One of the best travel times of the year is just after school begins and before the Thanksgiving holiday.
It’s perfect for a few key reasons: Hardly anyone travels during this time and that means great deals on airfare and lodging! Another plus is the opportunity to experience a place with fewer tourists and the throngs of summer-break students.
One more bonus of fall travel: No more hot and sticky days and nights, but pleasant temperatures that just beg for a walk in a park, down a cobbled lane in a historic town or a forest in full autumn color.
Cheap and crowd-free travel: Our September getaway picks
Here are some spots to consider for a September getaway, both close to home and far flung. Some cost nothing (or next too it) while others opportunities to get a good deal on an overseas bucket list adventure.
Hit the trails
For a really nice low-budget trip, enjoy a short and scenic hike near home on one of the dozens of trails that offer the greatest amount of beauty-per-step in every state.
Find an International Dark Sky Park (IDSP) to experience a starry night like you won’t likely find in your city. Lands holding an International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designation include those that are both public and privately-owned, including 26 of our national parks.
Hit the road
Drive through America’s rich history, visiting presidential estates, mountain vistas, and battlefields along the 175-mile route called the Journey Through Hallowed Ground — a trip through history from the American Revolution to the middle of the Civil War in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Stop to visit some of the farms, craft breweries, markets and wineries along the way.
Before the snow begins to fall, hit the 233-mile-long San Juan Skyway to cruise in the shadows of southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.
September is an ideal time to visit the deserts of Arizona, like Sedona — renowned for its stunning red buttes and monoliths, as well as its surrounding lush forests and the dramatic landscapes of Monument Valley on the Arizona-Utah border (frequently a filming location for Western movies).
Drive the entire length of the Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) for a never-ending-summer experience. Visit small funky towns, old-school roadside attractions, and unspoiled state and national parks along the roughly 100-mile one-way route.
Or, find other National Scenic Byways in your area. These are roads recognized by the United States Department of Transportation for one or more of six intrinsic qualities: scenic, archeological, cultural, historic, natural, and recreational.
Find a beach
From the Oregon coast to the Jersey shores, cooler temperatures mean cool deals of up to half-off at beachfront resorts and hotels. Walk Boston‘s red-brick Freedom Trail historic path. You take in the first splashes of autumn color around mid-September in the city’s Public Gardens and add in a side trip to the expansive beaches on Cape Cod’s National Seashore.
Corolla on North Carolina‘s Outer Banks is renowned for its historic attractions, and wild Spanish mustangs that roam the miles of beaches.
Visit an historic North American city
Dating to 1608, Quebec City features a fortified colonial core, including the imposing Citadelle of Quebec. In the heart of this French-speaking city, the cobbled streets of the Petit Champlain district (the oldest commercial neighborhood in North America) make up just one of the six distinct sectors of Old Quebec.
Take a 90-minute ferry ride from Vancouver, British Columbia to Victoria. Situated on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, the city attracts visitors with its many excellent museums, lovely architecture and harbor views (through October, watch for whales!). Don’t miss a visit to Butchart Gardens, designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Go beyond Victoria to visit charming fishing towns (Sooke, for one) and wineries in the Cowichan Valley.
Take in a seasonal event
Since the mid-80s, the town of Grapevine, Texas (between Dallas and Fort Worth) throws Grapefest — a mid-September grape-harvesting and wine festival event that features grape-stomping contests, wine tasting, live music, and the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the nation.
Oktoberfest kicks off in late September and carries on for 16 days into October. Some of the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in the U.S. include the 3-day Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Cincinnati — second only in size to the original in Munich, Germany. Another major celebration of German heritage, beer and food is held at the Bavarian Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh.
Head across the pond
Wine, beer, and food festivals are at their best in the autumn months.
For instance, Germany boasts having nearly 1,250 wine festivals in a year. One very special event (outside of Munich’s overpriced Oktoberfest) is the 600-year-old Wurstmarkt in Bad Dürkheim (just over an hour’s drive south of Frankfurt). It’s the largest wine festival on the planet. Wine connoisseurs from all over Europe visit each September for family-friendly events, wine and great food.
September is a prime time to visit Barcelona, when the city celebrates Catalonia’s greatest street parade. Les Festes de la Mercè is a vibrant 5-day festival with parades, concerts and celebrations that take place in several venues throughout the city.
On the last weekend in September, Galway, Ireland hosts the country’s biggest food festival, the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival. Get a real taste of Ireland with seafood, Guinness, live music, colorful parades, all-night dancing, and plenty of family-friendly activities.
Take a cruise
If you dream of sailing the Caribbean or the Hawaiian islands, remember that the Atlantic and Pacific hurricane seasons runs from June through November. But this “season” is the reason that cruise rates can be downright cheap this time of year. Ask your travel professional about trip/cruise insurance!
During early autumn, consider cruises that sail from New York or New Jersey to coastal Maine and to Canada’s Bay of Fundy and Halifax, Nova Scotia.
More stories you might enjoy from Clark.com:
- The best day and time to book a cheap hotel room
- Clark’s #1 rule of cheap travel
- How to pack a carry-on bag to avoid a checked bag fee
Want more expert travel tips?
Subscribe to Team Clark's free daily newsletter to receive money-saving tips and travel advice in your inbox.