I love fall travel. Hot summers are all well and good, but I’d take fall over summer most any day. We stick close to home for much of the summer, except for a couple of weeks in August. There’s just so much to do at home in the summer. There’s the garden to tend, trails to walk and ride, the deck to loll upon with a book, reading and watching the boats go by. Besides, the world travels in the summer. Or seems to. And now that we’re retired, we don’t need to travel when school is out, during high season, when everyone else seems to want to do exactly what we want to do.

This morning over our cups of tea, Hubby and I put our heads together, and here are our top five reasons for loving fall travel.

#1 Fewer Crowds

Crowded destinations are often empty, or at least less crowded, in the fall. Since the kids are back at school, and the world of work has geared up again after summer vacation, many, many people have to stay at home. And that’s good for us. If you love sleeping in the great outdoors, fall is the best time to camp, at least in Canada. The beaches are virtually empty midweek. There’s almost no one on the hiking trails. The campground is almost empty too, except for a few of us retired folk. Everything is lovely and peaceful. Just like you imagine a camping trip should be.

Empty beach at Bonnechere Provincial Park. September 2019. Fall travel at its best.
The empty beach at Bonnechere Provincial Park

But be warned. The rest of the retired folk, those who are not camping, are travelling to other places, taking cruises, visiting famous landmarks. So you can’t assume that fall will be low season everywhere, or even shoulder season. And it seems that some places are crowded year round.

I guess we should have realized last year when we travelled to Italy that if we love to travel in September and October lots and lots of other people do too. But we were surprised by the crowds in Venice and Florence. We were told by our guide in Rome that October is still very busy at popular tourist spots in Italy. Still, we loved Rome; it’s so big that we were able to easily remove ourselves from crowded areas. But in Venice we were very glad that we’d decided to stay on the little island of Murano. It was lovely, especially in the evening when it was as if we had the island to ourselves. And later in the trip, when we’d veered off onto roads less travelled, small places like Urbino and Vieste were blissfully uncrowded too.

So, we learned our lesson. This fall we’ve planned our destinations with the idea of avoiding crowds if at all possible, and we are staying away from many of the most popular spots.

a boggy lake in Algonquin Park, Ontario. September 2019.
Algonquin Park where we had to wear our head nets all day last summer. But not this trip.

#2 No Bugs.

Okay, this might NOT be a big one for you, but it is for me. Besides crowds, the one thing that can spoil a summer camping or walking or hiking trip is the bug situation. If at all possible, I avoid high season for bugs. Ha. I react badly to insect bites. Hubby gets bitten and they itch for a day, if at all, then disappear. I’m plagued for weeks by some bites. A trip to the Cook Islands enroute to New Zealand, one year, was marred by sandfly bites. We’d walked the beach on our last day, and I didn’t realize I was being bitten. Only later did I find that the tops of my feet were covered with bites. The night flight to New Zealand a few hours later was agony for me. And those darned bites bothered me for weeks.

We still chuckle about how, weeks later, Hubby awoke at 3 A.M. to the sound of water running, and found me sitting on the floor of the bathroom at our accommodation with my feet stuck in the cold shower. I can tell you I was NOT chuckling then. But fall travel usually means no bugs. And if we are able to hike and bike, walk the beach, or sleep in a tent, without the accompaniment of droning mosquitoes and black flies, or whatever bug is native to wherever we are, I am a happy traveller.

Fall hiking in Algonquin Park. September 2019
Bug free hiking into the abandoned McGuey Farmstead in Algonquin Park this September.

#3 Fabulous Weather

The weather in September and especially October can be wonderful. Warm sunny days, cool evenings. Or even cool sunny days, and cooler evenings. That’s my kind of weather. First off, the air is usually less humid. And less humidity means I don’t have to worry so much about my hair. Frizz plagues me in the humid weather. I know I should just slap a hat on my hair and forget about it. And that might be okay on a camping trip, but not anywhere else. I know that’s shallow. But I am who I am.

When we travel, we walk a lot. And summer walking means that my feet swell because my sneakers or hiking boots are so hot. I’ve never yet found a pair of sandals that fit my feet, and in which I can walk for long periods. And trust me, I’ve looked. And looked.

Two years ago I made yet another attempt to find comfortable walking sandals in which my narrow foot would stay put, and not slide out when I walked. My friend Susan took me to her favorite shoe store, here in Ottawa, which carries all sizes and varieties of lovely, fashionable, and comfortable sandals. Ha. Even the very knowledgeable lady who served us was stymied. So when the weather cools, and I can put my sneakers or hiking boots back on and not feel too hot in them, I’m happy. Ditto long pants, light jackets, and scarves. Fall wardrobe planning is a joy for me. And fall travel packing floats my boat so much more buoyantly than summer travel.

Wearing sneakers jeans, a hoodie and a scarf in Urbino, October 2018. Fall travel at its best.
Happily sneaker shod in Urbino last fall. And no crowds or bugs, either.

#4 Spectacular Scenery

Depending on where you travel, the scenery can be spectacular in the fall. Here in Canada, and in lots of other places in the northern hemisphere, the leaves on trees and bushes turn red and yellow and orange, and formerly green hills and valleys are even more beautiful. Hubby and I love to drive back roads wherever, and whenever, we travel. But the scenery along back roads in the fall is even more amazing than at other times of the year. We loved the Scottish highlands when we visited there in July 2005, pootling down single track roads, waving merrily at other cars from the “passing place” where we’d stopped to allow the other vehicle room to get past. I remember we wondered at the time how much more spectacular those same hills would be in the autumn.

An old farmstead near Wilno, Ontario, fall 2012.
An old farmstead near Wilno, Ontario. October 2012.

And it’s not just the fall colour that makes the scenery more lovely. There’s something special about a sunny fall day. Maybe it’s the quality of light. The cooler, less humid air seems more clear, more something, and everything looks better. But maybe that’s just me, and the fact that my hair isn’t frizzy, and I’m all relaxed and cosy and happy in my scarf and sneakers.

Beautiful Round Lake Ontario. September 2019.
Sunny September day on Round lake

#5 That Feeling of Freedom.

There’s something indefinably wonderful about fall travel. Being out in the work-a-day world, but not of it. I feel like a kid playing hookey from school. Stealing time from the responsibilities of real life when everyone else is going about their daily business.

Most teachers I know feel something similar. Not being at school on a fall day makes us look around and think, “So this is what goes on in the real world.” Eating lunch in a restaurant midweek, strolling a downtown street… anywhere, even at home… makes us feel this way. To be footloose and out in the world in the fall feels amazing. No bells (except church bells.) No cafeteria duty, yard duty, or hall duty. My bag is not laden with a huge pile of marking to take home. In fact, the only homework I have is the research on what we’re going to do tomorrow. Where we’ll eat. What wine to choose. What book to read next.

Of course this sense of freedom is felt by people who weren’t teachers. The lightness that enjoyable travel can engender, the weight of responsibilities being lifted, at least for a time. But I must say that being on the road in the fall for a couple of former teachers is kind of nirvana. We feel like teenagers let loose with the family car on Friday night. That feeling of freedom and anticipation, that anything can happen, makes me want to crank the car stereo up full blast, shout “yee haw,” and squeal the tires as we pull out of the driveway.

A beautiful pond in Algonquin Park, near the abandoned McGuey Farmstead. September 2019
McGuey Farmstead in September. We had the place to ourselves aside from one female merganser.

This week, Hubby and I have been busily preparing for our next trip. We’re off to the Balkans soon. He’s been picking apples, stripping the garden, and giving fresh produce to anyone who will take it. I’ve been finishing our itinerary. Doing packing research and planning. Trying on outfits. Shopping. But I’ll tell you more about all that later this week.

Then we’ll pack and be off. On another fall travel adventure. We can’t wait.

And while it might look as if we’re proceeding sedately to the airport, inside we’re actually squealing our tires. And cranking out the tunes. Ha.

How about you, my friends? Do you love fall travel?

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36 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Love Fall Travel”

  1. I also love to travel in October, even better in November and early December. I mainly travel in Europe and find it less crowded plus I enjoy the cold weather. The only real issue is that the days are shorter. The Balkans is one of the areas I would love to visit and will look forward to following your travels here.

  2. The traveler profile definitely changes come September. No more families; instead it’s mostly couples, mostly older (but younger ones on weekends). Spring can be beautiful, but the weather is more iffy than fall.
    Can’t wait to hear where you’re going!

  3. I absolutely agree about out of summer trips , for the same reasons . We’ve never travelled in the height of summer . It’s hard to find the energy to explore when you are knocked out by the heat . Fine for those who only demand sunbeds & a pool . Having seen pics recently of the teeming hoards in places like Dubrovnik & the Gulf of Kotor I’m amazed . These places were empty when we were there in the ‘olden days ‘ . The locals chatted to us because we were a novelty . I know there are still many , many quiet unspoilt places but you have to do your homework – like you do . It helps if the monster cruise ships can’t get there ! We’ve seen wonderful autumn colour in Scotland but I have to say the fresh gentle greens of May are my favourite . The clarity of the air is the same , no crowds , no midges & lots of daylight . I’m looking forward to seeing the secret corners you find – perhaps Dottoressa had some input ?

    1. Teeming crowds are what we’re trying to avoid. Wow… it’s getting harder and harder every year. Stonehenge in early October was brimming. Dottoressa was consulted… many times. 🙂

  4. Oh, yes. Now we are no longer tied to school terms, travelling in May and September is great. Just me, Mr Green and all the other old people. Mr G often looks around a plane and realises he is the youngest person aboard. High summer travel is just such hard work and, like you, I get bitten a lot. We are fortunate that much of southern Europe – easily accessible for us – is still hot and sunny throughout September and even into October and have had some lovely times out of season. I must say, I rather fancy Rome in late autumn.

    1. Ha. All the other older people. When we were camping, we arrived on Sunday. Families cleared out early in the day and the few trailers and campers that straggled in later were all driver by grey haired folk. I looked at Stu and said, here come the old people. He laughed and said, “Like us.”

  5. I’m with you on traveling in the fall. I refuse to go to Europe in the summer. I’m on a Rhône River Cruise now learning about the local wines and when it ends we’ll exlplore some of the smaller villages in Provence. We did the same in Italy several years ago, tried to get hotel rooms in Venice (been there twice already) and decided to stay in Padua and travel the Veneto and visit the Dolomites. Best decision we ever made. We had the area to ourselves, and the tiny villages and restaurants were spectacular. I have to thank an Italian couple we know at home who said we must go to Belluno, which I had never heard of. Well of course not, that’s where the Italians go they told us.

    1. Even October is pushing it now for crowds in so many places. Yes to the villages. Last year in Italy, staying above Amalfi and Positano, in tiny Agerola was a good decision. Evenings were wonderfully quiet. Local restaurants were filled with… locals. Ha.

  6. Sue, you have described the joys of fall travel beautifully. As you say, the sense of freedom and playing hooky that off season travel provides is delicious. Along with the cooler weather that allows endless walking and no queues.
    Sand fly bites are a special form of torture. Any heat makes them itch and itch and itch. The bites last for months and are particularly unattractive!
    Interested to read what you are packing for your Balkans trip.

    1. I’m still making last minutes changes to my packing list. I’ve had a hard time making up my mind what to bring and what to leave at home this time for some reason.

  7. Oh I hear you on frizzy hair and bug bites!! I’ll swell up and bruise from bites, whereas husband doesn’t seem to be bothered at all. I have fourteen months of teaching left until I can have the feeling you’ve described. It’s almost too much to even consider right now, in my September world. Enjoy your trip to the Balkans! -Jenn

  8. I agree with all your points about fall travel, including the bug one–allergic to them, too. They make life a misery at home or on the road. And as one who doesn’t do “heat”, the idea of traveling in summer is my idea of hell. I’m off to Paris and parts beyond in a couple of days, so it seems I will join the rest of the old people who travel in the fall. I also like traveling in winter as I don’t mind the cold and so far (knock wood) have not had any weather issues. Have been going to London almost every January for some time now: the museums are less crowded and tickets to special exhibitions are more easily obtained; theatre, dance and classical music season is in full swing. Winter sales are also on. 🙂 Clearly, cities are easier to get around in winter than places in the countryside.
    Have a great trip to the Balkans. Wishing you uncrowded spaces and good weather.

  9. I’m with you! (it seems we’re a like-minded community here!) And travelling in the fall is especially delicious after not being able to take any time off during the academic year. Even better for thinning the crowds are the winter months, although, as Maryann notes, the days are shorter. But Rome in January is moderate, sometimes even sweater, not coat, weather. And night falling earlier just means more romantic walks through the city lights (spotlit Trevi Fountain!) to dinner. . . .

  10. Yes! We just got back from Lake Louise and Banff and while crowded, not like they would have been in July and August. I agree completely with the wardrobe choices too. I hate being hot and sweaty. We went to San Francisco a couple of years ago in mid September and it was in the 90’s. Gross. We have traveled a lot in October, November and December and love the smaller crowds. Our destinations have been Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Seattle, Vancouver, San Juan Islands, Victoria, St. Louis, Kansas City, and loved San Francisco and Miami in December. Perfect weather. We, too, stay put a lot of the summer as MN is finally warm and nice, though this year has been quite rainy and cooler than normal. One day 90 or above. We garden too, so that needs attention. We have traveled overseas in April and May and had good luck. Greece, London, Spain, France, Italy. Much easier to move around and enjoy. After long white, winters, it is so great to see green and flowers and the ocean. Can’t wait to hear about your travels. So sorry about the sandals. I have like Vionics. Happy Thursday.

    1. I remember my friend and her husband travelled to Australia one year in December. What a mistake. She nearly melted in the heat. When we went in March it was lovely.

  11. I love to travel both in spring and fall indeed,for all the reasons you’ve described so beautifully (including the hair!),although last fall trip to Milano was a nightmare because of too many turists (and I was thinking that it would be better choice than Rome)
    The best month I’ve spent in London was February (but got flu in the plane on my flight back,luckily)-it was really special,with nice weather and a few turists.
    I hope this fall will continue to be so nice here as it is now,for the sake of you as well as me 🙂

  12. I’m with the gang, fall travel is great. The reasons you so aptly describe are exactly why.
    You might not have tried these but I have had success with Arcopedico (knit sneaker) and Allbirds (wool sneaker). Supportive, not too hot.
    And sadly I have the bug affliction like you. Husband is always fine but I suffer those mosquitoes and others for days if not weeks after…..why!?
    Have a wonderful time on your autumn adventure!
    Suz from Vancouver

  13. I agree with you completely, and for the same reasons. Forty years ago, May and October were my favorite months to travel, but May weather has become too unpredictable, and May tourists much more numerous, in the last ten years or so. October, accordingly, has become my favorite month to travel. And sometimes, because the Canadian half of me does well in cold weather and craves the snow we don’t get often enough in Portland, I have deliberately spent time in cold climates in the winter (e.g.,, three winters in Moscow, USSR; one winter month in Helsinki and Stockholm; and another winter month in London and Paris. There are many places in which I would like to spend time (S.E. Asia comes to mind) but most likely will not again because I am really miserable in high humidity (and refuse to roost indoors in air-conditioning). Looking forward to updating my acquaintance with the Balkans through your stories and photographs, Leslie P.S. If you are going fly to/from Europe in economy or on a ULCC (ultra low-cost carrier), let us know how that goes and how you advise minimizing the discomforts of air travel before and after flights. P.S.S. BON VOYAGE!!

    1. I am not good at all in high heat and humidity, and it’s not all about my hair. Ha. We are not flying ULCC… that I’m aware of. We are flying on points… so it is definitely economy. Getting tighter and less comfortable every year.

  14. When we first started traveling in earnest, my husband surprised me with plans for my birthday, which is mid-November, and since then we’ve always taken our ‘big’ trips in the Fall. We usually travel mid-to-late October and into early November, which has worked out beautifully. I am with you on (a) crowds (b)bugs and (c) swollen feet (and hands, in my case)!
    The only thing I feel I’m missing is spring gardens and flowers, although London in February was surprising beautiful in that regard. So, although no lavender in Provence in November, the gorgeous colors of the remaining grapevines almost made up for it :~).

    1. My hands swell now in the heat too. After a bad experience in South America, if we’re planning on walking or hiking on a warm day I leave the rings off.

  15. Yes, yes, yes. We’re traveling right now. But I had to chime in and suggest (if you haven’t tried it) using a hair dryer on your bug bites. It changed my life. Just put it on the hottest setting you can stand without burning yourself and heat them with a back and forth motion. It might take a couple sessions (which are short, since it’s pretty hot) but they stop itching pronto. Honestly. I didn’t believe it either. 🙂

  16. Your post made me grin. Big time. 🙂

    And I adore your list. Those are five great reasons to love autumn travel. So I’ll go with those, too. 🙂

    I’ll be watching your packing list carefully, since we’re heading for similar climes soon. I’m leaving October 5 for three weeks in France where the weather is going to be coooool. Finally!

    Squeal those tires, crank up those tunes!

    Ann in Missouri

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