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Take a Fall Foliage Road Trip on the Cheap

Jacob's Ladder Scenic Byway, Massachusetts
SmarterTravel

A road trip may offer extra appeal this year, as many leisure travelers are cutting back and focusing on budget-oriented excursions. Affordable by nature (no pun intended), a fall foliage road trip offers spectacular scenery, visits to small towns and rural hamlets, and the lazy scheduling to explore at your own pace. And with the leaves putting on their own (free) show, why not hit the road?

Here are some tried-and-true tips for putting together your own fall foliage getaway.

Look for B&B Deals

Many B&Bs around the country sponsor special discounts and packages for leaf peepers. Bed&Breakfast.com currently has a listing of available special offers, as does BBOnline and ILoveInns.com. At press time, sample offers included a fourth-night free at the Maine Stay Inn & Cottages in Kennebunkport; value-added extras such as dining and shopping gift cards at the 1805 Phinney House in Cooperstown, New York; and $50 off your room rate at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina in Niantic, Connecticut. If your preferred B&B is in a fall foliage region, call the innkeeper directly and ask if there are any autumn special promotions.{{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}Budget More for Your Rental Car

This year, if you’re renting a car for your road trip, you may want to budget a little more than you had in years past. According to Clem Bason, President of Hotwire, rental car companies were hit hard by the recession and have leaner fleets than usual. As such, you may see higher per-day prices across all car classes, or limited availability. To ensure you get the right rental car at the right price for your trip, start your rental car research early—in fact, this year, it should be one of the first things you book for your trip. And once you see a price you like, go ahead and make your reservation, as prices may continue to trend upward.

Estimate Your Fuel Costs

It’s of less concern than in previous years, but sticker shock at the fuel pump can be an unpleasant surprise on any road trip. Keep the red on the leaves and out of your wallet by comparing costs in advance with AAA’s fuel cost calculator. You can find prices specific to your destination, as well as the year and model of your vehicle, to get an accurate estimate of what you should expect to spend. At press time, average fuel prices in abundant foliage destinations were $2.69 for New England, $2.64 for Mid-Atlantic states, and $2.49 in the Midwest.

Consider an Under-the-Radar Destination

Many travelers zero in on destinations known for fall foliage—New England, national parks, and the like. By thinking creatively, however, you can still see beautiful scenery and save with a lesser-known region that has great autumn colors. Last fall, Associate Editor Kate Hamman highlighted six unlikely foliage destinations in Arkansas, Colorado, and Illinois, among others. You can also contact the state or region’s convention and visitors’ bureau for the area you’re thinking of visiting and ask for the best recommendations on fall foliage, scenic drives, colorful hikes, and more.

Take in the Views From the Water

If you don’t want to hit the road this year, there are plenty of ways to take in the views from the water. Options include both day trips and longer excursions, depending on your budget and travel preferences. About.com has a good roundup of available cruises throughout New England; you can also find options throughout Nova Scotia and New York’s Hudson River Valley.

Your Turn

Are you planning a fall foliage trip in the near future? Do you have a foolproof money-saving strategy for travel during this popular time of year? Share your autumn travel expertise by submitting a comment below!

(Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Hotwire.)

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