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The completely correct guide to a perfectly cliche fall getaway

Eight-year-old Stella Jones of Coeur d’Alene carries her choice of pumpkin at Beck’s Harvest House in Green Bluff on Oct. 2, 2020.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Revie)
Eight-year-old Stella Jones of Coeur d’Alene carries her choice of pumpkin at Beck’s Harvest House in Green Bluff on Oct. 2, 2020. (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Revie)
By Natalie B. Compton Washington Post

Not to kick things off by starting a fight, but summer is the most overrated time to travel.

It’s the most obvious. It’s often the most crowded. Yes, it’s warm and sunny, but if the only time you’re traveling is during summer, you’re doing it wrong.

Cue fall, the year’s most undervalued travel season.

Mosquitoes? Gone. Sweaters? On. The list of reasons fall is an elite travel period is stacked. In the travel biz, fall is “shoulder season,” a limbo between the much busier summer and the holidays.

There is no one way to take a fall trip. But there is a way to misuse a fall getaway, and that is by skipping the cliches. The road to autumnal bliss is littered with traditional touches. Don’t avoid them; life is hard enough as it is without trying to be cool all the time.

Embrace the classics, and take a tried-and-true fall trip the Hallmark Channel would be proud of. Here’s how to plan one.

Don’t follow the crowd

Just because fall is less busy than summer doesn’t mean no one is traveling. Certain destinations surge with visitors come leaf-peeping season.

Salem, Massachusetts, for example, pulls in hundreds of thousands of visitors every October. (Last year, they asked people to stay away for pandemic safety reasons). Many luxury lodges in fall foliage oases fill up months in advance.

As you choose your fall destination, you may want to think outside the places where you will be sure to encounter overtourism and traffic. Consider the small towns, rural vacation rentals and remote campsites that are not overrun by crowds.

Get cozy

The word cozy may be cringey, but the experience of getting cozy is not. While summer vacations are all about ocean breezes, mojitos and sizzling in the sun, fall vacations are the opposite. They are about curling up by a fire, nestling on a couch with a book or layering knit garments under puffer jackets to go for walks.

Keep cozy in mind as you choose where to stay. Bed-and-breakfasts are particularly good for the untranslatable Danish concept of hygge. They are also good for avoiding hoards of strangers because they’re small and often quiet.

Other contenders for cozy accommodations include cabins, yurts, cottages and chalets. Bonus points if you have access to a fireplace.

Seek out seasonal delicacies

It’s scientifically proven (please don’t fact-check this) that certain foods taste better during the fall – apple cider doughnuts, plain old apple cider, mooncakes, Oktoberfest beer and the meaty bratwurst to go with it.

Plan your trip inspired by sampling the best that fall has to offer, whether that’s to travel to specific food or drink destinations (maybe your favorite bakery, brewery, winery, cidery or distillery) or to find delicious pit stops along the way.

Prime locations to do either are farms. Think orchards where you can apple-pick or pumpkin patches where you can … pumpkin-pick. Sometimes it’s just an empty field where a guy arranged a bunch of hay bales to look the part. Those places usually sell the treats you’re looking for come fall.

Try camping (or glamping)

In between all the weddings you begrudgingly agreed to attend and the holiday festivities, take advantage of the most charming time of year by sleeping outside. You can use a fall foliage prediction map to find out when the colors will be most vibrant to make for an even more beautiful setting (or even better Instagram photos).

Of course, camping isn’t for everybody. You don’t have to force it. If you have the means to do it, opt instead to glamp.

There are ultra-high-end options that resemble luxury safari adventures but stateside (see: Collective Retreats). There are also more reasonable options that should cost you about as much as a night at a hotel room; Hipcamp, Campspot and Glamping.com are good places to start your search.

Go with friends. Go it alone. Just go enjoy the great outdoors soon before it is so cold you’re stuck inside wishing it was summer again so you can go on a beach vacation.

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