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Fall vacation ideas

Plan the perfect autumn getaway for a season of rest and relaxation.

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Aerial view of RVs and cars parked in Denali National Park in Alaska with fall colored leaves all around.

We are big believers in the power of travel to help cleanse and bring a fresh perspective to daily life. And fall travel in particular can usher in closure before you embark on a brand new year.

On a budget? We’ve got good news: Fall is one of the best seasons for budget travel, because many destinations are in-between peak tourist seasons, which means you can score lower prices on accommodations.

Fall vacation ideas for 2020

On the heels of nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, a fall getaway may be exactly what you need to recharge. That said, a socially distanced vacation is probably in order, which means favoring smaller towns and outdoorsy destinations over big cities.

Here are our best ideas for celebrating the season, in light of current events:

  • Staycation. Whether you’re short on time or simply prefer staying close to home, booking a hotel room or vacation rental nearby can be a good way to clear your mind without traveling too far.
  • Rent a cabin. That log cabin you’ve been daydreaming about, nestled in the woods? It actually exists. And this classic off-the-grid retreat comes with a side of sweeping views.
  • Car camping. Pack a tent and an extra warm sleeping bag and put pedal to metal. You can reserve a spot at a privately owned campsite or camp on National Forest land for free — no reservations required.
  • RV camping. An RV gives you the freedom to stop wherever you please (OK, not wherever, but you know what we mean). It’s possible to rent one for less than $100 nightly, combining your accommodations and transportation all in one. And no, most RVs don’t require a special license.
  • Road trip. The perfect way to outrun the problems that plagued you in 2020, a road trip lets you meander the nation and go where you please. Take a weekend road trip to a place where stars in the night sky aren’t diluted by city lights.
  • Fall foliage trips. It’s a cliché, but the best things in life are free — and that includes leaf peeping. If you decide to plan a fall foliage trip, be sure to pinpoint the peak dates for your chosen destination.
  • National and State Parks. Pull out a map and find an oasis of nature near you. Or, gear up for a cross-country trip to a park further away, whether that be Yellowstone, Yosemite, Shenandoah or somewhere else.

    Fall vacation spots

    Since fall is a shoulder season for travel in many winter and summer vacation destinations — think ski resorts and beach towns — you’ll generally find lower prices and better deals on ideal accommodations during this time. Here are a few ideas to get your wanderlust whirring and your pocketbook purring:

    • The Grand Canyon — Arizona. Autumn is the perfect time to check the Grand Canyon off your bucket list, as the summer crowds have dwindled and the hoards of snowbunnies have yet to descend. Stay in Flagstaff and hike in nearby Coconino National Forest when you’re not taking in those canyon views. Lodging should be at its cheapest in late September through early October.
    • St. Augustine or St. Petersburg— Florida. These cities are on opposite sides of the state we know and love as Florida, but they’re both excellent to visit during fall thanks to beaches that are less crowded and temperatures that stay in the 70s and 80s. You’ll find good deals on beachfront hotels too, since autumn lands in between peak seasons.
    • South Padre Island — Texas. Or any beach town that’s notorious for rowdy spring breakers. Fall is the best time to visit spring break hot spots, because you’ll get to take advantage of all the beach eateries without the hordes of frat boys.

    Or if it’s fall foliage you have in mind…

    • Upper Peninsula — Michigan. Looking to avoid the high prices of New England during leaf peeping season? Opt for the UP instead, a thickly forested area with over 300 waterfalls and more than 40 lighthouses, plus hiking trails galore along the shores of lakes Superior, Huron and Michigan. Be sure to bundle up.

    Fall travel deals

    Priceline Priceline

    Up to 50% off highest rated hotels on your next booking

    Expedia.com Expedia.com

    Up to 75% off travel deals

    Hotels.com Hotels.com

    All hotel bookings with up to a $100 cashback rebate

    Ends

    CruiseDirect CruiseDirect

    Last minute cruise deals from $33/night

    Bottom line

    Let’s face it — the coronavirus pandemic has turned 2020 into an extraordinarily tough year. A fall excursion can help you hit the reset button as we bid adieu to this year and prepare for the next. But remember to bring a COVID travel kit along, stocked with essentials like hand sanitizer and extra face masks.

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