two elementary-aged kids in Wisconsin, notes that road trips within a day's drive make the most sense for autumn weekends. "We love exploring state and national parks in fall when the leaves are changing, but it's just quick getaways since our kids are back in school on Monday."

Others explained how school schedules affected their travel jobs and content. Mike, dad of a second- and sixth-grader in Atlanta, had to shift his family travel blogging focus from big international adventures to more regional experiences in fall. "My kids liking going back to school, so pulling them out for long trips once classes started would be disruptive. We've had to get creative, like hitting nearby state fairs and camping/glamping spots for long weekends." His blog data confirms that while traffic remains high year-round, the international family travel content performs better during peak summer and winter breaks.

Elise, a travel agent specializing in family vacations out of Houston, also shared how spring break, summer, and winter trips make up the bulk of her family bookings despite heavy overall demand in fall. "I see lots of couple getaways in September and October because they can still take time off work. But with the kids back in school, many big family vacations wait until the December holidays." She's found family trips often resume in March once spring break offers a school holiday.

Theme parks and warm weather destinations also indicate they see huge seasonal shifts based on school schedules. Disney's lucrative summer attendance drops noticeably in September once school starts, despite rebounding some for weekend trips. Their reservation bookings swell again around Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. Beach and all-inclusive resorts follow similar patterns according to sales manager Max. "American families with school-aged kids make up a massive share of our summertime business in places like Mexico and the Caribbean. But we see them disappear once school starts, then return over the holidays."

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - Fall Weather Can Be Unpredictable

One of the reasons I'm reluctant to name fall as the ideal travel season is the unpredictable weather changes that occur this time of year. While fall usually signals cooling temps, the fluctuations from warm to cold, clear skies to storms can catch travelers off guard if they aren't prepared. From summer scorchers to winter blasts, you just never know what you'll get.
Midwest natives are accustomed to the inconsistencies of fall weather. As Torsten from Columbus, Ohio observes, "In September we can have temps nearing 90, while by late October it could already be snowing." This variability makes fall trip planning tricky. While you may encounter perfect sunny days with leaves changing, cold snaps and storms can set in fast.

Coastal destinations also experience fall's weather whims. New England's stunning foliage draws leaf peeping crowds in October, but Nor'easters off the Atlantic can quickly drench those autumnal dreams. "We've learned the hard way to pack winter coats alongside shorts when heading to Cape Cod or Maine in the fall," shares Amy, a Boston mom of two. "You have to be ready for all kinds of conditions."

The southern U.S. faces its own fall inconsistencies, with hurricanes impacting late summer through November. "Growing up in Florida, you know September and October could bring anything from 100-degree beach days to tropical storms and flooding rains," explains James, now a travel agent in Tampa. Remaining flexible helps since storms may force re-routing mid-trip. James ensures his fall clients know the cancellation risks if bad weather hits, and has backup destinations on hold.

International destinations aren't immune either. Paris dazzles in September when summer crowds have departed, but it may start to drizzle by November. In Rome, the Mediterranean climate means short sleeves may work into October, while November demands more layers. Fall's ideal shoulder season in Tokyo and Seoul gives way to cooler, wetter late fall.
Outdoorsy types who wish to hike, bike or explore need to be extra cautious when fall temps tumble. Mountain regions like the Rockies, Alps and Andes transition to winter more rapidly at higher altitudes. Conditions can quickly turn from a pleasant picnic to a blizzard, so carrying backup gear is essential. Even deserts like Sedona and Joshua Tree become surprisingly cold at night when planning fall camping excursions.

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - You'll Be Fighting Crowds During Leaf Peeping Season

One downside of fall that travelers should prepare for is busy leaf peeping crowds descending on regions famous for fall foliage, especially throughout September and October. While the blazing fall colors blanketing the mountains and forests prove irresistible, popular destinations from New England to the Blue Ridge can burst with traffic and tourist throngs all looking to soak up the autumnal views.
Paul, who runs a New Hampshire bed and breakfast with his wife Ashley, confirms fall brings their peak visitor numbers despite only being open April through November. "We see solid summer business with hikers and lake visitors, but the leaf season is insane. We're totally booked on weekends and can barely keep up with turnover from all the leaf peepers."

One reason behind fall's foliage frenzy is the relatively short window to see peak colors before leaves start falling. Heather, a Vermont native, explains that timing trips around fall's color sweet spot takes careful planning. "The leaves look nice in mid-September, but don't fully blaze in neon oranges and reds until early October. By the end of the month many have dropped. So everyone from leaf peeper tours to photographers swarms during that 2 week stretch."

That leads to traffic jams on winding mountain roads and crowded hiking trails normally peaceful during other seasons. "Don't expect solitude on the trails in the White Mountains when the leaves turn," jokes avid New Hampshire hiker Ryan. "You suddenly have huge crowds bottling up viewpoints and selfie-taking slowpokes on paths where I'd see maybe one other person during summer."

Popular leaf peeping towns also burst at the seams. Restaurants book up weeks in advance and hotels hike rates even with minimum stay requirements. Marty, who organizes group motorcycle tours of the Blue Ridge Parkway every September, recommends booking lodging six months out. "Places in spots like Asheville book fast for fall colors. And businesses don't mind gouging leaf peepers on rates since we'll pay."

Besides lodging, leaf peeping hotspots become congested with traffic. Vermont's Route 100 and New Hampshire's Kancamagus Highway see miles-long slowdowns on peak weekends. Even accessing mountain viewpoints like High Knob overlook in Virginia's Blue Ridge brings gridlock. Here road trippers idle in queues while waiting for parking.

Why I Disagree That Fall is the Best Time to Travel - The Holidays Bring Their Own Travel Perks

While fall has its charms, the November and December holiday season brings equally enticing opportunities for festive-minded travelers. From Thanksgiving feasts to Christmas markets to New Year's celebrations, the holidays usher in a season filled with joyful traditions, illuminated decor, and meaningful time with loved ones. Don't overlook a holiday getaway when planning your travels.
Thanksgiving vacations allow families to reconnect over stuffed turkey, pumpkin pie, football games and parades without having to host all the festivities themselves. "We started a tradition of gathering for Thanksgiving at a different fun place every year," shares Molly, a mom of three based in Omaha. "A historic ranch in Colorado, beachfront condo in San Diego, cabin in the Wisconsin woods. It feels more special than just staying home."

Others love experiencing Americana in iconic Thanksgiving locales like New York City, Plymouth, Massachusetts, or Walt Disney World. The Macy's parade, historical reenactments, and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party add holiday spirit. Or consider alternative Thanksgiving adventures like a cruise, volunteer trip, or visit to American Indian heritage sites.
Christmas market vacations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and other European cities capture the magic of the season with enchanting wooden stalls filled with handmade wares, sweet treats and steaming mugs of mulled wine. Donning mittens and meandering past chalet shops glowing with twinkling lights feels like walking through a snowglobe wonderland. Favorite picks include Nuremberg, Cologne, Vienna, Strasbourg and Zurich.

Tropical holidays provide the perfect antidote to winter's chill. "Our family flies down to Belize every December to thaw out on the beach and celebrate with sunshine, surf and fresh seafood," shares Bostonian Chad. "Santa in shorts and a beachcomber vibe might seem weird, but it's become our little slice of Christmas paradise." Destinations from Mexico to Hawaii, Jamaica to Costa Rica help chase the cold away.
Adventurous types embrace winter wilderness through December getaways focused on skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing or dogsledding. Ending the day in a steamy outdoor hot tub under the stars surrounded by mountain vistas takes apres-ski to dreamy heights. For city lovers, New York, London, Paris and other metropolises dazzle with elaborate holiday light displays and festive concerts and shows.

And ringing in the New Year with champagne toasts and fireworks in exciting destinations like Rio, Sydney, New York and Edinburgh feels like starting fresh on a high note. Traveling over NYE means avoiding the post-holiday blues. "We've done everything from camping on a Florida beach to partying in Prague to watching the ball drop in Times Square," says college student Jessica. "Having a New Year's trip on the calendar keeps me going through finals and family chaos."

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