The leaves are changing. Temperatures are dropping. And airfare prices? They’re cooling off from summer highs, too. It’s the time quintessentially known as shoulder season, when there are fewer people traveling—and thus, more availability. 

But this year, some of these seasonal characteristics could be harder to find—at least when it comes to avoiding crowds. According to new TripIt data, 85% of Americans are planning to travel this fall. Nearly two-thirds (64%) plan to fly domestically; 42% are planning a road trip; and 32% are planning to fly internationally. 

One hypothesis as to why: Many are hoping the chaos of summer will cool off, too. 

Read more: So Long, Shoulder Season? New Survey Shows 85% of Americans Planning to Travel This Fall

Unsure as to what’s so alluring about shoulder season? Thinking about planning a fall trip, but not sure where to go? I’ve addressed both of these questions, and more, below. 

What is shoulder season? 

Shoulder season is the time between the peak and off seasons of travel. As such, it varies based on where you’re located around the globe. In the U.S., for example, shoulder season occurs between the busy summer travel season and the lull of winter travel—i.e., during the fall and spring. 

Why do people like to travel during shoulder season? There are a few perks: Prices are typically lower than during peak summer travel. The weather is also typically better than in the off season. Combined, this creates a sweet spot for those travelers who have the flexibility to travel during this time. 

Keep in mind that many people travel during the summer because kids aren’t in school; there are more long weekends to take advantage of (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day); and of course, the weather is often chef’s kiss for a vacation. But with all of these perks comes higher prices—and as many people experienced this past summer, travel chaos

So it comes as little surprise that many Americans are planning to travel this fall. And if you’re one of them, read on for tips on how to make the most of shoulder season travel. 

Where to go in the fall

Fall trip calling your name? Here are five ways to make the most of it.

1. Go where the crowds aren’t 

According to TripIt data, these are the top destinations for American travelers this fall (i.e., September 1 through November 15):

  1. Las Vegas
  2. Orlando
  3. Chicago
  4. New York
  5. Denver 
  6. San Francisco
  7. Los Angeles
  8. Boston
  9. London
  10. Phoenix 

Of course, these destinations are popular for a reason—many of them topped the charts for summer holidays like Fourth of July and Labor Day weekend—and with cooler temps and prices predicted for fall, it’s easy to see why they’ll continue to attract travelers. 

That said, should you want to skip the crowds on your fall trip, head elsewhere. Hint: Our City Break series can help you make plans to some alternate cities. Think Detroit instead of Chicago; Park City instead of Denver; or Edinburgh instead of London. 

2. Go where your bucket list leads you

… and for many Americans, that means Europe. According to a recent TripIt survey, of those planning bucket-list trips, more than half (57%) of travelers have international destinations in mind. Nearly a third (30%) are planning trips to Europe. 

Related reading: Europe, Italy Top Americans’ Bucket-List Trips

Why is the fall—and this fall, in particular—a great time to visit Europe? There are typically fewer tourists (as mentioned above), great deals on flights and accommodations, as well as myriad cultural events to experience, including Oktoberfest in Germany; Europe’s largest Halloween celebration in Derry, Ireland; Bonfire Night (also called Guy Fawkes Night) in Scotland; and much more. 

Right now, Americans can also benefit from a near-parity U.S. dollar to Euro exchange rate—the lowest it’s been in about two decades.

3. Go where spooky SZN prevails 

Love Halloween? Want to plan a fall trip with a spooky twist? Here are a few destinations to consider.

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah is one of America’s spookiest cities thanks to its historic cemeteries, reported ghost sightings, and famed voodoo-practicing residents. Take a ghost tour—via trolley, hearse, or on foot (there’s even a haunted pub crawl option!)—to learn about the city’s spooky past and access some of its most haunted locations. 

New Orleans, Louisiana

If you love parades, New Orleans should be high on your fall destinations list. Enter: the Krewe of BOO! Halloween Parade. This annual Halloween parade features floats, marching bands, dance troupes, and walking krewes—all marching through NOLA’s famed French Quarter. This year, the parade takes place on Saturday, October 22nd. 

Hudson Valley, New York

New York’s Hudson Valley is ripe with fall activities that range from festive to downright frightening. 

On the festive end, opt for a jaunt through Van Cortlandt Manor when it’s dressed up for The Great Jack O’Lantern Blaze. That is, covered in thousands of hand-carved jack o’lantern displays—from dragons to the Statue of Liberty. Advanced reservations are required, so book your timed entry now.

As for frightening? You’ve heard of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, right? You can visit the real village of Sleepy Hollow. Or, head to nearby Tarrytown where Sleepy Hollow author Washington Irving lived. His historic home will be decorated for the season. 

4. Go where the foliage is peaking

Dreaming of filling your Instagram feed with the colors of the season? Same. This foliage prediction map can help you anticipate when your intended (U.S.) destination will experience peak fall colors. 

Simply toggle the slider to the dates you have in mind for a leaf-peeing trip, and reference the color-coded guide to gauge when you can experience foliage at its most colorful. 

5. Go away feeling prepared

No matter where you travel, you want to feel prepared for your trip—and TripIt Pro can help you do just that. 

Here’s a few ways how: 

  • This summer’s travel chaos may carry over into the fall. With TripIt Pro, you can be among the first to know about flight delays, cancellations, gate changes, and more. If your flight is delayed or canceled, you can consult TripIt Pro’s Alternate Flights. It instantly finds you new flight options if your current flight has been delayed, canceled—or if you’d just like to leave on another flight.
  • If you experience a flight disruption while on a trip to Europe, TripIt will automatically email you if your flight may be eligible for compensation and help you file a claim through AirHelp. Once your claim is filed, AirHelp does the rest of the hard work for you, including the paperwork and communication with the airlines.
  • Disruptions aside, TripIt Pro’s International Travel Tools feature makes international travel easier by showing details such as the local currency and exchange rate, for tipping at your destination, embassy information, driving guidance, socket and plug requirements, required vaccinations, and more. 
  • And whether you’re flying internationally or domestically for your fall trip, always add your flight plans to TripIt. With TripIt Pro, you’ll be notified if your airfare drops after you book, in which case you are usually entitled to a reimbursement.

About the Author

Amanda Wowk is a freelance writer, founder of Amanda Wowk Creative — a content writing services company — and avid traveler. Her experience spans the travel industry, supporting clientele in travel tech, luxury travel, and consumer brands. When she’s not helping clients tell their stories, Amanda writes about her own experiences to inspire others to travel as far, wide and frequently as possible.

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