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Fall travel: Expert tips for planning the perfect getaway

Summary

Summer’s coming to an end and you haven’t gotten away yet? Fret not. You can find better deals if you travel in the fall — and your credit cards can help.

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Fall travel credit card tips

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Some of the offers mentioned below may no longer be available. Please review our list of best credit cards to find our current offers, or use our CardMatch tool to find cards matched to your needs.

It’s never too late to enjoy a great vacation.

So, if Labor Day rolls around and you realize you still haven’t gotten away, it’s not too late.

“Fall is a really great time to be an opportunistic tourist,” says Douglas Stallings, editorial director with Fodor’s. With some of the best deals, “you may not have a lot of notice, but if you have the opportunity to travel, it can be a wonderful time.”

Late summer and early fall is “often overlooked,” says Bryce Conway, blogger and founder of 10xTravel. “But it’s generally going to be cheaper than summer holiday travel.”

Here are 11 tips from travel pros to help you get the best deal on a late summer or early fall getaway:

See related: Use miles, points for last-minute Northeast fall foliage trip

11 tips for traveling in the fall

  1. Take advantage of booking sites and apps.
  2. Consider using your miles.
  3. Don’t skimp on travel insurance.
  4. Cruises can bea good deal.
  5. Check out what’s going on at your vacation destination.
  6. Look for potential refunds.
  7. Late fall vacation?Think Canada.
  8. Disney World tends to bea better buy in the fall.
  9. Go West!
  10. Fall can be a great timeto hit Europe.
  11. Puerto Rico should beoffering some deals.

 

1. Take advantage of booking sites and apps

A site James Larounis, founder of the travel blog The Forward Cabin, likes is The Flight Deal. You can input which airports are near you, and you’ll get email alerts where there are deals to destinations that interest you.

Another web-based service Stallings and Larounis both like: Google Flights.

“Plug in your city and the dates [you want], and it will show you fares across the U.S.,” Larounis said. “And you can pick a destination that way, as well.”

For accommodations, check Trivago, says Stallings. “For hotels, this is the one I like.”

See related:Favorite travel apps from 4 travel bloggers

2. Consider using your miles

“If you’re sitting on a bank of miles, this is the time to use them,” says Conway.

Many airlines, including American and Southwest, offer off-peak fares that can be easier to find in the fall and which you can redeem for fewer miles than regular fares.

Planning a Japan jaunt himself, Conway found available rewards-qualifying seats from Columbus to Tokyo every day from early September to mid-November.

But always do the math on what that ticket is worth in both dollars and miles, says Larounis. Some flights may be so cheap that you get a better deal paying cash.

See related: How to save reward points on American Airlines flights

3. Don’t skimp on travel insurance

Late summer and early fall is also hurricane and storm season, especially in the Caribbean, Gulf Coast and East Coast, says Conway.

So, this isn’t the time to skip travel insurance. Get a policy that will cover your expenses if you have to scuttle your trip or cut it short, says Stallings.

Credit cards often offer benefits such as trip cancellation, trip interruption and baggage delay, too.

“Look and see if your card offers them,” Conway says. If it does, even putting part of your ticket on the card could net you full coverage, he adds.

However, read the fine print in your card’s guide to benefits before purchasing to make sure you will be covered.

And investigate medical coverage, too. Many health policies don’t cover you during foreign travel. But you can add medical coverage to your trip insurance for as little as $20 per person, says Stallings.

See related:Best cards for travel insurance

Tip

Tip: Get a medical policy that offers at least $500,000 to cover a medical evacuation, says Fodor’s editorial director Douglas Stallings. That means that, if you have a medical emergency, the policy will cover the (extremely expensive) cost of transporting you to a first-world medical center for treatment.

4. Cruises can be a good deal

“Cruises are generally a good value in the fall,” says Stallings. How much you can save depends on the cruise line, the dates of the cruise and the destination. And you’ll likely save more with lines such as Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean that cater to families because children are back in school, he says.

His best estimate: 10 to 20 percent off the regular price.

See related:How to pay for a cruise with your reward points

Tip

Tip: If you’re cruising in the fall, it pays to be flexible. Due to the weather, it’s possible you won’t end up at your planned destination. Stallings remembers one fall cruise he took to Bermuda that actually went to New England instead.

5. Check what’s going on (and not) at your vacation destination

Travel can be less expensive in the late summer and early fall.

But many areas, in the U.S. and abroad, host festivals (such as Germany’s Octoberfest in September or Thailand’s Festival of Lights in November). And during those times, you could see higher prices in an area or even region,” he says.

On the other end of the spectrum, this is also the time of year hotels and other activities may be transitioning from peak season to offseason, says Conway.

While some places may remain open (and may drop the prices), others could offer limited services or even close. “Be sure to check your exact dates to make sure there isn’t a change in service,” Conway says.

6. Look out for potential refunds

You could have a refund coming from your summer vacation that could help pay for an autumn getaway.

Little-known fact: In Europe, if your flight is delayed because of the airline’s actions (staffing, mechanical problems, computer problems, etc.) each passenger is entitled to reimbursement compensation of 600 euros (around $698).

One no-hassle way to claim it: Flightbucks, says Larounis, who’s used the service many times as he is one of its travel consultants. “They will actually file for the compensation for you,” in exchange for 27 percent of what you get.

See related:Need to cancel a nonrefundable flight or hotel? You might have options

7. Late fall vacation? Think Canada or Colorado

In early November, “Canada can offer some phenomenal deals,” says Larounis. Last year, he found one major U.S.-based hotel chain offering $60 per night prices in Montreal.

Want to see Aspen or Vail? Try mid-October before the snow (and higher prices) hit, says Stallings. “If you’re not a skier, it’s a good time to go.”

8. Disney World tends to be a better buy in the fall

Park ticket prices don’t change. But the hotels on and around the property can be up to 30 percent less, says Stallings.

The Florida weather is also cooler, and you don’t have the crowds, lines and afternoon thunderstorms you’ll see in the summer.

Tip

Tip: This summer, Disney opened its Toy Story Land. “So, you may not see the same discounts this fall that you would expect,” says Stallings.

9. Go West!

“October is just a glorious time to be in the West,” says Stallings. For your best discounts, skip locations that attract lots of convention traffic (such as San Francisco), and opt for areas that attract families and vacation travel (such as California’s Napa Valley, Sonoma and the Central Coast), he says.

Tip

Tip: The Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Yosemite are beautiful (and cooler) in the early fall, says Stallings. Just make sure the facilities you plan to visit are open. And with some popular spots (such as the northern rim of the Grand Canyon), you may not find price cuts as much as increased availability, he says.

10. Fall can be a great time to hit Europe

“A lot of Europe is seasonal, so after Labor Day, prices go down – and they can go down as much as 40 percent,” says Stallings, who admits that fall and early spring are his favorite times to travel there.

To get the most for your travel dollar, plan with the local climate. For instance, “after mid-October, it can be cold and rainy” – especially in northern Europe, he says. But if your aim is visiting restaurants, museums and arts venues, weather is not necessarily an issue.

And through early November, southern Europe (including Italy, Greece and Croatia), have “glorious weather,” along with “wonderful beaches where you can comfortably swim,” he said.

11. Puerto Rico should be offering some deals

While the country is still struggling after Hurricane Maria, the tourist areas have been the first to recover, says Stallings. And by fall, most should be up and running again.

“I would be surprised if we don’t see prices that are 30 to 40 percent lower in the next few months,” says Stallings. “And by that time, almost every major resort that will be opening will be open.”

This is one time when later can be better. Hurricane season ends Nov. 30. So it’s smart to keep an eye on the weather, pick up insurance and maybe have a contingency plan, just in case.

And this one can be a twofer. You can enjoy a nice vacation and help the economy in an area that really needs it, he says. And, since it’s part of the U.S., no passport or shots are necessary.

 

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