Editor’s Note: NEA Member Benefits understands how much you love to travel and how much you’ve missed it. As states begin to relax their regulations with regard to COVID-19 and more Americans become vaccinated, travel is opening up more and more. Before planning a trip, read the health and safety protocols and requirements for visitors to any destination, as well as those of airlines, car rentals and hotels before booking and again before traveling.
Traveling during the fall is not only filled with beautiful foliage, smaller crowds and shorter lines. Travelers will also see a sharp rate drop from summer’s peak prices on everything from airfare to accommodations to car rentals—check NEA Travel’s portal for the best fall deals. Plan your fall getaway with these bargain-travel tips.
1. Get domestic deals
Autumn is the perfect time to enjoy the stunning beauty and wildlife in U.S. national parks—without the crowds. Take in the dramatic fall hues at Shenandoah, the grizzly bears at Yellowstone or the azure waters of Crater Lake under the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. An $80 annual pass gets you access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites, including all 408 national parks. Or, you can visit for free on one of the National Park Service free days.
For urban exploration, Washington, D.C., offers more than 100 free monuments, museums and attractions—from the Lincoln Memorial and the Library of Congress to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and free daily performances at The Kennedy Center. Free fall festivals include September’s WalkingTown DC, with more than 50 guided tours highlighting the arts, culture and history of the nation’s capital. Check out our six recommendations for other dazzling displays of Mother Nature.
2. Find beach bargains
Sun seekers will crowd the beaches of Hawaii and Mexico come winter, but fall deals will help you soak up the sunshine in peace. Alaska Airlines offers last-minute prices to get you surfing in Maui or sipping mai tais in Waikiki. In Mexico, fall travel means discounts as high as 30% on all-inclusive luxury resorts such as the Valentin Imperial Maya and Villa La Estancia Beach Resort & Spa Puerto Vallarta.
Don’t dismiss Costa Rica, which many avoid in fall because of the rainy season that runs from May to October. Travelers can enjoy a typically drier climate by visiting the gorgeous beaches of Guanacaste on the Pacific Ocean and Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast, where giant sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach during this season. Fall travelers to Costa Rica will find lower prices on airfare, accommodations and car rentals.
3. Travel Europe for less
A European tour is a must for every serious traveler, and fall is an excellent time to go. Imagine Oktoberfest in Munich or hiking on the Swiss Bernese Overland Trails. How about enjoying the crowd-free museums, cafes and boulevards of Amsterdam, Paris and Rome? Start saving by flying into a less expensive airport such as Ireland’s Dublin Airport, which can cost as little as $500 round-trip. Travelers with flexible schedules can take advantage of online-only ticket sales by signing up for email alerts from airlines and travel websites such as AirfareWatchdog and Kayak.
On the ground, rail passes offer a great bargain on train travel through multiple countries as well as reduced (and sometimes free) rates on ferries, cruises and hotels. Prices on lodging will be lower than in summer, and you’ll find bargains on everything from private homes on Airbnb to high-end hotels on lastminute.com. However, be sure to check COVID-19 entry and exit protocols for each country you plan to visit, as rules are different throughout the European Union and the United Kingdom.
4. Go on an Icelandic Adventure
Iceland is popular in summer because the days are long and the weather is warm, making it the most common time to visit—and prices skyrocket, too. And in winter, tourists flock to the island to catch the Northern Lights, even though it’s chilly and dark. But fall presents an ideal opportunity to experience the sought-after destination when it’s less crowded, and score cheap airfare and hotel rates.
You can hit up the Blue Lagoon in peace, easily get a table at Reykjavik’s acclaimed restaurants and drive along Ring Road without traffic, all while saving a few bucks in the process. Plus, you may even see the Northern Lights if you’re lucky—they have been known to show themselves in late fall.