Booking Strategy

The Best Travel Destinations for Every Month

“When is the best time to go?” It’s usually the first question—and probably the most important question—we ask when planning a trip to a place we’ve been dreaming about. We want to know what the weather will be like, the cost of transportation and accommodations during our anticipated travel dates, which local events will take place, and more. Let this guide be an easy answer to all of those questions and a piece of vacation inspiration, too. Read on to discover the best places to travel by month.

Where to Go in January: Thailand

January is high season in Thailand—and with good reason. The weather is warm and consistently sunny in all regions of the country. In January, Chiang Mai hosts the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival, a three-day celebration of colorful parasols (with fantastic photo ops galore). You might also consider going south to Ko Lipe, a small island with beaches and picturesque bungalows.

Additional Suggestions: Costa Rica, for green foliage and clear skies; Oman, for temperate weather and the Muscat Festival, a month-long celebration of culture and history that starts in mid-January.

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Where to Go in February: Colombia

As a tropical country, Colombia only has two seasons—dry and rainy—and February is part of the warm, sunny dry season in most of the country. Colombia’s average temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit, with even cooler temperatures in high-altitude cities such as Medellin and Bogata. In February (sometimes early March) you can celebrate Carnaval de Barranquilla in Atlantico.

Additional Suggestions: Trinidad and Tobago, for Carnival celebrations; Belize, for balmy weather and little chance of rain.

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[st_related]10 Best Things to Do in Colombia[/st_related]

Where to Go in March: Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands beckon outdoor enthusiasts no matter the time of year, but the month of March offers a few special reasons to visit. During this time, visitors have the chance to see several species nesting, including sea turtles, iguanas (both marine and land), tortoises, and even penguins. Sure, the sun is intense, but nothing beats an average temperature of 75 degrees Fahrenheit and prime underwater visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Additional Suggestions: New Zealand, for pleasant autumn weather; Washington, D.C., for the National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March into April).

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Where to Go in April: Morocco

Summers in Morocco can be unbearably hot, and winters quite cold. That’s why April is a prime time to plan a trip. You’ll enjoy comfortable temperatures coupled with magnificent scenery—particularly the fruit trees that blossom in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

Additional Suggestions: Spain, to avoid the summer heat and crowds; Paris, for the flowers at Luxembourg Gardens; Amsterdam, to see Keukenhof in full bloom.

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[st_related]10 Best Things to Do in Morocco[/st_related]

Where to Go in May: Peru

Winter in Peru starts in May, but it’s likely not the kind of winter you’re used to. During this time the climate is dry, and temperatures—which can climb into the 80s—are especially enjoyable in the highlands. This is the best time to visit famed Machu Picchu, where you won’t find as many crowds.

Additional Suggestions: South Africa, for warm, dry weather and good game viewing; Western Australia, for whale shark season.

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Where to Go in June: Iceland

Iceland is a no-brainer during the month of June (specifically late June) when travelers can take advantage of long days—commonly known as the midnight sun. Plan to be there on June 21, when the sun sets just after midnight and then rises again around 3:00 a.m. in Reykjavik. The highland roads in the mountains are also open during this time (they are closed over the colder months).

Additional Suggestions: Norway, for mild weather and long hours of sunlight; Malaysia, for prime snorkeling conditions; Hungary, for summer festivals galore.

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[st_related]Iceland with a Twist: What It’s Like to Explore the Land of Fire and Ice[/st_related]

Where to Go in July: French Polynesia

There are just two seasons in French Polynesia: winter and summer. The best time to visit is actually winter, which takes place between May and October. July, smack dab in the middle of the season, is an ideal time to visit, with low humidity and temperatures topping out in the 80s. Divers also enjoy excellent visibility. It’s expensive to visit in July (or any time, really), but many resorts—overwater bungalows included—offer package deals.

Additional Suggestions: Botswana, for dry weather and prime wildlife sightings; Barbados, for sugar cane harvest celebrations.

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Where to Go in August: Indonesia

If you’re looking for perfect weather just about anywhere in Indonesia, consider a visit in August. Head to the coast of Bali for temperatures in the 70s, or climb up to the volcanoes (just wear a jacket—the highlands and mountains are chilly in August).

Additional Suggestions: Edinburgh, for summer festivals; Slovenia, for hiking in the Julian Alps and swimming in turquoise lakes.

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Where to Go in September: Alaska

A bucket-list destination for many, Alaska sees the majority of its visitors—many of them families—in June, July, and August. Wait until school is back in session and plan a visit in September. The weather is pleasant, and the still-long days are perfect for exploring the fall foliage in Denali National Park, fishing for salmon, and even trying to spot the aurora borealis.

Additional Suggestions: Argentina, for hiking in the spring sunshine; Nova Scotia, for off-peak crowds and fresh lobster.

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Where to Go in October: Italy

Italy is mobbed with tourists throughout the year, but October is considered shoulder season, and a visit then means you’ll see slightly smaller crowds than you would in the busy summer months. You’ll also enjoy beautiful fall foliage in places like Tuscany, and cool weather on the beaches along the Amalfi Coast. Alba’s International White Truffle Fair starts in October—visit to sample the aromatic tuber and other delicacies, including wine.

Additional Suggestions: South Korea, for pleasant temperatures and colorful fall foliage; Greece, for moderate weather and smaller crowds.

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Where to Go in November: Vietnam

November is an ideal time to visit both the northern and southern parts of Vietnam. You’ll find history and culture in the north, and plenty of opportunities to relax on the beach in the south.

Additional Suggestions: Japan, for colorful fall foliage; Mexico, for Day of the Dead celebrations.

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Where to Go in December: Germany

Yes, it’s cliche, but you have to visit Germany in December at least once in your lifetime. There’s a reason so many countries mimic its famed Christmas markets (weihnachtsmarkts). The pop-up events feature beautiful light displays, music, handmade gifts, and mulled wine to sip as you shop. Most German cities offer markets, but the mother of them all is Nuremberg’s—one of the country’s oldest.

Additional Suggestions: Austria, for its own impressive holiday markets; the U.S. Virgin Islands, for prime weather and water sports; New York City, for holiday displays and ice skating at Rockefeller Center.

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What to Pack

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.


Active Travel Fashion & Beauty Outdoors Packing Women's Travel

The 9 Best Lightweight Fall Jackets for Travelers

We love idyllic fall days—those colorful leaf backdrops, crisp temperatures perfect for walking, and plenty of sunshine. What we hate is packing bulky jackets to prepare for those not-so-hot fall weather interludes (think: rain, clouds, and cold nights). We’ve rounded up the best lightweight jackets that pack easily and travel well to keep you warm and dry on all types of autumn days.[st_content_ad]

Eddie Bauer Voyager II Jacket

Eddie bauer voyager ii jacket.

Need to look professional or polished, but still want to be comfortable? The Eddie Bauer Voyager II is a hybrid between a jacket and a blazer. The button front and stand-up banded collar keep it classy, while the two-way stretch and StormRepel DWR fabric keeps you comfortable and dry. Multiple pockets are big enough to hold everything from boarding passes to passports.

Showers Pass Elite 2.1 Jacket

Showers pass elite 2.1 jacket.

Whether you’re commuting to work or taking a rental bike around a foreign city, the Elite 2.1 Jacket by Showers Pass will keep you (and your stuff—there are plenty of pockets, including one with an audio port) dry and protected from the wind. Working up a sweat? This coat (available for men and women) has seven venting options to cool you down. And you’ll stay safe with the 3M reflective trim that keeps you visible from all angles.

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North Face Apex Bionic 2 Jacket

North face apex bionic 2 jacket.

Headed out for a fall hike? The North Face Apex Bionic soft-shell jacket is your perfect outer layer. The ClimateBlock exterior shields against cold and wind, and the interior fleece backer keeps you cozy underneath. It is also water-resistant in case of unexpected showers, comes in a variety of colors, and is available in men’s and women’s versions.

Patagonia Lined Maple Grove Canvas Jacket

Patagonia lined maple grove canvas jacket.

Looking for something a little more durable to protect you on your travels? The Patagonia Maple Grove Canvas Jacket won’t let you down. This heavy-duty jacket is made from organic cotton canvas and lined with polyester fleece. The internal zippered left-chest pocket keeps your phone and keys secured.

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Via Spiga Women’s Single-Breasted Pleated Trench Coat

Via spiga women’s single-breasted pleated trench coat.

Whether you’re sightseeing on a crisp fall afternoon or stuck in a rainstorm, the Via Spiga Pleated Trench Coat is sure to keep you warm and dry. With its detachable hood, this water-resistant trench—made from cotton and polyester—functions as both a rain jacket and an everyday coat. It fits true to size, comes with a full interior lining and exterior pockets, and has a stylish tie-up belt and a skirted bottom to give you a flattering, feminine look.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

Patagonia nano puff jacket.

When the weather has warmed up and you no longer need your coat, there’s nothing more annoying than having to carry it around for hours. For times like these, Patagonia’s Nano Puff jacket is the perfect solution. This ultra-condensable puffer coat can be compressed down and folded up into its own pocket, so you can pack it up and toss it in your tote or carry-on when you don’t need it. Sporty and slim fitting, this hip-length coat looks great with everything from jeans and boots to leggings and sneakers.

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London Fog Men’s Iconic Trench Coat

London fog men’s iconic trench coat.

Whether you’re heading out to dinner with friends or traveling on business, London Fog’s Iconic Trench Coat will keep you warm and looking polished. This classic, military-style trench comes with a removable wool collar for extra warmth. Pair it with layers, jeans, and a scarf, and you’ll be ready for the day.

Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket

Patagonia better sweater fleece jacket.

Going for a casual, everyday look? The Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket (available for men and women) is the perfect staple for your fall wardrobe. The Better Sweater Fleece has a comfortable slender fit and an interior fleece lining, so it functions as a lightweight jacket or as a warm layer under a heavier coat. And because of its insulating zipper pockets and stand-up collar, you don’t need to pack gloves or a scarf.

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Columbia Hillsdale Spring Reversible Jacket

Columbia hillsdale spring reversible jacket.

As we transition from summer to fall, unpredictable weather is bound to follow. But with Columbia’s Hillsdale Spring Reversible Jacket, you can count on being warm and comfortable no matter what the conditions are. This reversible zip-up coat is made of waterproof nylon on one side and fleece on the other, so it can be worn as a raincoat or fleece jacket. Light and durable, this jacket also comes with an attached hood, as well as zippered pockets on both sides that are big enough to hold a cell phone.

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Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Women's Travel

8 Comfortable Fall Shoes for Travelers

From the latest trends to updated classics, here’s the lowdown on the most comfortable fall shoes for travel.

Nisolo Diego Low Top Sneaker

Nisolo diego low top sneaker

Nisolo’s Diego Low Top Sneaker is the dream fall shoe. Not only does it have a Vibram sole to keep you steady and a soft leather upper for ultimate comfort, but it’s also handmade under ethical standards. The versatile, clean, and unbranded style can be dressed up or down, so if you’re just packing one pair of shoes on your next fall trip, make it the Diego. For a similar women’s style, check out Nisolo’s Elayna Sneaker.

Born Adour

Born adour

Most ballet flats aren’t made for walking, or if they are, they look bulky and orthopedic. Not so with Born’s Adour flat, which is beautifully designed out of a full-grain, buttery-soft suede leather. The slight heel, removable footbed, leather lining, and cushioned leather sock all combine into the ultimate comfortable fall walking shoe that looks just like a classic ballet flat.

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Chinese Laundry Easy Does It D’Orsay Flat

Chinese laundry easy does it d'orsay flat

D’Orsay flats are a hot trend this fall, and the Chinese Laundry’s Easy Does It is the best version of the style. It comes in a rainbow of colors to match any outfit, and slips on and off easily. These will work with jeans or tights to take you all the way through fall and into winter.

Suavs’ Zilker

Suavs zilker knit


Suavs’ Zilker shoes, available in men’s and women’s styles, are some of the most comfortable shoes for fall. These sneakers have a light knit upper for maximum airflow, plus a terrycloth insole—which is also washable. Suavs’ sneakers come in a variety of colors and collapse down for easy packing.

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Keds x Kate Spade New York Champion Satin Sneaker

Keds x kate spade new york champion satin sneaker

Is there anything more fall fashion than a satin sneaker? This collaboration by Keds and Kate Spade has turned out the ultimate shoe for the fashion-conscious traveler. The Champion Satin Sneaker combines Keds’ signature comfortable flexible rubber outsole and cushioned insole with the fashion flair of Kate Spade, resulting in a sneaker that’s eye-catching and comfortable.

The Sockless Slip-On

Allbirds are another SmarterTravel favorite when it comes to comfortable travel shoes for fall, and the shoe brand recently launched a slip-on version of its famous merino-wool sneakers. The Wool Loungers, available in men’s and women’s styles, feature a wool upper, padded insoles, and a lightweight rubber sole. Like their sneaker counterpart, the wool insoles are moisture-wicking and removable for washing.

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Crocs Lina Ballet Flat

Crocs lina ballet flat

Be prepared for unexpected fall rain showers with Crocs’ Lina Ballet Flat, a sturdy shoe which is also waterproof. This lightweight shoe is just as comfortable as the original Crocs sandals, but in a style that’s slightly less divisive.

SODA Perforated Slip-On Sneakers

SODA perforated slip-on sneakers

Refresh your wardrobe without spending all of your fall budget with these affordable slip-on sneakers by SODA. The easy slip-on design makes these great for travel days, especially ones involving airport security. Plus, the perforated top looks cool and will keep your feet from overheating.

What to Wear this Fall

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Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Caroline Morse Teel and Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.


4 Gorgeous Places for Leaf-Peeping Abroad

As we move into autumn and the many glorious accouterments that come along with it—pumpkin spice everything—we’re bringing you our suggestions for some of the best places for leaf-peeping abroad.

Tuscany, Italy

autumn in tuscany.

Tuscany is romantic enough on its own, but when you throw in jaw-dropping colors (mid-September and October) and the crisp chill of fall, it’s a great place for anyone hoping to relax—particularly with a nice glass of wine.

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Honshu, Japan

eikando kyoto autumn bridge.

From October through December (depending on the region), Japan’s main island bursts with fall colors, particularly in Kyoto, where fiery leaf hues surround local temples and koyo celebrations abound.

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Nova Scotia, Canada

nova scotia lake in fall.

September and October are key months for this leaf-peeping destination. Set against picturesque lakes, the leaves there offer a worthwhile experience for travelers seeking an autumn respite closer to home.

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Bavaria, Germany

fall colors in bavarian alps.

Couple bright, leafy landscapes with grand castles and mountain backdrops, and you’ve got a recipe for stunning autumn views. The best time to catch them is in October.

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For more ideas, see 7 Surprising Places to See Stunning Fall Foliage Overseas.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. This story was written by Ashley Kosciolek.

Family Travel Outdoors Weekend Getaways

Here’s When Fall Foliage Colors Are Predicted to Peak in Your State

Autumn is many travelers’ favorite season of the year. Moderate temperatures, fun seasonal activities, pumpkin-flavored everything, and, of course, the foliage that makes fall a great season for road trips and weekend getaways. But, timing these excursions to coincide with “peak” fall foliage is always tricky, and this year looks to be trending later than usual in some areas, as well as short-lived for some others.

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AccuWeather says warm late-summer temperatures seem likely to delay foliage displays in the Northeast, one of the most popular destinations for leaf-peepers, and that the colors will be short-lived. Midwestern states will have more vibrant and long-lasting colors, according to Accuweather. And as for the mid-Atlantic, the Tennessee Valley to the Southeast will also be delayed thanks to warm early-fall temperatures.

Noting that “warm weather is predicted to stick around across much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic this September,” AccuWeather foresees a “delayed foliage season in the Northeast–though, generally, a vibrant display is predicted, thanks in part to dryness anticipated before the turn of the leaves.” The same is true of the mid-Atlantic, and AccuWeather also predicts a “spotty” season in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s whats likely to happen in your neck of the woods:

Accuweather fall foliage map 2019.

The official foliage forecast from echoes this prediction, saying that conditions this year are signaling “colors will come in a bit later than the historical average.” The site also offers a foliage prediction map for planning purposes. Late September to mid-October seem to encapsulate peak time, depending on the area you’re looking to visit.

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Active Travel Fashion & Beauty

11 Best Travel-Friendly Boots for Fall

Even the most seasoned travelers find fall packing to be a challenge. Will there be a random hot day followed by a cold and rainy evening, or a frosty morning that gives way to a warm, breezy afternoon? A good traveler should always be prepared. After all, nothing puts a damper on walking around a new city like cold, wet feet. Here are eleven boots that are perfect for fall weather, plus are packed with travel-friendly features like secret pockets and sneaker technology.[st_content_ad]

Rothy’s The Chelsea

Rothy's the chelsea.

Cult-favorite travel shoe brand Rothy’s just expanded into the boots category: Their new Chelseas are perfect for fall. These stylish booties are made from repurposed water bottles, making them ultra-lightweight, sustainable, and machine washable. A back pull tab makes these easy to slide out of at airport security.

Baffin Packables Rain Boot

Baffin packables rain boot.

You don’t want to be stranded without rain boots if you’re headed somewhere with wet weather, but they sure do take up a lot of luggage room. Unlike most, these boots by Baffin take up almost no space because they roll up and store neatly into an included carry pouch. This brand beats out similar, cheaper styles thanks to the removable insole that make them comfortable for long walks.

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FrancoSarto Happily Bootie

FrancoSarto happily bootie

FrancoSarto’s Happily Bootie are the must-have boots for any city breaks this fall. The classic leather style will pair with any outfit, while a shock-absorbing sole makes these comfortable to walk all day and all night in.

Vionic Bowery Chase Chukka Boot

Vionic bowery chase chukka boot

Vionic’s Bowery Chase Chukka boot will complete your travel wardrobe this fall. The leather upper works with jeans or a business look, while the weather-resistant upper protects you from rain or snow. You’ll walk confidently in these knowing that they’ve received the American Podiatric Medical Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

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Journee Collection Pocket Boot

Journee collection pocket boot.

Who needs a purse when you’ve got the Journee Collection Pocket Boot? These over-the-knee boots have a hidden pocket inside that can hold your smartphone, cash, and credit cards, offering easy access for you—but not pickpockets.

Arcopedico L31D Tall Riding Boots

Arcopedico l31d tall riding boots.

Don’t weigh down your luggage with bulky boots—the Arcopedico L31D Riding Boots weigh just nine ounces. Even better? They’re machine washable, so you can just toss them in the washer after every trip. In between washes, the “Sansmell” deodorizing system is anti-microbial to keep your feet smelling fresh.

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White Mountain Dalby Suede Bootie

White mountain dalby suede bootie.

Add a bit of height without the pain in White Mountain’s Dalby Suede Bootie. The stable, small stacked heel gives you a little lift to elevate your look. The almond-shaped toe and plush suede upper make these booties extra comfortable.

Aetrex Chelsea Riding Boot

Aetrex chelsea riding boot.

Riding boots are on-trend for fall, but cheaper pairs can be flimsy and unsupportive with no arch support. Not so with the Aetrex Chelsea Riding Boot, which features the “Aetrex Healthy Three” of arch support, memory foam cushioning, and anti-microbial technology. This trio will keep your foot properly aligned, unfatigued, and bacteria-free.

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Red Wing Heritage Chelsea Boot

Red wing chelsea boot

Booties have become a fall style staple in the last few years, and they’re perfect for travel; they offer more warmth than flats but are easier to pack than tall boots. Red Wing Heritage’s Chelsea Boot has a classic and clean design that will look good with any outfit. A leather loop in the back makes these easy to pull on and off. These boots are ready for wet weather, thanks to an outsole with a Goodyear welt and Vibram mini-lug to keep you steady on your feet. Made from Red Wing Heritage’s signature premium leather, the Chelsea boots will mold to your feet as you wear them, making a custom fit.

Rockport Waterproof Storm Surge Toe Boot

Rockport waterproof storm surge toe boot.

If the forecast calls for wet weather, pack Rockport’s Storm Surge boots, which are small enough not to dominate a carry-on and comfortable enough to wear on the plane. These boots are constructed using a trademarked Hydro-Shield Waterproof process, which uses seam-sealing, waterproof insoles, and a waterproof outer to keep you completely dry.

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DailyShoes Pocket Boots

DailyShoes pocket boots.

Pack these boots by DailyShoes and go purse-free, thanks to the secret wallet pocket that’s built in. This small zippered pouch can hold your cash, credit card, keys, and more. Plus, these comfortable walking boots come in colors to match any outfit.

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Caroline Morse Teel believes a good pair of fall boots can make or break a trip. Follow her fashionable adventures on Instagram @travelwithcaroline.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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Fall Scenic Drives for Each U.S. Region

Fall is perhaps the best season to pack up the car and head out on a scenic drive to enjoy the season’s colors and flavors. Here are the best fall road trips, one for each U.S. quadrant. Be sure to peruse the listing at the story’s end for resources on finding peak-season foliage throughout the nation.

Northeast: Cape Cod, Massachusetts


New England is a foliage seeker’s paradise, and a drive down any local roadway from late September through early November is a sight to behold. Focus on specific parts of the Northeast, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best fall road trips, with a broad range of leaf colors.

The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism’s fall page lists nine seasonal drives, each chosen for its historic significance and natural beauty. The  Cape Cod route from Bourne to Brewster is an easy drive filled with working cranberry bogs, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum—dedicated to the 35th president’s life in the Cape—and a stop at Scargo Hill Observation Tower (located on the Cape’s “inner elbow”) for sweeping panoramas of the area’s foliage scenery with views as far as Provincetown, the Cape’s “fist.”

Before your next weekend getaway, get a peek at what awaits you up the road with this live foliage map.

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Midwest: Southwest Michigan


The state of Michigan has put together a comprehensive list of driving tours perfect for the road trip aficionado. Choose from various themes, including food, wine, heritage, fall, and others.

The one-tank trip around Michigan’s southwest region starts at Battle Creek, winds through wine country in Paw Paw, continues past roller coasters in St. Joseph, and offers side trips to South Haven and New Buffalo.

Make time for various unique experiences along Michigan Great Lakes roadways: seasonal swills at the state’s oldest microbrewery at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo; a car-friendly flick at Capri Drive-In Theater; and Dutch heritage a la Americana at the DeKlomp Wooden Shoe & Delft Factory in Holland (Michigan, that is), with its very own authentic windmill, brought here from the Netherlands and reassembled bit by bit. End the voyage at the artsy area of Saugutauk-Douglas, a town awarded the 2016 Best Small Town Weekend Escape by USA Today.

The people behind the Michigan Tourism Offices make organizing a road trip through their state a breeze with the ever-useful interactive trip-planning map. Leaf peepers will appreciate the site’s Fall Colors Tours page, dedicated to roadways that best highlight the season’s vibrant foliage offerings.

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South: Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina and Virginia


Known for striking vistas as far as the eye can see, the Blue Ridge Parkway stretches out over 469 miles between the Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah national parks, zigzagging along the Appalachian Highlands. With a maximum speed capped at a a leisurely 45 miles per hour, cruising along the road is encouraged.

Along the way, make a point to stop at Humpback Rocks at milepost 5.8 in the Shenandoah Valley for gravity-defying rock formations, plus a small museum highlighting Appalachian life within the visitor center. Take a break from the manmade roadway to feel the force of Mother Nature at Linville Falls, located at mile marker 316. This is a popular stop along the Parkway, but you can skip the crowds by visiting the falls during the week. Fun fact: The Linville Gorge was the nation’s first designated wilderness area. For those who wish to break up their drive with a trail walk, there are some 370 hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of which is the revered Appalachian Trail.

Driving the parkway is always free of charge, but check for Blue Ridge Parkway road closures (mostly due to inclement weather) before packing up the car.

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[st_related]The 10 Best Fall Train Rides in the U.S.[/st_related]

West: Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, California


You can’t go wrong with any fall scenic drives through Yosemite National Park, and perhaps the most spectacular is Tioga Road.

It’s easy to see why Tioga Road is so attractive, too. Not only is it in the Sierra Nevadas, but it’s California’s highest roadway. And at a brief 47 miles, it cuts across the heart of Yosemite for one of the most picturesque drives imaginable. (It’s sure to yield the most double-clicks on your Instagram account. #travelenvy, anyone?)

Head to the lesser-known, yet just as amazing Tuoloumne Grove off Tioga Road for one of the best fall road trips in the West. As with most other trees, these giant sequoias put on quite the colorful show in autumn. On Tioga Road you’ll have access to Olmsted Point and Tenaya Lake, plus a close-up view of Clouds Rest, and beyond that, Half Dome. Hikers rejoice, as this is the roadway connected to the most hiking trails.

You’ll have to time this voyage carefully because Tioga Road closes when the snow starts in October or November. See the Yosemite National Park road conditions page before heading off for this adventure.

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Fall Foliage Forecast Resources


What to Wear on Your Scenic Drive

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Patricia Magaña looks forward to eating her weight in apple cider donuts this fall. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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The Cheapest Time to Buy Holiday and Thanksgiving Flights for 2019

When do you find the lowest fares for Thanksgiving and December holiday travel? Right now, says the latest data from Hipmunk, derived from analysis of historical buying patterns. Specifically, you can find the lowest fares for both Thanksgiving flights and the winter holidays during the first week of September. But don’t give up if you miss that week:

  • Thanksgiving flights are relatively cheap for the weeks of September 9 and 16 and again the weeks of November 4, 11, and 18.
  • Christmas fares are relatively low again the weeks of October 6, November 18, and, surprisingly, the weeks of December 2, 9, and 16.

Why It Matters More This Year

These findings are in general agreement with reports from other sources for previous years: Your best bet is to buy about three to four months in advance. But buying early might be a particularly good idea this year: Airlines flying the 737 MAX will probably not have their full availability for the holidays so the entire system will have fewer available seats than airlines had planned. Hipmunk mined its purchase data to develop figures for average round-trip coach airfares for domestic travel.

When to Buy Thanksgiving Flights: The Details

Based on past data, Hipmunk found the lowest average Thanksgiving flights, at $417, for the week of September 2. But fares remained in the range of $425 to $440 through the first week of October, and dropped again to around $425 the first three weeks of November. Somewhat oddly, the worst week for low fares was October 14, at $476, and they rose again, to $465, the week of November 25.

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When to Buy Holiday Season Flights: The Details

Christmastime fares seem to be more volatile, with larger week-to-week swings. No other time of year came even close to the average $389 fares found the week of September 2. The week of October 7 was next best, at around $408, with further drops to about $420 the week of November 18 and $450 to $470 the weeks of December 2, 9, and 16. You’ve already missed the worst week in the data base, when the average fares were around $490—even higher than last-minute—although the last minute average was almost as bad, at $480 during the week of December 23. And the weeks of October 21 through November 11 were also bad, with average fares ranging between $470 and $480.

The take-away is that your risk is lowest if you buy early. But if you’re willing to risk a small fare hike to wait for a great promotional fare, you can afford to delay buying your tickets for several weeks. As always, the best recommendation is: “When you find a good fare, pounce.”

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When to Travel; When Not to Travel

Hipmunk also did a comprehensive breakdown of average fares for the mix of feasible departure and return days. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, conventional wisdom holds that the best times to travel are on the Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and that the worst days to travel are the Wednesday before and Sunday after the holiday. Hipmunk’s figures say that’s only half right. Sure enough, the three highest fares were on trips returning on Sunday. As expected, the Wednesday-Sunday trip topped the list. But for some strange reason, fares for a trip leaving on Wednesday and returning Friday were near the lowest.

The trip with the lowest average fares was leaving Thursday and returning on Friday, at $307. But other low-fare options included Monday-Friday, Tuesday-Friday, and Thursday-Saturday, at $310 to $323. The three worst trips were Wednesday-Sunday, at $483, Tuesday-Sunday at $459, and Monday-Sunday at $456. Fares varied narrowly from $395 to $420 for other date combinations.

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With a midweek Christmas this year, there are no obvious weekend peaks. Still, the conventional worst-trip dates, Saturday, December 21 to Sunday, December 29, showed a top fare average of $547. The best trip by far, at $247, was leaving Christmas Day, December 25, and returning the next day. Next best was a big jump up, to $322 for Tuesday to Friday, followed by Christmas Day to Sunday, at $335. Other bad trips were Sunday to Sunday, at $507, and Saturday to Friday, at $491. Hipmunk did not extend its coverage to the following New Year’s week, but presumably fares are high on the Sunday following.

The conventional take-aways here for major holidays are:

  • The lowest fares usually involve traveling on the holiday, itself—an obvious case, because those are the days travelers want to be where they’re going.
  • The highest fares usually involve returning on the Sunday following the holiday—another obvious finding, given that most people want to maximize their vacation time but need get back for work or school on Mondays.

Fare differentials for other dates generally cluster in a narrow range between the maximum dates. Beyond avoiding the worst dates if you can, you’re probably better off timing your trip to meet your best convenience rather than shaving a few bucks off airfares. For more information, see The 12 Best and Worst Days for Holiday Travel This Year.

What to Wear on Your Next Flight

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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The 10 Best Fall Train Rides in the U.S.

[st_content_ad]If you love leaf peeping, there’s nothing more magical than steaming through colorful landscapes on a fall foliage train ride. Leave the driving to someone else and join one of these memorable fall train rides, which offer brilliant pockets of color throughout the United States. Settle into a historic dining car with a glass of wine, or stake out a spot for your camera in an open-air car. Let the stress-free gawking begin.

Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire

mount washington cog railway train autumn.

Every September in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, fall-color predictions are the talk of all the local coffee shops. And TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) buzzes with enthusiastic Mount Washington Cog Railway posts about the view from the top of the Northeast’s highest peak. This popular 150-year-old railway carries passengers via replica coaches (biodiesel engine or vintage steam engine) up a three-mile-long trestle to the 6,288-foot summit. Here you’ll see the surrounding national forest’s brilliant hues from some of the steepest railroad tracks in North America (there’s a 37 percent incline in one stretch). From the summit, you can take in panoramas of the mountains and valleys from New Hampshire to Vermont. On clear days, you can see as far as Maine and Canada.

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Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado

durango and silverton narrow gauge railroad train.

Originally constructed in 1881 to haul silver and gold from mining camps in the San Juan Mountains, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is popular for its awe-inspiring views. As you ride from the remote wilderness of Durango to the mining town of Silverton on this historic coal-fired steam train, you can enjoy autumn’s golden and crimson hues set among the majestic peaks of the San Juan Mountains and along the Animas River. There’s a special ride for fall photographers in late September, as well as a Great Pumpkin Patch Express for families on the first three weekends of October.

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Reading Blue Mountain & Northern, Pennsylvania

reading blue mountain and northern train autumn.

Ride a 1920s-era steam locomotive or diesel train to from the Reading area to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the heart of the Pocono Mountains. The Reading Blue Mountain & Northern railroad offers 120-mile round-trip rides on weekends throughout October and the first weekend of November, giving passengers a chance to enjoy lunch in town and explore Jim Thorpe’s historic buildings and museums. Hop aboard another train, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, to savor the foliage in nearby Lehigh Gorge State Park.

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Tennessee Central Railway Museum, Tennessee

tennessee central railway train.

This volunteer organization runs a wide range of short excursions year-round, but it features three autumn-themed journeys covering up to 168 miles round-trip from Nashville. This year’s offerings include a trip to celebrate Oktoberfest in Watertown, an excursion to DelMonaco Winery, and a journey to a fall festival in Baxter. The museum uses its own stable of 1950s vintage passenger cars and diesel locomotives; book a dome seat for the best views.

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Napa Valley Wine Train, California

napa valley wine train at night.

Fall in the Napa Valley is one of those unexpected sensory delights. During harvest season the air carries the aroma of fermenting grapes, and changing leaves on grapevines cover the undulating landscape. The Napa Valley Wine Train is a great way to experience it without having to drive. The 36-mile trip takes you from the historic town of Napa through the countryside to the village of St. Helena and back. Enjoy vineyard views, wine tastings, and an onboard multi-course lunch or dinner in a restored early-1900s Pullman car. You also have the option to add on winery tours.

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Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, Georgia

blue ridge scenic railway train.

Climb aboard on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway in downtown Blue Ridge’s historic 1905 depot, and ride the rails from the charming mountain village into the lush Chattahoochee National Forest, enjoying vibrant displays of sweeping color along the way. You’ll stop for a layover in the Georgia/Tennessee border towns of McCaysville and Copperhill, where antique and craft shops and down-home hospitality take you back in time. Back onboard, ask a crewmember to show you around the cars and explain the history behind each one.

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Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Ohio

fall foliage in cuyahoga valley national park.

Winding through the 33,000-acre Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad takes you along scenic stretches of fall color. Starting just 15 miles outside of Cleveland, the route allows passengers to hop on or off at any of nine stations to explore small towns, canal museums, and a 19th-century working farm. The route runs along several miles of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail. For a small fee, you can put your bike on the train, ride a few stops, then bike back to your car. Alternatively, you can book a two-hour, nonstop trip aboard the Fall Flyer for a relaxing ride dedicated to leaf peeping; this trip operates on October weekends.

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Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, North Carolina

great smoky mountains railroad steam locomotive.

Less than a 90-minute drive from Tennessee’s Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad‘s Nantahala Gorge trip follows a historic rail line through mountain tunnels on a beautiful fall foliage excursion. See rich auburns and buttery yellows reflected in the water as you cross over Fontana Lake, then trace the winding river through the mountains. The railway’s Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express route is a family favorite, with an onboard narration of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the chance for kids to pick a pumpkin, take a wagon ride, or meet Snoopy.

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Grand Canyon Railway, Arizona

grand canyon railway pumpkin train.

Forget the stereotype that Arizona is all desert and rattlesnakes. You can see brilliant pockets of yellow aspens tucked within forests of ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and spruce in and around Kaibab National Forest when you board the Grand Canyon Railway. It’s known for its daily trips to the South Rim, but a less expensive option is the line’s special Pumpkin Patch ride in October, which takes families to a secret pumpkin patch that’s only accessible by train. Back at the depot, walk through a haunted train car, purchase a few treats, and enjoy fall-themed crafts and games.

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Essex Steam Train & Riverboat, Connecticut

essex steam train autumn.

The sound of the steam locomotive’s whistle and the smell of its burnt-coal smoke have turned many a New England leaf peeper into a hopeless romantic or wistful nostalgic. On the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat excursion, a 1920s locomotive meanders through the Connecticut River Valley over rivers and through forests on a narrated ride before connecting with an open-deck riverboat. You’ll float past the Gillette Castle, the Goodspeed Opera House, and the Haddam Swing Bridge, all festooned in the season’s brilliant colors. The train operates daily during foliage season: September 27 through October 27.

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Other Fall Train Rides

amtrak adirondack train autumn.

Many of Amtrak’s long-haul routes pass through regions of the country with beautiful fall foliage. Consider the Adirondack, which runs between New York City and Montreal; the Pennsylvanian, which travels from New York City to Pittsburgh; the Vermonter, which whisks passengers from Washington, D.C. to northern Vermont; and the California Zephyr, which passes through the Rockies on its route between Chicago and San Francisco.

Shorter tourist lines throughout the country operate other fall foliage train rides as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other seasonally themed excursions. has a state-by-state searchable directory of scenic rail excursions, including a section on fall foliage.

What to Wear

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Ed Perkins contributed to this story.

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How to Do a Fall Weekend in Woodstock, Vermont

For a quick getaway filled with vibrant colors and country charm, you can’t beat a fall weekend in Woodstock, Vermont. With opportunities for hiking, shopping, and fine dining in a classic New England village that looks like a postcard come to life, Woodstock is the quintessential place to take advantage of a seasonal weekend escape.

Where to Stay in Woodstock, Vermont

Head to the Woodstock Inn & Resort, a fully renovated and bigger-on-the-inside historic Colonial inn that’s been transformed into a year-round resort experience—complete with a spa, golf course, and upscale farm-to-table dining scene. Elegant yet cozy, the Woodstock Inn is centrally located on the town green, right in the middle of the action and within easy walking distance of nearly all seasonal activities.

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The highlight of every room at the Woodstock Inn is the natural wood-burning fireplaces (precut wood and matches are waiting upon arrival). Start your own fire and then sit back and enjoy warm, romantic nights during your fall getaway.

Fall Weekend in Woodstock: Your Friday Schedule

Arrive in the afternoon—Woodstock is just two hours driving from Boston or five hours from New York City. After check-in at the Woodstock Inn, enjoy complimentary coffee, tea, and cookies in the inn’s conservatory, or wander just minutes from the hotel for coffee and treat at the downtown Mon Vert Cafe.

For dinner, head to the inn’s upscale farm-to-table Red Rooster restaurant, and then settle in for a relaxing evening by firelight in your room. Rest up—you’ll have a busy day tomorrow.


Fall Weekend in Woodstock: Your Saturday Schedule

Start the day with a leisurely farm-fresh breakfast at the Woodstock Inn, and then walk to the charming downtown (less than five minutes by foot from the inn) where you’ll find an eclectic array of local shops.

Begin your shopping excursion with a stop at Unicorn, known for its kitschy variety of toys, gifts, souvenirs, and jewelry products you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a wonderful place to pick up a special something to remember your trip or get a head start on your holiday shopping.

Next, wander into F.H. Gillingham and Sons, a classic general store in the truest sense, still owned and operated by the family that established the shop in 1886. It’s still housed in the original building, too. Here, you can pick up fresh Vermont cheese, rich Maple syrup, and other local specialties.

For book lovers, the highlight of your morning shopping will be a visit to The Yankee Bookshop, Vermont’s oldest continuously operated independent bookshop (since 1935). Pick up a new read to enjoy back by the fireplace in your room.

If you’re a foodie, hop in the car and drive a half hour to King Arthur Flour. Here you can purchase your favorite fresh ingredients, take a baking class, or enjoy lunch or coffee at the cafe.

After lunch, hit the highways and byways of Vermont to take in the fall foliage—just about everywhere you go will be scenic. Or, for a more active encounter, get a dose of fresh air on a local hiking trail. Hiking trails for all skill levels can be found at nearby Mt. Tom—it’s easily summited in just a few hours, but yields technicolor views of the surrounding valley—or Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park, which is home to miles of mostly flat walking and carriage trails.

Enjoy a Saturday evening dinner back at the Woodstock Inn’s more relaxed in-house restaurant, Richardson’s Tavern. Don’t leave without sampling the cheese fondue for two.

Fall Weekend in Woodstock: Your Sunday Itinerary

After another breakfast at the Woodstock Inn, your first stop on Sunday should be the Billings Farm & Museum, where you can explore one of the best outdoor museums in the country. (Admission is free for guests of the inn.) In addition to being a museum dedicated to preserving Vermont’s rural heritage, it’s also a fully-operational Jersey dairy farm where you can see draft horses, Jersey cows, and even some roaming sheep. Take a tour of the gorgeously preserved 1890 Farm House, where you can see what life was like on the farm during its Victorian-era heyday.

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Across the street, visit the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion to find out what it was like to be the wealthiest resident of the community. Originally built in 1805, this home was renovated and modernized multiple times over the next two centuries. Currently, you’re able to catch a glimpse of what it was like when the Rockefeller family left the home in 1997. Guided tours are available at select times.

Finally, return to the Woodstock Inn for a luxurious spa treatment before you head back to reality. From premium massages to multi-layer body treatments and alternative therapies like Reiki and reflexology, you’re sure to find a treatment that’ll allow you to end your fall weekend in Woodstock on a relaxing note.

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Josh Roberts visited Woodstock, Vermont, as a guest of the Woodstock Inn & Resort. Follow him on Instagram at @jauntist and on Facebook JoshRobertsBooks.

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10 Best Value Hotels for Fall Trips

Wondering where to go this fall? If quality and value are your guides, TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) has 10 hotel recommendations that deliver top service (at least 3.5 stars and four bubbles on TripAdvisor) and winning value (rates at least 20 percent below their city averages).

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  1. Hotel Hive, Washington, D.C. (from $231 per night, 45% less than average local rates) – Walking distance to the Lincoln Monument and Vietnam Memorial. “Very modern and clean rooms, friendly staff and amazing value for money!”
  2. Lone Star Court, Austin, Texas (from $230 per night, 33% less than average local rates) – A rocking chair in every room. “I have stayed in all the hotels in the area—this is the one I keep coming back to.”
  3. Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, Tucson, Arizona (from $299 per night, 22% less than average local rates) – Southwestern style at its best. “The hotel represents great value for what you’re getting, compared to just slightly cheaper places with no local character.”
  4. Coconut Waikiki Hotel, Honolulu, Hawaii (from $129 per night, 40% less than average local rates) – Walking distance to Waikiki Beach and the Honolulu Zoo. “… one I’ve ever stayed at in terms of service provided versus the price and value.”
  5. Quarter House Resort, New Orleans, Louisiana (from $175 per night, 40% less than average local rates) – Walking distance to Bourbon Street, Canal Street and Jackson Square. The price and location simply cannot be beat.”
  6. Inn of the Governors, Santa Fe, New Mexico (from $239 per night, 25% less than average local rates) – Walking distance to Georgia O’Keefe gallery and historic Santa Fe Plaza. “I think for the cost, the value is outstanding and would stay here again.”
  7. The Point Hotel & Suites, Orlando, Florida (from $182 per night, 45% less than average local rates) – Close to Universal Studios and Disney parks. “this hotel is a gem that is by far the best value near International Drive and the parks.”
  8. The Hotel of South Beach, Miami, Florida (from $272 per night, 26% less than average local rates) – A classic South Beach deco retreat, with design flurishes by Todd Oldham.
  9. Bahia Resort Hotel, San Diego, California (from $224, 22% less than average local rates) – Private beach “The best value deal in hotels I have stayed in a long time and I can’t wait to be back and completely relax!”
  10. Mayflower Park Hotel, Seattle, Washington (from $279 per night, 24% less than average local rates) – Walk to Pike Place Market or take the monorail to the Space Needle. “Best value in downtown Seattle. Everything was first class!”

[st_content_ad]Sometimes, the choice of destination comes first, followed by the choice of hotel. But sometimes the hotel is the destination.

Reader Reality Check

When planning a trip, do you choose the destination first, or the hotel?

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.


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10 Fall Vacation Ideas Beyond Leaf Peeping

Every year in late September and early October, travelers are flooded with suggestions for when and where to see the autumn explosion of color. I love fall as much as anyone, but driving through a covered bridge in New England isn’t the only way to enjoy it. Below are 10 fall vacation ideas that go beyond leaf peeping.

Fall Vacation Ideas

Not willing to give up on seeing autumn’s annual display? Many of these options will put you in the midst of colorful foliage (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least), so you won’t miss out even as you’re pursuing other unique fall vacations.

See the Northern Lights

[st_content_ad]Are the northern lights on your bucket list? After the fall equinox, your chances of seeing them increase considerably as long days give way to long nights in the higher latitudes. Iceland is one good place to check them out without paying a mint; Icelandair and WOW air offer inexpensive flights from a number of U.S. cities.

If Iceland seems too cold, try the Lofoten Islands in Norway, where the Gulf Stream creates one of the largest positive temperature anomalies in the world (that is, these islands are way warmer than they ought to be).

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Watch a Meteor Shower

There are three major meteor showers this fall. The Orionids go through November 19, peaking on October 22; the Leonids from November 5 to December 3, peaking on November 18; and the Geminids from November 30 through December 17, peaking on December 13. All three are viewable from anywhere in the world, with the Leonids being stronger in the Northern Hemisphere; just make sure you get as far out of town as possible to escape light pollution.

Look at the Stars

Fall is also a great time to stargaze; many of the best viewing places are less crowded than they are over the summer months, but they’re not yet so chilly at night as to make them uncomfortable.

The National Park Service offers tips and recommendations for star gazing, including a list of parks with night-sky programs, and this roundup from National Geographic offers a heap of international options as well. Or consider planning your fall vacation around the Jasper Dark Sky Festival in Jasper, Canada, in mid-October.

You don’t have to go into the deep wilderness to see the stars; there are several resources for finding dark-sky locations near home. Try Dark Site Finder or

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Go Bird-Watching

Migratory birds are on the move during fall, and bird-watchers are on the move following them. There are countless bird-watching locations, and many have festivals to match; All About Birds has an interactive map of some of the best ones.

Go on Safari

Fall is part of the dry season in many parts of Africa, a time when animals begin to gather near water sources in large numbers. The dry season varies considerably by region, with fall marking the end of dry season in some locations, and the beginning in others. This calendar is a helpful resource.

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Witness a Butterfly Migration

Who needs to go leaf peeping when you can take in the magnificent colors of thousands of monarch butterflies? The annual monarch migration starts in October each year, and there are several places to see them in large numbers. Big Sur is an excellent choice; find more information here.

Go Whale-Watching

Whales are on the move during fall as well, in oceans around the world. For U.S. locations and dates, see these recommendations from Local Adventurer. For several international options, see 10 of the Best Whale-Watching Destinations.

Check Out a Fall Festival

Festivals are one of my favorite fall vacation ideas because there are so many to choose from. The most famous one is—of course—Oktoberfest, which takes place in dozens of cities around the world, not just Munich. Check out The 10 Best Places to Celebrate Oktoberfest 2017 for ideas on where to raise your beer stein this year.

If you’re more interested in religious cultural festivals, travel to Mexico at the end of October for the Day of the Dead, a popular holiday celebrated in destinations across the country. Or consider Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which is a visually rich experience featuring countless candles, costumes, decorations, and fireworks.

Finally, there’s nothing like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest balloon festival. Each morning you can turn your eyes to the sky and see balloons in all shapes, sizes, and colors drifting overhead.

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Enjoy the Wine Harvest

The annual vineyard harvests in California, Italy, and France are the perfect fall vacation ideas for oenophiles in late summer or early fall. By the time of this writing the harvest season is winding down, but there are still plenty of grapes to be picked; this calendar can help you figure out where and when to go.

Celebrate the Solstice

To mark the end of the fall, consider one of these winter solstice celebrations, including a lantern festival in Vancouver, the Burning of the Clocks in Brighton, England, and the Dongzhi Festival in China.

For a few more ideas, see 8 Winter Solstice Celebrations Around the World.

What are your favorite fall vacation ideas? Let us know in the comments!

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Ed Hewitt is a seasoned globetrotter who brings you a biweekly glimpse into the latest travel news, views, and trends—and how they could affect your travel plans.

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Canada 150: Scenic Shorelines in Newfoundland and Labrador

This year our national neighbors to the north celebrate their 150th anniversary and we’ll be celebrating with them as they do. Each month we’ll focus on one part of their magnificent country and share it with you. From the sky-high trees and brown bears in British Columbia to the kitchen parties and salmon streams in the Maritimes, our toast to Canada will give you well over 150 reasons to make this the year you take the trip. This month we’re exploring tiny towns and Viking lore in Newfoundland.

Canada 150: Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador are having a moment.

Canada’s easternmost province has long attracted nature lovers, but in recent years its popularity has grown to include a big pop-culture following as well.

From the jet setting, celebrity clientele that have developed a passion for the decadent pleasures of Fogo Island, to the art lovers who fell in love with Tony-Award winning musical Come from Away, the true-to-life depiction of Canadian compassion for those stranded after 9/11, tourists of all stripes are finding what they’re after on The Rock.

Whether you choose to explore Gander, St. John’s, or Bonavista in the east; the French Shore, Corner Brook, or Norris Point in the west; or the rocky coast of its provincial partner Labrador in the north, the only thing you’ll find is missing is enough time to see it all on one visit.

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The City: St. John’s

If there is such a thing as a big city vibe in Newfoundland, St. John’s is it. The province’s capital city is also the country’s oldest. Wander its narrow streets, pop into the shops run by locals, and enjoy the city as an easy entry point to all things maritime. Hike Signal Hill for views that have stood the test of time. Succumb to the fishing-town feel of historic Quidi Vidi Village Plantation. Or wander along Jellybean Row—so named for the brightly colored houses that dot the waterfront. Your big-city fixes will come by way of the incredible art at The Rooms (the province’s largest public cultural space, and home to the provincial art gallery), fantastic dining (try Mallard Cottage and Raymonds) and local pubs on George Street that are perfect place to get your official welcome to Newfoundland—a “pucker your lips and kiss the cod” Screech-in.

Why Now Is the Perfect Time to Go

Weather and space: It’s cooler than you might find in other areas of the country this month, but not so cold that you’ll need your mitts and boots. Fall offers smaller crowds and greater access to some of the destinations that are hotbeds for summertime visitors.

Family Favorites: If you’re traveling with little ones, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of options to keep them engaged. At the Bonne Bay Marine Centre in Norris Point, they can get hands-on with a giant sea snail or spiny urchin.  The teaching and research center operated by Memorial University is a great educational opportunity and at the Newfoundland Insectarium, where exotic butterflies and insects from around the world make for a fun-filled afternoon.

Road Trips: Fall weather is perfect for a scenic drive out along the Viking Trail, where you can stop and explore the small towns on the Western Shore, home to incredible stories of individuals who sacrificed, made bold decisions, and affected an entire province. Among the must-sees: The Greenfell Interpretation Center, a museum and home in Saint Anthony that tells the story of the English doctor whose life’s work was to improve the medical care to the area’s impoverished coastal inhabitants. His efforts eventually led to the creation of hospitals, schools, and orphanages across the region. Also worth a peek is The Bennett House, a registered heritage structure in Daniel’s Harbour that was the home of Nurse Myra Bennet, the “Florence Nightingale of the North.” This intrepid woman was the only medical professional for a nearly 200-mile range for more than 50 years.

The Quirky Fun of the French Shore: Continue the history lessons in the tiny town of Conche at the French Shore Interpretation Centre, where the French Shore Tapestry—an over 200-foot long, hand-embroidered panel—tells the history of the region with all the humorous and rambunctious style Newfoundland is known for.

Lighthouse Visits: Each lighthouse that dots the shoreline of the island has their own incredible story and many even allow you to venture inside to learn about the families who originally ran them. Such as Lobster Cove Head Lighthouse on the edge of Gros Morne National Park in beautiful Rocky Harbour (built in 1897) and the Rose Blanche Lighthouse (just east of Port aux Basques), which are sure to be favorites.

Why It’s Great Other Times of Year

The Water: With waves crashing all around the coastal harbors, travelers should make a point to get out on the water. BonTours on Bonne Bay offer fantastic views of the national park, as well as the tiny fishing communities alongside it. In this area, whales feast along the shorelines, which makes a tour in areas like Western Brook Pond or St. Anthony (try Northland Discovery tours) worthwhile.

The Winter: Winter enthusiasts can get their fill in Newfoundland and Labrador, with some areas of the province receiving as much as 16 feet of snow each year. Skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling are all a part of the winter sports season. Try spots like Marble Mountain, with its 1,700-foot vertical drop, and Labrador’s  Smokey Mountain Ski Club which has 100 percent natural snow and offers the longest ski season in the Atlantic Canada region.

Crafts: You’ll find small shops with local crafts throughout the province, but the Annual Burin Peninsula Arts Council Craft Fair in Marystown is the largest. This November marks the fair’s 30th anniversary, so expect to find local musicians, great food and plenty of souvenir options.

Head North for Icebergs: Iceberg Alley stretches from the coast of Labrador to the southeast coast of the island of Newfoundland. Keep an eye open for the mammoth pieces of ice either from the shore of from a tour boat in spots like Battle Harbour, Red Bay, St. Anthony, Cape Spear, and more. The icebergs come through Iceberg Alley from spring to early summer and late May and early June offer the best views.

The Festivals: As soon as the snow starts to melt, Newfoundlanders take to the streets to make the most of sunny days and friendly neighbors. Festivals run throughout the year but the ones you won’t want to miss include the George Street Festival, five days of “music and drink” in August, the writer’s festival in Woody Point, Regatta day (August 7), a civic holiday and marked with a regatta complete with a full-fledged celebration in Quidi Vidi, and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, also in August, showcases local and international talent for a foot-tapping good time.

If You Go Don’t Miss…

The Vikings: Anthropologists believe Vikings landed here and explored Newfoundland at about 1000 A.D. At L’Anse aux Meadows—a national historic site at the northernmost tip of the Viking Trail—you can even step into the re-created spaces they once roamed. Famous Viking Leif Eriksson was said to have used the area as a base camp, and with costumed interpreters, Parks Canada guides offer a glimpse into how they survived.

The National Park

Gros Morne National Park: It might take weeks to fully explore this 700-square-mile park, but it would be time well spent. Use whatever time you can spare to visit this protected land, which is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. Explorers should start at the Discovery Centre where films, Parks Canada interpreters, and detailed information boards outline the hiking options and guided experiences. The other must: A visit to the Tablelands. These towering, rust-colored mountains are one of the few places in the world where you can walk on the earth’s mantle core—a result of shifting tectonic plates crashing together millions of years ago. You don’t have to be a geologist to grasp the magnitude of the harsh surroundings and the contrast of the lush green fauna, inland fjords, and colorful villages that wind around them.

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Remember: National Parks and National Marine Conservation Areas are offering free admission all year as part of the celebration of Canada150. Request your free park pass here!

Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and a National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on


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9 Best Things to Do in Stowe, Vermont in the Off-Season

Stowe, Vermont is best known as a winter hotspot for skiers and snowboarders, so when I recently visited over the summer, I expected to find a sleepy mountain town. Instead, Stowe was booming—the off-season is really the new “on-season.”

Stowe cherishes its small-town charm, and with warm (but not hot) weather, boutique hotels and resorts, and fresh mountain air, the the best time to visit Stowe is from late spring through early fall. And with Vail Resort’s recent purchase of the mountain, the area could see even more off-season development and new businesses.

The Best Things to Do in Stowe in the Off-Season

Here are the best things to do in Stowe when the snow isn’t falling.

Go for a Day Hike

[st_content_ad]There are dozens of popular trails in Stowe, making a day hike the perfect way to enjoy the weather, views, and, in the fall, foliage. The Stowe Pinnacle Trail is one of the best things to do in Stowe for leap-peeping views, and the steep but manageable hike to the summit is mostly shaded. The trail is about three miles out-and-back, enough of a workout to earn you some brews post-hike.

Another great trail is the Sunset Rock Trail, which starts right in town and can be done in under an hour—yes, the sunset views are amazing. If you’re chasing waterfalls, check out the Moss Glen Falls Trail, a 2.9-mile route that’s suitable for all levels.

Other hiking areas include Smugglers’ Notch State Park and Underhill State Park—where you’ll find Mount Mansfield, the town’s main ski mountain.

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Take a Dip in a Swimming Hole

You’ll find the breathtaking Bingham Falls swimming hole along the Mill Trail, or near a parking lot located just a few minutes’ drive from Topnotch Resort. The waterfall is part of Smugglers’ Notch State Park and can get crowded during the weekends and in nice weather. There are a few different rocks you can use to plunge into the chilly water—just use caution.

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Go Horseback Riding

(Photo: Topnotch Resort)

There are a few horseback trails in Stowe, and Topnotch offers both guided trail rides and riding lessons at its Equestrian Center. The trails in Stowe are flat and scenic, perfect for a first-time rider.

Go on a Brewery Tour

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Stowe has one of the best craft brewing scenes in New England, if not the entire Northeast. From the cult favorite (and often sold out) Heady Topper by The Alchemist to the newly opened Von Trapp Bierhall, you could spend a day (or weekend) touring Stowe’s breweries. And that’s exactly what you can do with Rick Sokoloff’s 4 Points brewery tour—with groups of four or more you can customize your stops and leave the driving (and knowledge) up to him.

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(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

Whether you’re looking for intense mountain biking or a leisurely ride, biking is one of the best things to do in Stowe. The Stowe Recreation Path is a 5.5-mile greenway that runs from Topnotch Resort (the access point is across the street) to Stowe Village. It’s a flat, picturesque path with covered bridges, open farms, and winding creeks. There are a few other access points along the way, but the full-length ride is a leisurely way to spend a morning or afternoon.

Adrenaline junkies can opt for some mountain biking down or around the mountain. 4 Points also offers mountain biking tours and lessons (as well as a popular brewery/mountain biking combo tour—don’t worry, you bike first). With local guides and awesome trails, these tours are suitable for all age and fitness levels.

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Relax at a Spa

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

After a day of hiking or other outdoor activities, finding a relaxing spa is one of the best things to do in Stowe. Most mountain lodges have their own spa, but you can typically purchase a day pass if you’re not a guest.

Contact these resorts for reservations: The Spa at Stoweflake, The Spa at Stowe Mountain Lodge, Golden Eagle Resort, Trapp Family Lodge, and Topnotch Spa.

Go to the Top of Mt. Mansfield

Whether you hike to the top or cheat and take a gondola or drive, enjoying the highest point in Vermont is one of the best things to do in Stowe in the off-season. Famous for its silhouette shape—locals will be happy to point out the nose, upper lip, lower lip, and chin—there’s tons to do besides skiing on the mountain.

Besides countless hiking trails, the mountain is home to an Adventure Center—known for its zip-line course down the mountain—as well as the Cliff House Restaurant, the Gondola Skyride, biking trails, a visitor’s center, and more.

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Shop for Vermont Specialties

(Photo: Shaws General Store)

Don’t let its size fool you. While Stowe’s Main Street is small, the town is packed with cafes, ice cream parlors, galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. Shaw’s General Store is a must for mountain gear and souvenirs.

And don’t leave town without your Vermont staples; you’ll find plenty of maple syrup, farm-fresh cheese, and cider donuts here, too.

Embrace the Farm-to-Table Concept

(Photo: TripAdvisor, LLC)

With more than 7,000 farms in the state, you’d better take advantage of fresh food and meats while you’re in Stowe. Go full throttle at the local Sunday farmers’ market and bring home your own fresh goods. Or get hands-on and do your own maple sugaring at Nebraska Knoll Sugar Farm.

Don’t worry: If you’re just looking for some locally sourced ingredients at dinner, there are plenty of farm-to-table restaurants in the area. Favorites include Flannel, Plate, and Edison Hill Inn‘s dining spaces.

You can also look for the Vermont Fresh Network logo on a restaurant’s website to ensure it uses local Vermont ingredients.

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Ashley traveled to Stowe, Vermont, courtesy of Topnotch Resort. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.


Trick or Travel: 6 of the World’s Most Haunted Destinations

I admit I have a spooky streak: It’s more curious than morbid, but I find myself touring cemeteries (for the history! And architecture!) and waiting for the day when I can finally pay a visit to the Overlook Hotel — inspiration for “The Shining” (I’m a big Kubrick fan). If this sounds like your idea of fun too, and you are looking to plan your next vacation with an excursion into the paranormal (or an actual stay on location), you may want to investigate the following supposedly haunted sites. All locations were found on a list of the most haunted places in the world, from a U.K. website called Haunted Rooms.

Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire, England

The British Isles have their share of folklore, but the story of this ancient inn is no fairy tale. Built in the 12th century, this building is said to occupy a former pagan burial ground and has been the site of child sacrifices and devil worship. Currently serving as a bed and breakfast, guests report being touched and pulled, hearing voices and feeling an evil presence. Its location at the intersection of two ley lines is said to be a conduit for spiritual activity.

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Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town, South Africa

Supernatural sightings at this 17th-century castle built by the Dutch East India Company include a man repeatedly jumping off a castle wall, and an apparition known as the Lady in Grey who stalked the castle halls crying hysterically. Since a woman’s body was unearthed during a recent excavation, sightings of the Lady have vanished, but ringing bells and the ghost of a black dog are among the curiosities still experienced here.

Banff Springs Hotel, Alberta, Canada

Frighteningly similar to the eerie aura of “The Shining,” this hotel set in the Canadian countryside was built more than 125 years ago and has been the stage for several strange encounters. As in the cult classic film, a family was murdered in one of its rooms, which has been bricked up ever since (but they can still be seen in the hallway). A bride is reported to have fallen down the stairs and broken her neck after her dress caught fire, but a friendlier ghost — a popular bellman from the 60s and 70s — also resides here and still tries to help guests to their rooms, turning on lights and opening doors.

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Chateau de Brissac, Maine-et-Loire, France

The tallest castle in France is picturesque for sure, but has a dark past. A 15th-century double murder left the home with a specter known as the Green Lady. Story has it that if she looks at you, there are holes where her eyes and nose would be. The current Duke of Brissac and his family reside in the castle to this day and seem unaffected, but guests have reported early-morning moans and sightings of the green ghoul.

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Island of the Dolls, Xochimilco, Mexico

Perhaps the creepiest of all, this lakeside town near Mexico City is not only home to a small and terrifying population of mutilated dolls, but the story behind them is truly chilling. In the 1920s, an accident left a girl drowned. In the 1950s, a recluse named Julian began communicating with the spirit of the young girl and leaving dolls for her on the island. After many years, Julian felt like he could no longer appease her and confessed to his nephew that he felt she would harm him. Later that day he was found face down in the exact location where the girl reportedly drowned. To this day, residents report whisperings from the dolls and wandering eyes.

Lawang Sewu, Semarang, Indonesia

If the name (translation: “thousand doors”) isn’t a bit mysterious as it is, the building was occupied by Japanese forces during WWII and used as a prison, where many were tortured or executed. Believed to be one of the most haunted places in Indonesia, this building (also built by the Dutch East India Company) is said to host multiple ghosts, including a Dutch woman who committed suicide there, headless spirits and a vampiric ghost, or kuntilanak, as it’s known in the region’s folklore.

— written by Brittany Chrusciel