Fall is arguably the greatest season for bargain travel. After the fever pitch of summer, autumn brings a respite of better prices, good weather, and smaller crowds. And though high oil prices mean this won’t be the cheapest fall ever for travel, sales are still happening and routes are still expanding, which marks a break from the expensive, hot, and crowded days of summer.
I’ve been monitoring travel trends, industry news, and sale patterns to bring you the destinations that offer the best bargain value for the coming season. While there are examples below of deals presently available for fall trips, they are shown to illustrate the trend of cheap travel to these destinations. The examples, like all deals, are sure to expire; but I’ve given you suggestions on where to look, so a little research on your part can yield similar results when you’re ready to book.
NEXT >> Hawaii
It may be true that Hawaii is trying to appeal to a more free-spending demographic these days, but good value and compelling reasons to visit make the islands a top bargain destination this fall.
Many airlines are running fall sales to Hawaii. [% 1261749 | | Aloha %] has just extended a fall sale with one-way fares such as $149 from Oakland for flights booked by August 14. Online, American has sale fares from New York starting at $503, with prices as low as $343 from other cities. ATA has increased its daily capacity between Hilo and Oakland, and has fall fares from $159 each way, or $179 between Hilo and Phoenix. [%1290050 | | Delta %] has a very early fall sale on flights to Honolulu, with fares such as $498 round-trip from New York for flights booked by August 21. [%1293147 | | United %] just announced a sale with fares such as $328 round-trip from Los Angeles for travel through September 30. And, the new low-cost, interisland carrier Go! is making it easier than ever to include multiple islands in a Hawaiian vacation. Go! is currently running a promotion with $39 one-way flights.
A number of different hotels are running promotions valid at properties across the islands. Hawaii’s [%1297002 | | Castle Resorts and Hotels %] chain has a sale with rates from $69 per night. There are also [%12860 | | sale rates %] at 11 different Starwood properties with prices from $129. At the family-oriented [%11185 | | ResortQuest Hawaii %], rates start at $80 and include free stays for kids and other perks that can make family travel more affordable.
Vacation packages are another popular value option. Sarah Pascarella, the SmarterTravel.com vacations editor, tests the value of package prices by comparing them to a-la-carte rates. Recently, she’s tested packages from providers such as Pleasant Holidays, Liberty Travel, and [% 92594 | | United Vacations %]. Though the Pleasant Holidays packages expire before press time (but will probably be extended or replaced by similar packages), they and the other deals do offer savings.
One of the packages that shouldn’t expire before press time is a five-night stay in [%1278096 | | Kauai %] that includes round-trip airfare, car rental, and a dining credit, which comes out to $839 from Los Angeles, compared to an individually booked rate of $1,091. Packages to Kauai tend to be slightly more expensive than to the other islands, but then again, it was just voted the best Hawaiian island by Travel + Leisure readers, so it’s a favorite that many think is worth the splurge.
NEXT >> Washington, D.C.
More service, competitive rates, and proximity to limited-time fall activities put Washington, D.C., on the bargain chart this fall. It’s a major U.S. city, so there are already many airlines flying to its airports, but now there’s even more new and expanded service in time for fall. Plus, since it’s such a weekday business city, weekend rates at hotels tend to be reasonably priced, which can be a serious leisure travel perk. D.C. is also within driving distance of some of the Mid-Atlantic’s best displays of fall foliage.
The big bargain news this fall in D.C. is that Southwest will begin flying to Dulles beginning on October 5. The airline will operate 12 daily nonstops, with prices as low as $79 one-way. Starting in mid-September, Delta partner Atlantic Southeast Airlines will be adding a Saturday Savannah/Washington, D.C., flight, with $89 one-way introductory fares on tickets purchased by August 15 for travel through November 7.
This additional air service makes it easier to get to the city, and also makes the surrounding area an accessible and affordable fall foliage destination. The fall colors in Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are vibrant and within driving distance of the capital.
For the latest advice and current reviews of sales, visit the SmarterTravel.com Washington, D.C. Travel Guide.
NEXT >> Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
As beach destinations farther north start to feel the chill of the season, Puerto Vallarta will be warming up as a top fall bargain destination. With increased and discounted air service and well-priced vacation packages, it’s an affordable location with plenty of beach, natural, and cultural appeal. And, because it’s on the Pacific and not the Gulf of Mexico, experts are predicting a lower chance of extreme weather interruptions during this fall hurricane season.
Puerto Vallarta is one of the cities that’s benefiting from an expanded air service agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. Delta has started service from New York JFK to Puerto Vallarta, and is in the process of getting approval for a Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta route as well. And, Alaska Airlines will begin seasonal service from Portland starting on October 29. American has a sale on fall and early winter flights booked by August 16, with fares such as $384 round-trip from Dallas.
It’s not always the case with air-and-hotel packages these days, but fall packages to Puerto Vallarta are well priced and can offer some real savings in comparison to a-la-carte rates for airfare and hotel. [%1281430 | | Pleasant Holidays %], for instance, has a four-night package with round-trip airfare for $375 from Los Angeles or $619 from New York. At press time, BeachDestinations.com also had a Puerto Vallarta package for fall from $435 from Miami with four nights’ accommodations and all the extras at an all-inclusive resort.
NEXT >> Japan
Japan has never made this list before, and though it will never be a truly cheap destination, some relative bargains this fall make it a surprising and exciting entry. This is good news for travelers who’ve been itching to visit but waiting for a less-expensive opportunity.
Even in the absence of sales, airfare to Japan becomes more affordable as fall progresses. For flights from the West Coast, FareCompare.com shows a difference of $330 between July and October airfares, and even between September and October, the average round-trip price drops from $860 to $760. Along the spectrum of airfare prices from the U.S. to Asia, Japan’s are among the most affordable right now. And, United Airlines has just announced that it’s adding 40 more flights per week to Asia over the next nine months, including new service between Washington (Dulles) and Tokyo (Narita) that starts on October 28. There’s been nothing posted yet, but the airline may offer some kind of introductory fares this fall to promote the new route.
More expansive itineraries are another way to get maximum value out of a fall trip to Japan. Cathay Pacific’s [%14354 | | All Asia pass %] includes airfare between New York (JFK), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, or Toronto and Hong Kong, plus 21 consecutive days of air travel between Hong Kong Fukuoka, Nagoya, Osaka, Sapporo, and Tokyo, Japan; and other Asia Pacific destinations. The pass is regularly $1,499, but there’s a $200 discount for registering to receive the airline’s online newsletter. Going this route can be an especially good idea for people who want to visit different regions within the country, or who are incorporating a trip to Japan into a broader Asia exploration, since paying for multiple flights separately can inflate a budget in no time.
Some international chain hotels are running promotions that apply to properties in Japan. Mandarin Oriental has Seasonal Choices rates that include additional perks like breakfast and late checkout. And Marriott has Stay for Breakfast rates. Hyatt has online-only rates that can offer marked discounts. There are also a number of more traditionally Japanese styles of accommodations such as inns and guesthouses that can be less expensive than chain hotels.
NEXT >> Paris
A few years back, Paris used to make it onto the bargain list regularly. As a hugely popular destination, it offered a wide selection of well-priced vacation packages and competitive air service. But since early 2004, influenced by a strong Euro and rising oil prices, Paris has been an expensive city to visit. However, for the first time in a while, it’s a more affordable destination, at least for this fall.
Sale prices for round-trip fall flights to Paris and other major European cities are around $500 or less from the East Coast. Recently, fall Europe sales and promotions from 1-800-Fly-Europe, United, and Delta have popped up, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for more promotions from these providers and their competitors, who might be matching sales.
Sarah Pascarella has compiled and analyzed several [%1290554 | | fall air-and-hotel packages %] to Paris, and found rates as low as $499 for four nights’ accommodations and airfare from the East Coast.
Fall is one of the best times of the year to find bargains to destinations all over. No matter where you plan to go, remember to keep your eye out for sales, and test sale prices to make sure they’re the lowest.