If you waited until this fall to travel, give yourself a pat on the back. Gone are the summer crowds, the outrageous prices and that insane experience of being on vacation with everyone else. There may be no better time to get away.
This fall will be no exception.
But there are a few red flags (there are always red flags). A surprise State Department warning about travel to Mexico is giving some travelers second thoughts about their plans to vacation south of the border. Other dangers lurk in Europe, which has experienced terrorist activity during the summer.
Not surprisingly, the most popular destinations are domestic. You’ll want to take note of them, because while they’ll probably be a little less crazed than they were this summer, you shouldn’t expect to have them all to yourself. But there’s good news, too — travel prices are falling like the leaves.
How dangerous is it out there? Maybe a little more than in past falls, experts say. In late summer, the State Department warned U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico tourism hotspots such as Cancún, Cozumel and Playa del Carmen of an increase in homicide rates compared to last year. “Shooting incidents, in which innocent bystanders have been injured or killed have occurred,” it cautioned.
“Western Europe will likely continue to see terrorist activity through the fall into the holiday season,” says Joseph Mroszczyk, who manages intelligence products and services for Global Rescue, a company that provides security service. “In East Asia, recent provocations from North Korea could elevate the threat level in popular tourist destinations including Japan, South Korea and Guam if tensions increase further.”
So where are fall travelers headed? They’re playing it a little safer. Six of the top 10 fall destinations are domestic (see below). Orlando, Rome, Anaheim, Calif., and Honolulu top the list compiled by AAA. More than 1 in 4 Americans said they would vacation between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, citing fewer crowds, reasonably good weather and lower prices.
“Traveling during the fall season is a best-kept secret,” says Bill Sutherland, a senior vice president for AAA.
Speaking of lower prices, there’s more good news for fall travelers: Average domestic airfares will fall 2.1% this month, to $217, according to projections by Hopper, an airfare prediction app. “We’re forecasting that prices will continue to fall from their peak of $258 in June and bottom out in October at $216,” says Patrick Surry, Hopper’s chief data scientist.
Bottom line: This could be one of the best falls to travel — ever.
Dan Collins, who works for a hospital in Baltimore, is headed to Hawaii with his wife this fall. It’s their first trip to the islands. “We have no idea what to expect,” he says of their trip to Kauai. (Hint: Expect great beauty, a little rain, with a chance of a few other tourists.)
Traci Fox says she isn’t bothered by the security warnings either. Fox, a college professor from Philadelphia, doesn’t know where she’s traveling yet, but notes that it’s really difficult to play it completely safe. “I read about the travel warning to Cabo and other Mexican resorts,” she says. “Well guess what, there’s a travel warning for all of Europe, too. And Europe has a travel warning for the U.S. So live your life and travel.”
So there you have it. Lower prices, nice weather and fewer crowds, which could make this fall one for the record books. Then again, we live in a crazy world where anything can happen and nothing can be predicted — especially travel.
TOP FALL DESTINATIONS
3. Anaheim, Calif.
5. New York City
6. Las Vegas
How to travel better this fall
• Do a safety check. If you’re traveling internationally, check the State Department site for information about your intended destination. Conditions can change quickly, and news media may not immediately report on it. “It adds an extra layer of security protection,” says Carrie Pasquarello, executive director for Global Secure Resources, a security company.
• Track the foliage. For fall foliage trips, check out the online fall foliage maps before you go. Yankee Magazine’s live fall foliage map or travel booking site Smoky Mountains’ interactive map are terrific resources.
• Consider travel insurance. If you’re traveling to Europe or Mexico, consider a brand-name travel insurance policy that will cover you for a trip disruption or a medical emergency. If you’re a little nervous, consider a more expensive “cancel for any reason” policy that will let you call off the trip for any reason and get a partial refund. You can find a list of travel insurance companies on the US Travel Insurance Association website.