Travel destinations

16 must-see fall travel destinations – and how to book your off-season trip

A mountain biker on Gray Mountain overlooking Whitehorse.Abby Cooper/Yukon Tourism

Summer is coming to an end and fall is approaching with a busy list of back-to-school plans, back-to-office arrangements, and the upcoming holiday season closer than ever. With so much going on, fall might not seem like the best time to travel – but, if you can get away from it all, the low season may actually be the perfect time of year to hit the ground running.

Fall is one of two “shoulder seasons,” meaning the parts of the year when tourism, usually at its peak during the summer and winter months, slows down. Because of this, flights are generally cheaper, hotels are cheaper, and crowds are much, much less. Plus, if hot weather isn’t your thing, fall trips might actually be ideal, as temperatures in most destinations tend to be cooler and more temperate.

If you’re looking to book a fall getaway this year, we’ve asked the experts where to book, and we’ve compiled a list of tips to help you get the most out of your shoulder season getaway.

Why should I travel in the fall?

Simply put: Since fewer people tend to travel during the fall months, if you choose to fly when the weather gets colder, you’ll likely save a ton of money on your trip. Hotels, flights and even local attractions are likely to cost less than in the summer or during the winter holidays. Additionally, museums and art galleries in many major cities tend to hold some of their biggest and splashiest shows and exhibitions during the fall months. Culture vultures would therefore be well advised to book a city break during this time.

For outdoor enthusiasts, trails, parks, campgrounds and ski hills are less crowded as the weather gets colder. So if you’re able to bundle up, you’ll have some of the country’s most beautiful scenery and wilderness all to yourselves (or, at least, close to it). And for foodies, getting that coveted restaurant reservation may be easier than ever during the off-season, as fewer tourists mean more tables open at some of the country’s hottest restaurants.

How should I plan my fall trip?

Crafting your shoulder season itinerary might look a little different than planning your summer getaway. Here are some tips to keep in mind, courtesy of Jordana Manchester, Luxury Travel Advisor at Tripzter Travel:

Pick a popular spot in the summer: Take British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, for example: “While the lakes are epic, fall really is the best time to visit,” says Manchester. “Not only will you find fewer people and better deals, but it’s harvest season and the best time to visit the vineyards and picnic in the orchards.”

Plan the environment: Mid-September, and mid-week, is the best time to book in the fall, as early September sees an increase in the number of university students (and their families) traveling to and from campus. And if you’re able to travel mid-week, you’ll avoid weekend surcharges on hotels.

Reserve in advance: Last minute offers are still rare. Book six to eight weeks in advance for the best deals, or four weeks minimum.

All season package: “Weather at this time of year can be extremely unpredictable,” says Manchester. “It is therefore not excluded to throw a warm sweater, a swimsuit and a down jacket in the same suitcase.

Jordana Manchester shared her top fall travel tips.

Where should I travel this fall?

Short answer: wherever you want! Longer answer: There are a few destinations that will get you the most bang for your buck in the fall, whether you’re planning a European getaway or longing for the beach. We’ve broken it down destination by destination below.

Travel to Europe for fall 2022

LisbonMarc Dufresne/iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Where to go: Lisbon

Why it’s worth the trip: Restaurants, galleries and even nightclubs take over the cobblestone streets in the fall. You can catch free jazz at Parque da Bela Vista every Sunday in September and the outdoor fado festival on September 23 and 24.

How much you can save: Direct flights from Toronto or Montreal on Air Canada start at $366, round-trip, in October; $312 on Air Transat – down a third or more from summer. Dining is also reasonable – you can get a hearty breakfast for $5 and fine dining for $20.

Where to go: Athens

Why it’s worth the trip: Come fall, you won’t have to compete for tables in the city’s most desirable areas, Monastiraki and Kolonaki. And if you haven’t had the chance to visit the Acropolis Museum, go now, for one of the most important collections of antiquities in Europe. Until January, two Panathenaic amphorae on loan from the Royal Ontario Museum are on display.

How much you can save: In late September, direct flights from Toronto start at $429 on Air Canada, about $100 less than in the summer. In October, you can fly direct on Air Transat starting at $410, round trip – one of the best deals the airline has to offer.

Where to go: Barcelona

Why it’s worth the trip: It has the rich architectural heritage and the gastronomic culture of a great European capital, with the wild Costa Brava just a few minutes from the city. Ferries from the Barcelona city center terminal reach the Balearic Islands in six to eight hours. G Adventures offers a hiking program in Ibiza, designed for the cooler months.

How much you can save: In October, flights are $388 roundtrip from Toronto on Air Transat and $402 on Air Canada.

Where to go: Rome

Why it’s worth a visit: Fall is when locals come out of hiding to enjoy the city, filling squares at night, making the passeggiata in front of Gianicolo Park. The Romaeuropa Festival, from mid-September to mid-November, offers live music, dance, opera and art throughout the city.

How much you can save: If you can fly before November, you’ll pay less than $425 round-trip with Air Canada and Air Transat (direct from Toronto only).

Travel to the United States for fall 2022

The Francis House in Napa Valley.Handout

Where to go: Orlando, Florida.

Why it’s worth the trip: Family trips dive into Orlando in the fall, making it a great time to visit the city’s famous theme parks.

How much you can save: Expect to save $50-100 per night in a hotel compared to high season.

Where to go: Napa Valley, California.

Why it’s worth the trip: You will witness the end of harvest season in California’s famous wine country.

How much you can save: You will see hotel rooms 25-40% cheaper than in high season.

Where to go: Charleston, South Carolina

Why it’s worth the trip: In January 2023, the city will see the opening of the International African American Museum, which will tell the story of enslaved Africans and their descendants in the United States.

How much you can save: Compared to high season, hotel stays can cost between $100 and $150 less per night.

Where to go: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Why it’s worth the trip: Scottsdale loves Canadian travellers: you can often find specific offers created for us that we can take advantage of.

How much you can save: For Canadian travelers, the destination offers a program called Loonie Love which includes promotions such as 10-25% off at several resorts in the area.

Travel to Canada for Fall 2022

The Northern Lights in the Yukon.Stefan Wackerhagen/Document

Where to go: Toronto

Why it’s worth a visit: The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 8-18, and the season is an opportune time to see five of the city’s major sports teams: the Leafs and Raptors pre-seasons kick off in September and October, and tickets are usually cheaper than the regular season.

How much you can save: Domestic flights to Toronto are on average 19% cheaper in the fall.

Where to go: Victoria

Why it’s worth a visit: Fall is the best time to go whale watching: the largest groups of humpback whales appear in September, October and sometimes November as well.

How much you can save: Kayak data shows flights to Victoria are 13% cheaper in the fall; Travelzoo reports a 25-35% price drop for hotels.

Where to go: Whitehorse, Yukon

Why it’s worth the detour: The Northern Lights, hands down. Fall is also the best time to view Yukon wildlife, from bison and grizzly bears to caribou and moose.

How much you can save: Flights to Whitehorse from Canada are 13% cheaper in the fall according to Kayak.

Where to go: Charlottetown

Why it’s worth a visit: Lobster season runs from August through October, and fall foliage is at its peak in October.

How much you can save: Average savings on flights are around 20%, according to Kayak.

Beach trip for fall 2022

Grand Turk Island, Turks and Caicos Islands.Julie Caron/iStockPhoto/Getty Images

Where to go: Curacao

Why it’s worth the trip: Natalia Weidner, virtuoso travel consultant with Travel Professionals International based in Oakville, Ontario, calls the island a hidden gem. Major bonus for this time of year: it’s just south of the hurricane zone.

How much you can save: September to November hotel rates range from $100 to $200 less per night than peak season.

Where to go: Turks and Caicos Islands

Why it’s worth the trip: There are many new developments on the islands, including a new Ritz-Carlton resort.

How much you can save: Resort stays are $700-$1,000 a night cheaper in the fall.

Where to go: Holbox, Mexico

Why it’s worth the trip: An off-the-beaten-track island made up of fishing villages and pristine beaches and rich in marine life, Holbox is part of the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, so it’s a car-free paradise for nature lovers.

How much you can save: Hotel stays in September and October are typically $150-$200 less per night.

Where to go: Saint Lucia

Why it’s worth the trip: Toronto-based travel consultant Jasmin Linton says the destination is rich in culture. “They have street parties and you can experience that easily,” she says. “Sometimes it’s hard to experience culture in an authentic way.”

How much you can save: For hotel stays in September and October, rates are usually $100 less per night.

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