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Top five off-peak destinations for fall 2004

SmarterTravel

The saying “good things come to those who wait” holds true for fall travelers: Those who can hold off visiting summer hot spots such as Europe or beach resorts until after Labor Day will steer clear of summer’s high prices, high temperatures, and huge crowds. As tourist traffic to these popular destinations drops in September, many airlines, hotels, and other providers reduce prices to keep the visitors coming.

Our top five choices for off-peak fall travel this year include Ireland, Cape Cod, Aruba, Lake Tahoe, and Disney World.

Ireland

Travel to the Emerald Isle during the summer and you’ll find overcrowded attractions, scenic roads clogged with tour buses, and lots of “No Vacancy” signs hung outside inns and hotels. And for this experience, you’ll pay the highest prices of the year for flights to Dublin or Shannon. However, if you can plan an Ireland vacation for after Labor Day, you’ll save a bundle on travel and have more of the island to yourself.

The best month for fall travel to Ireland is September, when temperatures are a bit cooler than July or August, but the days are still long. Best of all, airfare prices drop significantly as demand for seats drop. As the fall progresses, precipitation increases and the daylight hours shorten, but it’s still possible to experience fine weather on many days. From our experience, airfare prices also drop steadily as the fall progresses.

The savings are clear when comparing summer and fall sale fares to Dublin side by side. We looked in our archives and found sample sale fares on Aer Lingus from various U.S. cities to Dublin for travel this summer and travel last fall. In one case, the fall fare was almost $400 cheaper than the summer fare.

Sample fares are:

Departure city Summer fare Fall fare
Boston $476 $418
New York (JFK) $656 $418
Chicago (ORD) $536 $448
Los Angeles $856 $488

Summer fares on Aer Lingus are based on departures August 16 through 30, 2004, and were researched by SmarterTravel.com staff for a deal published July 9, 2004. Fall fares on Aer Lingus are based on departures September 1 through October 15, 2003, and were researched by SmarterTravel.com staff for a deal published August 31, 2003.

To keep abreast of the latest deals for fall travel to Ireland, visit our air and vacation sections. To find special offers on accommodations and packages, visit the official website of the Ireland Tourist Office.Top

Cape Cod

Although best known as a summer beach destination, Cape Cod remains a sunny, relaxing getaway through much of the fall. Temperatures drop and more rain falls in October and November, but it’s pleasant enough to enjoy the outdoors and even go for a swim. The ocean, which retains heat longer than the air, is actually warmer in September and October than in May and June. Numerous festivals and events are also a draw in the fall, such as the Provincetown Fall Arts Festival, the Harwich Cranberry Festival, and the Bourne Scallop Festival.

Come mid-September, when school is back in session and summer beachcombers are back to work, rates for accommodations drop significantly. Those luxury resorts and beachfront vacation rentals that are prohibitively expensive and booked solid in the summer become a viable option for more modest budgets in the fall.

To demonstrate the possible savings, we compared summer and fall rates at several Cape Cod hotels:

Hotel Summer rates Fall rates
Trade Winds Inn (Hyannis) $189 to $219 (June 4 to September 5) $109 to $159 (September 6 to October 31)
Crowne Point Historic Inn & Spa (Provincetown) $199 to $469 (June 24 to September 7) $110 to $379 (September 8 to December 28)
The Dan’l Webster Inn (Sandwich) $179 to $379 (June 4 to October 16) $149 to $329 (October 17 to November 27)
Wequassett Inn (Chatham) $400 to $1,200 (June 18 to September 5) $150 to $800 (September 6 to November 30)

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

To find accommodations, visit the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce website, which allows you to search for lodgings by region and category. The site also lists specials for accommodations, attractions, dining, and more.Top

Aruba

If you yearn for a tropical island getaway this autumn, Aruba is the place to go. While most of the Caribbean can expect at least a few tropical storms in the fall, Aruba (along with Curacao and Bonaire) are situated blissfully far from the hurricane belt. And, even though the island doesn’t experience inclement fall weather, Aruba is still off-peak due to a lull in visitation.

The weather in September is warm and dry, with temperatures cooling and rainfall increasing slightly in October and November. Generally, however, you should have plenty of beach-worthy days. Plus, Aruba is drier than most other Caribbean destinations, meaning it has lower humidity and fewer bugs year-round.

Although fall fares to Aruba are not noticeably lower, you will find deeply discounted hotel rates. To attract fall visitors, hotels and resorts may cut peak rates by as much as 50 percent. To get an idea of the possible savings, we compared sample peak rates with off-peak rates at four resorts in Aruba:

Hotel Peak rates Off-peak rates
Aruba Millennium Resort $130 to $172 (December 17 to April 15) $60 to $95 (April 16 to December 16)
Bucuti Beach Resort $240 to $380 (December 22 to April 10) $140 to $265 (April 11 to December 22)
Playa Linda Beach Resort $278 to $578 (December 21 to April 17) $185 to $365 (June 27 to December 18)
Costa Linda Beach Resort $380 to $1,397 (December 17 to April 15) $247 to $715 (April 16 to December 16)

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

To find accommodations in Aruba, go to VisitAruba.com. Look for sale fares and vacation deals on the SmarterTravel.com Caribbean air page and Caribbean vacation page.Top

Lake Tahoe

Between the peak summer recreation season and peak winter ski season, life around Lake Tahoe quiets down a bit, and prices for accommodations drop as fewer visitors arrive. Although some attractions are closed in the fall, there is still plenty to do, including hiking, golf, and early-season skiing. Depending upon your location, expect highs in the 70s in September, the 50s in October, and the 40s in November. Although precipitation amounts increase in the fall, the vast majority of days in Lake Tahoe are sunny. Snowfall in lower elevations around the lake is uncommon, but the ski areas usually begin to get some flakes by the end of October.

Whether you’re looking for a peaceful lakeside stay or a few nights in one of the Nevada-side casino hotels, you’re bound to save on accommodations by arriving in the fall. To get a better idea of the seasonal price differences, here are sample summer rates compared to fall rates for accommodations in Lake Tahoe:

Hotel Summer rates Fall rates
River Ranch Lodge (Tahoe City) $105 to $165 (June 11 to September 18) $70 to $125 (September 19 to December 16)
Cal Neva Resort (Crystal Bay) $99 to $289 (May 21 to October 16) $89 to $239 (October 17 to December 20)
Tahoe Seasons Resort (South Lake Tahoe) $170 to $240 (June 1 to September 30) $122 to $200 (October 1 to November 30)
The Shore House (Tahoe Vista) $220 to $290 (May 28 to October 2) $190 to $255 (October 3 to December 23)

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the hotels’ websites and do not include taxes. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

To find Lake Tahoe lodgings, visit TahoeChamber.com, a portal site for the various town chambers and visitor centers around the lake. For more information about area ski resorts, visit SkiLakeTahoe.com. You can find air deals to the nearest major airport, Reno-Tahoe International, by checking our air page.Top

Disney World

Even Disney World, one of the nation’s most popular destinations, experiences a slump in visitation during the fall. Fewer family visitors, rather than poor weather, seem to be the cause of Disney’s autumn low season. The weather in Orlando during the fall is actually more pleasant than in the popular summer months, with less rain, lower humidity, and cooler temperatures. Expect temperatures in the 70s and 80s in September and October, and in the 50s, 60s, and 70s during November and December.

With less demand for rooms, all Disney World resorts charge “Value-Season” rates, their lowest prices of the year, during September, November, and the first half of December. Stays in October are subject to the slightly higher “Regular-Season” rates, which are still cheaper than Disney’s “Peak-Season” and “Holiday-Season” rates. Notably, the resorts use “Value” rates for Thanksgiving stays rather than “Holiday” rates. Because of this, Disney World can be a great vacation option for families with time off over Thanksgiving week.

Sample “Value-Season” rates compared to other rate types for Disney World resorts are:

Hotel Other rates “Value” rates
All-Star Music Resort $99 to $126 $77 to $87 (August 29 to September 29; October 31 to December 19)
Caribbean Beach Resort $144 to $209 $133 to $148 (August 29 to September 29; October 31 to December 19)
Wilderness Lodge $239 to $1,190 $199 to $815 (July 5 to September 29; October 31 to December 19)
Polynesian Resort $344 to $2,490 $299 to $1,805 (July 5 to September 29; October 31 to December 19)

These prices are based on the per-day double occupancy rates posted on the Disney World website and do not include taxes. Rates vary by date and may be higher for stays over holidays.

For more information about Disney World resorts and “Value-Season” pricing, visit the Disney World website, and click on “Resorts.” Check the SmarterTravel.com Family page for details on current Disney World promotions.Top

This feature is the third installment of our 2004 off-peak travel series. Past features include the top five off-peak destinations for summer and the top five off-peak destinations for spring. The final feature on off-peak winter travel will be published this November. For general low-season travel planning strategies, read our feature Low season, low cost: Five tips for off-peak travel.

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