Kauai. (Photo: USA TODAY)
Along with sweaters and pumpkin-spice lattes, fall brings travel deals galore. In select regions, a short-lived harmony of still-somewhat-summery weather and slashed shoulder-season prices creates the perfect conditions for the frugal traveler. This year, we've identified five especially fabulous destinations where off-season pricing is ripe for the pickin'.
One of the most cost-prohibitive parts of a Caribbean vacation is often the flight, but, generally, the more flights available to an island, the more competitive the fares to get there. Barbados' extensive service via most major U.S. carriers-including JetBlue, American, Delta, and US Airways-makes it a budget-friendly pick for beach-seeking travelers, especially during fall.
When we tested peak-season fares for travel in January, the lowest available fare came to $500 round-trip. Fares for about $100 less were readily available for late October and early November departures.
Add to that the many seasonal price drops and deals that spring forth in Barbados come fall and you have even more reasons to visit. The Barbados Tourism Authority is offering a wide-ranging "free spending money" deal for those who visit the island before December 21: Receive up to $200 per person when you book with participating hotels, car-rental providers, and attractions. On top of that, lower seasonal prices provide even more savings: For example, at this participating Cassia Heights Island Villa, nightly rates are $150 cheaper in fall compared to winter.
A favorite summer-vacation spot for the first family, this cosmopolitan resort island in the Atlantic peaks in July and August. Needless to say, when flashing motorcades and crowds of Manhattanites and Bostonians invade the beachy fishing community, prices for rentals and hotel accommodations become quite prohibitive. But in September and October, when the weather is a bit brisk but still perfect for sipping a martini on an oceanfront patio, those of us who don't use "summer" as a verb can find some super-cheap travel deals.
Compare fall rates to summer rates at countless local hotels to see what we mean. Lower fall seasonal prices are on offer at nearly every Vineyard property, it seems: Third nights are free at Winnetu Oceanside Resort; starting nightly rates at Hob Knob drop from $425 in summer to $250 in fall; and second nights are half off at Ashley Inn in September.
Even flights can be quite affordable during this time of year. We spotted round-trip airfare from New York to Martha's Vineyard starting at $151, whereas August airfare came in at around $367 round-trip.
It's hard to overstate the price difference between high- and low-season flights to Europe. For example, we found flights to Berlin from New York in October for less than $700 round-trip on Air Berlin-a much more palatable price than the well-over-$1,000 fares we saw this summer. But airfare certainly isn't the only aspect of Europe travel that becomes less expensive as temperatures drop. Many river-cruise companies, which offer a budget-friendly way for Americans to avoid unfavorable exchange rates year-round, roll out steeply discounted fares in autumn.
Check out the reduced fares and two-for-one airfare discounts on week-long Rhine cruises this fall. Rates for a veranda cabin on a Rhine getaway with Viking River Cruises are slashed from $7,599 to $3,856 per person in October. Nearly everything, from meals to excursions to onboard activities, is included in the price.
Chicago's full fall calendar pairs well with the seasonal price drops it experiences this time of year. Chicago Gourmet-a huge food and wine event in Millennium Park-takes place at the end of September. Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks seasons kick off. And, at the end of fall, the popular Magnificent Mile Lights Festival heralds the start of the holiday season.
Fortunately, deals aren't hard to find: Hotels all over the city are offering special fall rates and packages, plus seasonal price drops. At the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, take advantage of a third-night-free offer, or receive a $50 hotel credit for every day you stay at the Waldorf Astoria. And Andersonville Guesthouse-a more affordable pick-has slashed September nightly rates by 20 bucks.
Hawaii is one of the best off-peak destinations for fall because, despite what the abundance of travel deals might lead you to believe, the weather is pretty amazing. Our pick for autumn travel is laid-back, lush Kauai, which sees fewer visitors than some of the more popular Hawaiian Islands.
In lieu of hundreds of high-rise hotels, Kauai offers plenty of charming guest cottages and cute B&Bs. The period from the end of summer to just before the holidays is an excellent time to find deals and lower seasonal rates for Kauai's quirky rentals and hideaways. We spotted plenty with lower nightly rates for the fall season, including this adorable private cottage listed on Airbnb, at which rates drop to as low as $65 per night in September (compared to $95 per night in winter and spring), and this fabulous rental, at which rates dip to $175 in fall (from $215 in summer). Additionally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority website features an extensive list of seasonal accommodation specials for fall stays on the island, including room discounts, free nights, and price breaks on tours and activities.