Fall is a great time to plan a getaway if you’re an empty nester. With many destinations to explore both locally and abroad, eager to keep tourists coming during shoulder season, you’ll see less demand for accommodations and better rates all around!
Depending on your location, you can take advantage of the summer tourism decline as the kids have returned to school and most people have begun saving vacation days for the fast-approaching holiday season. If you’re planning on heading somewhere tropical, use the fact that hurricane season is winding up to your advantage — you’ll likely experience smaller crowds and lower rates if you can stomach a few days of rain in paradise. No matter what you decide, now is a great time to travel!
Here are 15 ideal fall vacation spots for empty nesters.
1. Sedona, Arizona
Sedona is at its cheapest during the summer months, but there are still bargains to be enjoyed if you arrive for a visit in late fall. Since Sedona is renowned for its stunning red rock and scenic vistas, you’ll likely be spending much of your time outdoors, so cooler temperatures are key. During fall, you’ll be enchanted with plenty of color too.
Here, you can experience Sedona’s thriving artist community, go hiking on a variety of trails suited for every ability and activity level, or even take a day or two chilling out in one of their renowned spa retreats. If you’re looking for even more adventure, the Grand Canyon is only a two hour drive from Sedona.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada
Experiencing Vegas without the kids in tow means you’ll have more time for travel on your terms. Even if you aren’t a big gambler, Vegas is renowned for its night life and jaw-dropping shows.
Since the desert won’t be the summer scorcher of the previous season, you’ll also be able to fit in plenty of time at the pool or visiting various properties along the Strip that are free or inexpensive to enjoy.
3. Chicago, Illinois
Locals will tell you, fall in Chicago can’t be beat. With beautiful foliage in the quaint north end neighborhoods and autumn fashion trends parading down Michigan Avenue, you’ll be able to enjoy cooler temperatures and equally cool sights.
Getting around the Windy City is easy and affordable, and there are plenty of landmarks to see for free, including Millennium Park, the Magnificent Mile, and Lincoln Park Zoo. The Cubs or White Sox may not make it close enough to the World Series to host a home game, but you can still grab a beer in Wrigleyville at Goose Island, a quick 35-minute ride up the Red Line from downtown, to get your baseball fix.
4. New Orleans, Louisiana
You can often find cheap airfare to New Orleans this time of year, and while it may not be as lively as Fat Tuesday during Mardi Gras, visiting the Crescent City in fall still provides plenty of flavor. The city is renowned for its Cajun food and French inspiration — you can cut costs on food by eating your most anticipated meals during lunch versus dinner.
Taking a food tour or walking the French Quarter on your own will give you plenty to do, and if you want to ramble, grab a street car for only $1.25 each way for a uniquely New Orleans experience.
5. Book A Caribbean (Or Other!) Cruise
Many ships switch routes between summer and winter to adjust to changing weather patterns and demand. These “repositioning cruises” are one-way trips that offer the normal accommodations and perks — but as I say, they typically only take you one way.
While the Caribbean is a popular destination for many empty nesters, you can take advantage of these repositioning cruises all over the globe — including trips through the Panama Canal and to various destinations in Europe. While a cruise doesn’t include transportation costs to get to port, like airfare or cab rides, it’s a great opportunity to see if you like cruising for a fraction of the price.
6. London, United Kingdom
London is a notoriously pricey city, but shoulder season is an excellent time to visit when crowds have thinned and the winter chill hasn’t quite set in. For this destination, plan to visit in late autumn to take advantage of smaller crowds and better deals.
With so many historical sites, free museums, and cheap or free walking tours, plus an affordable underground train system, you should have an excellent trip!
7. Disney Properties
If you’ve wanted to feel like a kid without having the kids in tow, fall is an excellent time to visit any of the Disney properties. You can take advantage of school being back in session without the disappointment of encountering regularly scheduled ride closures for winter maintenance.
If you find yourself in Orlando, Florida, you can enjoy the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival that happens from August through November or pop over to any of the other local theme parks Orlando is known for. If you plan to spend your time at Disney’s California properties, don’t miss these great Disneyland restaurants for dining without kids.
8. Traverse City, Michigan
Most famous as a summertime destination, there is still plenty to be seen and enjoyed in the upper peninsula of Michigan during autumn. Enjoy the changing fall leaves and sip some hot cider at one of the local wineries that are scattered around Traverse City.
With crisp weather, hiking and exploring at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore will be a true fall experience to remember. Then cozy up at a local tap room to sip on one of the area’s local microbrews.
9. New York, New York
For New York, on average, prices are 18 to 23 percent cheaper this time of year, versus visiting the Big Apple in spring and summer. While you can enjoy a day or two amidst the hustle and bustle of the city itself, you’ll also be a stone’s throw away from a state nature preserve and two national parks where you can experience the changing colors.
If you’d like to stay in the city, you can enjoy this cultural and culinary mecca by dining your way around the city and stopping in for a Broadway musical. With a bit of planning and strategy, you can score some affordable tickets to favorite attractions.
10. San Antonio, Texas
Summer can be especially sweltering in Texas due to the high humidity the southern cities experience. Fall in San Antonio means warm but comfortable temperatures and new flavors to enjoy. While most tourists remember the Alamo and have heard of the River Walk, visitors can experience some world class Mexican food, Tex-Mex and great local microbrews.
If you want to experience Texas wine country, Fredricksburg is only a one hour drive away, and is a quaint town built around German immigrant settlements with over two dozen wineries, plus a long strip of great shopping from local shops. Plus, it puts you in range of a day trip to Austin.
11. Vancouver, British Columbia
Fall in Canada is a great time to visit any of the provinces, but it’s an especially great time to explore Vancouver. The fall season brings cheaper rooms, smaller crowds, and pleasant but crisp fall weather.
Those seeking adventure can summit Grouse Mountain for fabulous views or get their steps in elsewhere at a leisurely pace in one of the city’s many lovely parks. Fall festivals are commonplace, so just about anyone might find just the crowd they’re looking for.
12. Dublin, Ireland
Before winter weather chills your chances to enjoy this beautiful island country, you can fly into Dublin and take advantage of lower airfare and great direct flight options. Dublin is rich in folklore, history, and a vibrant live music scene. Stop in for a pint, explore the Guinness Storehouse, and take a free walking tour of the city center.
You can head out to the Cliffs of Moher and Giant’s Causeway on the coast before winter weather ruins the views.
13. Reykjavik, Iceland
As temperatures drop, so do prices! Iceland is a scenic country with natural beauty, welcoming people, and unique traditions. And it’s only a six-hour flight from New York city.
Before embarking by car to visit the country’s stunning natural sights and enjoy the Northern Lights, you can take in the city center for a day or two. Notable spots include Hallgrímskirkja church, Harpa Concert Hall, and the many great dining options offering local fare you can’t get elsewhere!
14. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Puerto Vallarta is often an ideal destination for the aforementioned cruise ships, but you can also get there by plane. With a far more laid back vibe than Cancun and other well-known Mexican cities, resorts are designed to be welcoming and stocked with every amenity for relaxing experience. Puerto Vallarta may experience some hurricane or storm activity during the fall season, but often it’s an opportunity to get a great deal!
Whether you decide to enjoy some time at the pool without the kids along or want to venture out to enjoy what Puerto Vallarta has to offer off-resort, you’ll find plenty to stay up — or stay in — for to enjoy your time there.
15. Take A Bucket-List Road Trip
If you’ve been dying to see fall foliage along the coasts, now is the time to go. Popping along the lighthouses dotting the East Coast, or enjoying the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky is so much easier without kids in the car! You can take your time enjoying the scenery, shopping for antiques, or tucking into vineyards and distilleries to try something new.
There are plenty of great ideas to craft the road trip of your dreams, with fun stops along the way!
Want to chase the changing leaves this fall? Learn where to see the best fall foliage in the U.S. and the best times to go, state by state.