School’s in session, and magically, travel costs have dropped! Resorts and theme parks across the U.S. are offering discount packages to entice autumn travelers, but what if you only have weekends free? Try any of the following give fall weekend getaways that won’t break the bank. Bonus: not a crowd in sight!
1. Visit a local farm
We can’t say enough good things about farm stay vacations. Most states have farm stays within a half day’s drive from urban areas, making it easy to get away from it all and still leave Friday night after school and work. The best farm stays offer the chance to get your hands dirty (we love feeding time at dusk and herding sheep…harder than it looks!), but plenty are hands-off if you’d rather hike, bike, or sit on a porch swing, taking in the views. Farm stays are affordable, include breakfast (and sometimes additional meals), and include built-in entertainment of the outdoorsy sort. Be aware that many farm stays book rooms ‘B&B style’, which means there may be a fee for more than two people in a room. If you’re unsure whether a farm is kid-friendly, call and ask: almost all farm stays are small businesses, ensuring you can easily connect with the folks right on the property with one phone call. Can’t get away overnight? Make it a day trip, patronizing a U-Pick orchard or berry patch.
2. Stay the night in a yurt or fire tower
Fire lookouts (functional and retired) are enjoying a period of rebirth as exotic sleeping quarters, and they’re not just for the summer months. In fact, fire towers, coastal yurts, and other unique camping accommodations often remained booked solid from June-August, making the autumn months ideal for families with more flexibility. In fact, our favorite fire tower trip took place in February! Bring plenty of warm clothing, but rest assured that unlike tent camping, you’ll have a roof over your head and usually electricity and heat. Fire towers cost less than $75 per night, making them the cheapest ‘motel’ you’ll find with views like these! Bring card games, books, and plenty of hot chocolate. Find additional northwest yurts, towers, and cabins.
3. Ride the rails
Amtrak vacations are expensive…but not in the fall! We priced a ride on the Cascades line through Oregon and Washington, and found fares to be 65% lower in September than in June. And there’s no need to book the pricier sleeper cabins: plan an itinerary that takes you 4-6 hours from home, book one night in your destination, and return home the next day. The kids won’t mind the travel time: while on Amtrak, it’s fun to check out the views from the panoramic cars, eat in the dining or cafe car, and play games in the parlor car. Parents can relax instead of drive, or plan out the day’s itinerary at the destination.
4. Take a city field trip
Remember those hotel discounts I mentioned? You’ll want to take advantage of those! Autumn is our favorite time of year to tour major cities: their museums are less crowded (and school field trips haven’t amped up yet), restaurants have less wait time, and hotel pools are frequented only be the occassional business traveler…and you. Grab CityPass booklets when you go, as we did in San Francisco: you’ll likely have time to actually see all the attractions on a quiet fall weekend!
5. Sleep in a national park lodge
Remember how those fire tower stays get booked fast for summer? That goes double for national park historic lodges. Take advantage of America’s national parks’ off-season and stay in comfort. We especially love Oregon’s Crater Lake Lodge, and Montana’s Many Glacier Lodge. Fall is a great time to spot wildlife, hike trails without summer heat, and canoe across lakes. Just be aware that some seasonal activities, such as horseback stables or swimming beaches, may be closed until spring. Tip: now’s the right time to book your national park lodge stay for next summer, too!
Still not seeing what you’re looking for? Check out more fall getaways!
Where do you plan to go this autumn? Tell us about your trip in the comments!