In travel, as in life, timing is everything. These five autumn-friendly locales offer up that coveted sweet spot wherein great deals on hotels and airfare, thinned-out crowds, pleasant weather, and seasonal appeal converge.
This fall, “shoulder season”—wedged just between the peak- and off-season travel periods—beckons throughout Europe, in the southern fringes of the Caribbean, and even as far away as New Zealand, which is just emerging into spring. So pay less and get more at these five perfect fall destinations where your dollar will go far.
Play in Provence
Once the hordes of summer sun-worshippers pour out, the temperatures dip from hot to agreeably warm and the pace of life slows down in southern France’s Provence region. With an atmosphere that’s equal parts scenic and serene, fall means reduced rates on international airfare and sweet deals on villa rentals. You can even eke out some late-summer beach time in spots like St. Tropez. Just keep in mind that hotels and restaurants may begin to shutter as early as November.
Off the Mediterranean coast, winding clifftop roads lead to sleepy, tucked-away villages, while historic monuments and structures—some stretching as far back as the Roman provincial days—are strewn about, from the amphitheater in Arles to the fountains of Aix-en-Provence to the papal palace of Avignon.
They’re all tied together by the landscapes that inspired artists like Cézanne, Picasso, and van Gogh. And then, of course, there’s the Provençal food and wine—with olive and grape harvesting in full swing, the autumnal bounty is especially plentiful.
Catch Caribbean vibes in Curaçao
Curaçao’s southerly location, set some 40 miles from Venezuela, places it below the hurricane belt that’s been known to batter much of the Caribbean during the hurricane season. The island’s position near the equator translates to balmy weather year-round too. Plus, autumn means reduced rates on lodging and airfare in what’s already considered to be one of the Caribbean’s most affordable locales.
Curaçao gets beyond the sun and sand thanks to the vibrant multicultural flavor of its UNESCO World Heritage site capital, Willemstad, where colorful Dutch colonial architecture reveals cafés, shops, museums, murals, and more. Farther afield, the island’s desert-like landscapes and rugged natural reserves (like Christoffel National Park) come primed for hiking or Jeep tours, while some of the Caribbean’s best snorkeling and dive sites await just off shore.
Experience southern charm in Savannah
In fall, Savannah’s subtropical climate ensures highs averaging in the ’70s. It’s perfect strolling weather through this southern charmer, with a walkable Historic District that has towering oaks and dripping Spanish moss; antebellum mansions and creepy old cemeteries; green public squares and lively bars hawking “to-go” cups; and cobblestoned streets traversed by horse-drawn carriages. Meanwhile, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) is among the colleges that infuse the city with creative and youthful energy, especially during the back-to-school frenzy of fall.
For foodies, autumn means oyster season and a robust festival calendar: Try the Savannah Jazz Festival, Savannah Film Festival, Tybee Island Pirate Fest, Oktoberfest, or the Savannah Food and Wine Festival. As one of America’s most haunted cities, there are lots of Halloween activities, too.
Experience another kind of southern charm on the South Island
New Zealand is justifiably renowned for its dramatic landscapes of far-reaching fjords, glaciers, snow-capped mountains, crystalline lakes, and rugged coasts. While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere descends into winter, New Zealand’s South Island is just stepping into springtime, when colorful blooms (especially so in the “Garden City” of Christchurch) and newborn lambs abound. Hiking in spots like Fiordland National Park (home to Milford Sound) and Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is a comfortable prospect in late spring here, while melting mountain snow ensures gushing waterfalls and good whitewater rafting conditions.
With a markedly improved exchange rate from just a few years ago, expect breaks in airfare and hotel rates right before the nation’s peak summer travel period (during our winter), and immediately following the busy season at popular South Island ski resorts like Queenstown or Wanaka. Just be aware that winter snowfall can linger through September, so plan accordingly, and be sure to avoid the two-week-long national school break that runs from late September into October, when traveling families drive up costs.
Take a trip to Edinburgh
You’ll save a bundle on plane tickets to Europe by holding off until fall, and once the bulk of Edinburgh’s major annual festivals in August wrap up—including the Edinburgh International Festival, The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe—hotel rates plummet and crowds disperse. It’s perfect timing to catch fall colors in Scotland’s political and cultural capital. Wander the tree-lined, spire-pocked medieval streets of its Old Town or explore its more orderly Georgian-era New Town, all set within the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
The weather is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoor café culture, but cool enough to attempt a climb of the dormant volcano at Arthur’s Seat, while a little autumnal rainfall is the perfect excuse to dip into worthwhile (and free!) museums like the National Galleries of Scotland. A couple of choice festivals to consider include the International Storytelling Festival or the fiery Bonfire Night (aka Guy Fawkes Night). Just get there before November really sets in and temperatures drop significantly (although you can always count on a good whiskey here to warm you up).