22 Hidden Travel Gems That Are Way Cheaper in the Offseason
Get ready to pack your bags: With a flexible schedule, you enjoy an amazing getaway for a fraction of the price of high season.
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Summer seems to get all of the vacation glory, and also all the big crowds and high prices. However, if you wiggle your vacation a month or two earlier or later into what travel pros call the “shoulder season,” you’ll discover a new world of delightful destinations with reasonable prices and reduced crowds waiting to be discovered. To get even better deals, look at the calendar view for vacation accommodations, which will show you the cheapest prices by night. Being flexible, even by a night or two, can offer significant savings. Find out more secrets to traveling cheap, according to travel agents.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
The sunny shores of San Diego are warm and inviting almost all year, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s and great deals on travel. We especially love Coronado Island for its fabulous beach access and small-town feel, complete with an ice cream parlor, retro diner, indie bookstore, and authentic Mexican restaurant all within easy walking distance of the golden beaches of the Pacific Ocean.
The historic Hotel Del Coronado is the best-known resort on the island, and once the summer rush is over, you can find deals that include parking, resort fees, and resort credits, so you can try out some of their always delicious beachside dining spots. Condado Beach is also one of our favorite warm winter getaways that won’t break the bank.
Charleston, South Carolina
Defined by its rich history, cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and Antebellum architecture, the Holy City draws crowds in the summer to beach spots like Hilton Head. But the Southern belle is even more charming in the autumn and winter months, when temperatures are an easy 60 to 70 degrees. The weather is perfect for bicycle rides and picnics along the scenic waterfront, self-guided walking tours throughout the historic city, or sunset sails aboard the Schooner Pride.
Charleston is also a foodie magnet, and with the money you’ll save on an off-season hotel, you can sup on award-winning cuisine at spots like FIG and Slightly North of Broad. In the heart of the Historic District, the boutique Spectator Hotel offers spacious accommodations paired with upscale design and extensive daily amenities including artisanal breakfast delivered to your room, complimentary vintage bikes to explore the city, and nightly turndown service, plus prices are discounted 20 percent headed into the fall off-season. Food-lovers, this is a great road trip destination for you!
Grant Teton and Yellowstone, Wyoming
According to Vrbo, average nightly rates for vacation rentals can drop 20 percent or more during “shoulder season,” the period directly following peak summer season. And one of Vrbo’s top destinations for shoulder season savings are Grand Teton and Yellowstone, and it’s easy to see why. The great open skies, soaring mountains, dense greenery, and wildlife are exactly what outdoorsy travelers are looking for. According to a recent Vrbo study, travel demand for lake, river, and mountain homes have increased due to COVID-19, and 95 percent of recent demand has been in non-urban destinations.
One top vacation home pick from Vrbo is the Moose Creek Cabin at Jackson Hole, a 3-bedroom, 3-bathroom, lodge-style home with a wood-burning fireplace and a wall of windows to view the changing skyline (and perhaps even spot moose or elk). It’s a great cabin to check out if you’re looking for something besides an Airbnb.
Asheville, North Carolina
Hugely popular in the summer and fall, charming Asheville is often overlooked during winter, but the moderate weather means you can enjoy all of the highlights of the Blue Ridge Mountain city without the crowds. Asheville’s Art Deco downtown remains walkable in the off season with picture-perfect boutiques, romantic restaurants, and easy access to walking trails. Or take in stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains on a winter hike. Multiple trailhead access points remain open all year long on the Blue Ridge Parkway and across Pisgah National Forest.
And, of course, visit the grand Biltmore Estate, one of the biggest homes in America. Its extensive grounds, including the most visited winery tasting room in the country, are perfect any time of year. Winter offers the best rates of the year including at The Foundry, the luxury boutique hotel built within the city’s old steel foundry that forged the steel for the Biltmore Estate. While you’re here, you can embark on a one-on-one neighborhood tour with an on-site historian before heading to the hotel’s regionally-inspired restaurant Benne on Eagle, led by five-time James Beard nominee John Fleer.
Newport, Rhode Island
Widely known as a summer hotspot for New England natives and East Coasters alike, the allure of historic Newport, Rhode Island does not expire after Labor Day weekend. Autumn is actually dubbed the “local’s summer” thanks to the drop off in tourists but still seasonally warm temps, so you can sun on the beaches or hike along the famed Cliff Walk to view the coastline and the area’s magnificent Gilded Era mansions.
Bonus: Newport also has some of New England’s most colorful fall foliage and seasonal festivities such as harvest fairs, pick-your-own orchards, and corn mazes. For a locally-inspired stay, check into the new Wayfinder Hotel, which focuses on Rhode Island-made everything, from in-room artwork by female Rhode Island artists to luxury, hand-crafted bathroom soaps by Newport’s Shore Soap Co., to locally made linens and great ocean-to-table and farm-to-fork cuisine. Plus, in the fall, prices start at just $129 a night. Newport is just one of the East Coast vacation spots you need to visit at least once in your lifetime.
Key West, Florida
With its lush palm trees, sparkling water, and laid back tropical vibe, Mile Zero often feels more like a Caribbean island than part of the mainland U.S.—one of the reasons it’s such a popular winter destination. But the shoulder seasons of spring and fall offer plenty of warm Key West sunshine and enough Margaritaville vibes that you’ll feel like you’ve landed in a Jimmy Buffet song (making it a key stop for a quirky tour of the U.S.).
In addition to classic Key West sites such as the Butterfly Conservatory, Hemingway House Tour, and Shipwreck Museum, Key West is also the launch point to visit the Dry Tortugas National Park, only accessible by plane or boat, with an unbelievably unique coastal environment and some of the country’s best snorkeling along America’s only living barrier reef. Stay at the historic Casa Marina Key West, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, for an indulgent escape nestled among palm trees at the Key’s largest private beach. Try your hand at sand sculpting workshops, kayak eco-tours, and fishing charters. Rates start at just $205, more than half off peak winter prices.
For a crowd-less getaway in the Southwest, the stunning landscape of Sedona beckons with glowing mountains and vast deserts. Although summer brings crowds on the way to the Grand Canyon, that’s also when temps soar. The rest of the year, you’ll be able to hike, dine, and explore outdoors without fear of heatstroke. And be sure to leave time to take in the landmark Bell Rock, perfect for exploring nearby rock temples and vortexes. Take advantage of the off season to stay in the secluded L’Auberge de Sedona, where fall packages include a $50 daily resort credit. The resort is the perfect jumping off point to explore Sedona’s spectacular natural settings and to try special outdoor-centric experiences like sound healing, stargazing, and fresh air yoga.
No need to visit the Bluff City only in the popular summer months—the cheapest time to go is November through February, when the best deals for blues and barbecue come with pleasant temps in the 60s. Memphis is home to iconic attractions like Graceland (the home of Elvis Presley), the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, Sun Studios, and the historic Beale Street Entertainment District.
Memphis is also one of the best American cities for live music, and many of the bars and nightclubs in the entertainment district offer complimentary access or reduced cover charges during the off season. Just a few blocks from away from Beale Street’s action is the legendary Peabody Hotel, known for its charm, elegance, and gracious Southern hospitality, not to mention the world-famous resident Mallard ducks that march through the Grand Lobby every day. This luxurious Memphis hotel offers the Peabody Bed & Breakfast deal for $209 that includes breakfast for two, parking, and Wi-Fi.
Bermuda is one of the Caribbean islands least affected by the pandemic. Gorgeous weather, one of the most gorgeous pink sand beaches in the world, outdoor adventure, and a welcoming island vibe—there are plenty of reasons to come to the beautiful island of Bermuda in the fall shoulder season, not least of which is easy to enjoy temps in the 70s and way lower pricing for accommodations than in the holiday season.
And the beautiful beaches here aren’t just for summer. In the fall and winter, you can relax and unwind on the shore or explore Bermuda’s pink sand on horseback. Bermuda’s famed Hamilton Princess & Beach Club is welcoming guests back with a reopening package, ‘Bermuda Bliss,’ where travelers receive up to 40 percent off the best available rate and a $100 resort credit. Starting at $229 per night for a Fairmont King Room, guests can enjoy the hotel’s elegant rooms and relax at the iconic Pink Palace overlooking Hamilton Harbour.
Although Portland draws the crowds, Central Oregon is where to find the state’s hidden gem town of Bend, a cultural center on the doorstep of the gorgeous Cascade Lakes. And since Bend’s home of Central Oregon is east of the Cascade Range, it has a High Desert climate that is far drier than rainy Portland. Fall is a fantastic time of year to visit, with relatively mild and dry weather through October and November and plenty of affordable fall specials at local hotels. Brasada Ranch, a rustic retreat located just outside of Bend, is home to some of the area’s best horseback riding, offering over 900 acres of trail riding, plus an 18-hole Brasada Canyons golf course designed by PGA TOUR professional Peter Jacobsen. Rates for the off season are roughly 30 percent less for weekdays and 20 percent less for weekend stays than summer high season. Bend also makes our list of the 25 most stunning mountain towns.
Discover the natural beauty and rugged coastline of one of Maine’s most picturesque beaches in the hidden gem beach town of Ogunquit. The charming streets are best enjoyed after the crowds of August have left; in September, the average temperature is 55 to 68, making it the perfect time for long walks on the beach, rounds of golf, seasonal spa treatments, lobster rolls, and hot toddies by the fire pit. October is leaf-peeping season and the southern coast of Maine is usually at peak during mid to late October. Stroll along the scenic Marginal Way and gaze at the millennia-old Bald Head Cliff on your way to check-in at the 150-year-old Cliff House in Ogunquit. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, you’ll pay top dollar for an overnight at the hotel in July or August, but come September and October, nightly rates are cut by up to 50 percent, and by early November you can snag a room for just $225.
Woodstock, New York
It’s been more than 50 years since the Summer of Love, and although the festival spotlight is no longer on this quiet corner of New York State’s Catskills region, it’s still the perfect area to visit in the fall, after the summer vacationers head home and before the area ski resorts pick up. Base yourself at the stylish Emerson Resort and Spa in nearby Mt. Tremper. Located only two hours north of New York City, the sybaritic resort features a variety of free hiking and walking trails on-site along the Esopus Creek, as well as Catskills-themed outdoor activities nearby for nature enthusiasts. Emerson has a special off-season Stay & Play package: stay three nights and get a Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night free. New York is also where you’ll find the cleanest hotels in the country.
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Tucked into the Rockies just past better-known Vail, Beaver Creek is a charming community with myriad outdoor activities. Winter is prime season here, with a variety of snow-covered slopes drawing ski and snow boarding enthusiasts, but the pre-ski season in fall is technically the off season for Beaver Creek, and yet no less beautiful. With Aspens transforming into golden bowers, crisp fall temperatures, biking and hiking trails almost all to yourself, and great deals to be had at restaurants, shops, and hotels, it might become your favorite mountain season. Even during prime leaf-peeping weeks in September, rates at this chic Park Hyatt Beaver Creek, right at the epicenter of Beaver Creek village, start at $254, and in October they drop well under $200. By comparison, prices soar to $900 a night at the height of the holiday ski season.
St Michaels, Maryland
Maryland’s bayside Eastern Shore nautical gem is vastly popular in the summer, when boats are the preferred method of transportation to enjoy the natural beauty along the coast. Prices soar in July and August, but come fall, you can enjoy all the picturesque beauty for a fraction of the cost. Nestled along the Chesapeake Bay is the nautically-inspired Inn at Perry Cabin (the party setting in Wedding Crashers), the ultimate place to relax along the shore. Since prices in the late fall drop to 50 percent of what they are in peak summer season, you can afford to play a round at the Links at Perry Cabin, pick up a racket to hit on the clay courts, hit the waves on one of the Inn’s sailboats or 55′ yacht, decompress at the spa, or dine on a regional specialty (like Maryland crabs and freshly caught rockfish).
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Located an hour north of Nashville, Bowling Green is a quieter, more outdoorsy alternative to the Music City. With turning leaves and cooler weather, the city is a fall destination steeped in Southern charm for an affordable price. While you’re here, you can experience a bit of entertainment for just a little cash. For just $12, explore the National Corvette Museum, the only place in the world where Corvettes are produced, with exciting exhibits and even the chance to race real corvettes on the neighboring Motorsports Park. Leave time to explore the longest underground cave system in the world at nearby Mammoth Cave National Park (entrance is free), with acres of fall foliage and numerous cave trails. Book a stay at the boutique Kentucky Grand Hotel & Spa, with eight luxury suites overlooking downtown Bowling Green and rates starting at just $165 per night in the fall.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
The Jersey Shore might not be on your radar for a fall list of must-visits, but that’s about to change. The warm autumn months are the perfect time to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean (although note that lifeguards will no longer be on duty, so swim with care). After the summer crowds depart, you’ll have the 4-mile boardwalk and 6-mile beach of the newly rejuvenated Atlantic City pretty much all to yourself. Easily accessible from the New York and Philadelphia metro areas, the city is within driving distance of one-third of the country’s population. Check into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City; the super cool new hotel features amazing headline entertainment, free live music every day in the lounge, an incredible array of dining options, and rooms for just $69 a night through most of the fall (down from a high of $469 on Labor Day weekend).
Shasta County, California
Yosemite and the Redwoods get most of the outdoor attention (and crowds) in Northern California, but there are other natural wonders to explore, including in Shasta County. You will want to stop and soak in the view at Burney Falls, a massive 129-foot, fern-draped waterfall within McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. This spectacular waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the state and flows year-round to offer endless views and photo options no matter what time of year you visit. Nicknamed the “eighth wonder of the world” by President Theodore Roosevelt and declared a National Natural Landmark in 1954, the falls are a hidden outdoor gem. And you can stay for bargain prices at the nearby Gaia Hotel & Spa in Redding for $105 a night (save even more at camping sites near the park, too).
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Miami gets all the attention for super stylish hotels and hopping nightlife, but just an hour up the coast is Southern Florida’s hidden gem, Fort Lauderdale. Before the holiday season kicks up, fall is a great time to find savings at the city’s swanky hotels, including The Dalmar. The design-driven hotel offers rates as low as $152 a night to experience its 1950s and 1960s golden age of travel vibe; don’t miss Sparrow at the Dalmar, the 25th-floor rooftop bar (the only one in the city), and the lobby lounge where live music kicks it up on the weekends. If you can make it to Fort Lauderdale during Restaurant Month in September, you’ll experience some of the city’s best restaurants with $35 three-course gourmet dinners.
Taos, New Mexico
Despite its 1,000-year-old history, Taos has a modern art scene that draws a savvy creative crowd to this hidden New Mexico gem. Over the past few years, Taos has become a place where you can view and appreciate centuries-old pieces, while also experiencing the future of art in the same day. Not bad for a small town with a population of 5,000. Come in September to experience The PASEO; the interactive arts festival brings projection, installation, and performance art to Taos and is completely free. Stay at the El Monte Sagrado for 20 percent off during the fall and experience the eco resort’s lovely gardens, waterfalls, aquariums, and onsite art galleries by locally renowned artists, all just a third of a mile from Taos Plaza.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Island retreats see prices rise through the fall until they hit peak levels by the holidays. But you can enjoy the same warm waters, golden sands, and unique history of culture of Old San Juan in the nearly empty fall months. Amble along the cobblestone streets, watch the sunset from the centuries-old walls of the city, and explore the fort of El Morro (part of the U.S. National Parks system). Then check into the beachfront San Juan Marriott Resort where you can enjoy a piña colada on the beach and dip your toes in the turquoise water for around $225 a night, less than half of what it would cost during prime season. And since Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the United States, you don’t need to pay to exchange money, bring a passport, or run up expensive cell phone bills. Speaking of the Caribbean, check out these resorts that are actually affordable.
Loterie Farm/Courtesy Margaret Pattillo
Okay, we’ll admit it, St. Martin isn’t exactly off-the-radar in the high season from December to April, when tourists flock to its 37 white sand beaches looking for a reprieve from the wintery cold. However, in the off season of May through November, the beaches are still as soft and white, the water just as turquoise, and the excellent culinary options just as delicious. The only difference? Prices drop as much as nearly 50 percent for lodging during this time. One example: The Heavea Hotel, located just 66 feet from the beach, drops from $169 to $95 per night in the off season. Plus, there are a range of exciting festivals and events during these months, including a Bastille Day celebration on July 14 in this petite corner of the French Caribbean. Stay for the week and you’ll be able to keep the party going with the Grand Case Celebration on July 21.
Courtesy Melissa Klurman
Haven’t heard of Placencia? That probably won’t be the case for long. This peninsula along the Caribbean sea is a haven of white sand beaches, low key restaurants, beach bars, and surprisingly stylish resorts that are starting to pop up on beach lovers’ radars. Better yet, the off season, when the weather is still sunny and warm, brings amazing deals. Take, for example, Sirenian Bay Resort, a stylish boutique property that offers all-inclusive lodging and dining and unlimited kayaking, SUP, pickle ball, and mini golf across its spacious facilities. The resort offers a range of villas and bungalows, and in the off season, prices drop nearly 50 percent. You can bring your entire multi-generational crew to vacation in the Seahorse Villa, where you’ll get four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a full kitchen and extensive living space, a private pool, and even a butler (!), for just $800 a night.
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Source: Vrbo; New Vrbo data shows changing family travel habits due to COVID-19