Your Ultimate Fall Travel Handbook

8 September 2023
Your Ultimate Fall Travel Handbook

Experienced travelers without school-year obligations love this time of year, and really, what’s not to love about it? In general, it’s considered the low season for travel and fall travel has a lot of benefits:

  • Airfares are lower (so last-minute bookings are possible)
  • Hotel rates slide (slightly) down and there’s more availability
  • Car rental rates stall and there are more cars to rent
  • Tourists are (mostly) gone and prices are often discounted
  • The weather is great! (fewer airline delays and cancellations)

To be clear, we’re talking about that sweet spot of fall – just after school starts and before the holiday mayhem.

If you’re contemplating a fall trip, hesitate no longer. Here’s your complete guide to fall travel.

What’s considered the fall travel season?

Traditionally the fall travel season in the US runs from the Tuesday after Labor Day until the week of Thanksgiving.

Elsewhere, this is what the fall travel season looks like:

  • The European fall travel season begins in September and ends at the start of December. Thanksgiving isn’t a holiday there, and it’s a much cooler, quieter, and less crowded time to visit Europe.
  • South of the equator (think Australia and New Zealand) is technically spring travel and they have their own rules, also centered around school holidays.

Pro tip: The Caribbean doesn’t really get a fall because hurricane season ends late November, which begins the high season of holiday travel.

Check the holidays at your destination

Civil and cultural holidays often mean closures, which can be a problem for travelers. You’ll want to know ahead of time if the buses, trains, museums, restaurants, etc. are open and running on normal schedules when you visit.

Here are a few things to watch out for

  • Starting in late October, some attractions in Europe start operating shorter winter hours
  • On November 20 museums and restaurants may be closed in Mexico for Revolution Day
  • In Italy, many family-run restaurants take a week or two off between November and February

Takeaway: Look up the list of civic and cultural holidays where you’re traveling so you know ahead of time how to adjust your plans for those days.

Update your vaccinations

Many Americans are used to the routine of scheduling their flu shot in the fall, and most have had one or more Covid vaccines.

New for fall this year are the first shots to protect infants and older adults from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a lesser-known threat whose toll in hospitalizations and deaths may rival that of flu. The coronavirus, flu, and RSV are likely to resurge this fall, peak earlier, and circulate for longer than usual.

Bonus: For people with insurance, all the vaccines will be at no cost.

You just have to get them.

Be attentive with your packing

Start by checking the weather for your destination so you know what to expect. In general, fall in the northern hemisphere means warm sunny days and cooler nights. It can also mean rain in some parts of the world.

The following are some general recommendations for fall travel packing:

  1. Pack layers that will accommodate adjusting temperatures — it could feel like summer or winter on this trip, and anywhere in between.
  2. Bring a rain-proof coat and umbrella to stay try.
  3. Wear all-weather shoes – the weather changes could mean wet and slippery conditions.

Pro tip: Use our popular guide to check the weather before you travel (also for road trips!).

Book your holiday trip before your fall trip

Before you finalize your fall trip, book your holiday trip. Holiday travel (specifically Thanksgiving week through early January) is typically expensive and booking way ahead of time is the only way to contain costs.

Don’t forget to book ALL THE THINGS too, including: 

  • Flights
  • Lodging
  • Tours
  • Vehicles
  • Trains
  • Travel Insurance

The one thing you forget could be the most expensive thing you need on your trip.

Tips to find the most colorful leaf displays

The US isn’t the only place to see beautiful fall leaves; however, the authoritative resource in the US is the fall foliage predictor.

A new US-based website (explorefall.com) launched recently with an interactive map that can help you plan timing your fall foliage trip, both timing and color predictions.

If you’re headed to Europe, you’ll find the best displays of colorful leaves in Finland, Norway, and Sweden starting in early September. The trees change colors in October in central and southern Europe.

See Fantastic Foliage: 6 of the Best US Towns for Leaf Peeping in specific locations.

Damian Tysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.