How to Take a Fall Foliage Trip on the Cheap

by Maurie Backman | Published on Oct. 4, 2021

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A family walks through a forest, enjoying the fall foliage.

Image source: Getty Images

Here's how you can enjoy leaf peeping without spending a fortune.

Some people like traveling to foodie destinations or cities with lots of nightlife. But for some, there's nothing better than an outdoorsy vacation that allows for plenty of leaf peeping at just the right time.

In many parts of the country, October is when fall foliage peaks. If you're planning a fall foliage trip, here are some tips for spending less in the course of your journey.

1. Stick to day trips

You may be surprised at how many opportunities there are to take in fall foliage within a few hours of your home. A simple Google search might reveal plenty of state or even local parks in your area where fall colors are abundant if you go at the right time. And if you're not sure when the right time is, you can consult this map.

2. Drive to your destination

Certain parts of the country are known as prime fall foliage destinations. Those on the East Coast often flock to Vermont to see vibrant leaves, while Washington State offers plenty of great opportunities for people on the West Coast. And there are plenty of options in between, too.

In any case, if you'll be traveling a bit of a distance to take in those fall leaves and you're going as a family or group, you can save a lot of money by hitting the road rather than booking flights. Imagine you're a family of four looking at a six-hour drive vs. a 90-minute flight. While flying might seem easier, if you can do the drive for $100 in gas instead of $200 per plane ticket, it's a better option from a financial standpoint.

And remember, while you may be looking at a quick flight, you'll also spend time going through airport security and getting to the airport itself. If the drive is reasonable (even if a bit lengthy), it may not take you that much longer compared to flying when you account for those additional steps.

3. Cash in your air miles

Air miles can be difficult to use during peak travel periods, such as the summer and the holiday season. But even though a lot of people love fall foliage, autumn isn't generally considered a peak travel time. It happens to coincide with the start of the school year, which means many parents aren't looking to pull their kids out to travel. So if flying works out as the better option for your situation, you may have an easier time using the air miles you've accumulated to find a convenient flight.

4. Use the right credit cards

You may have no choice but to fly to your destination and pay for your flight out of pocket. In that case, the right travel rewards card could come in handy. If your card comes with perks like free checked bags, you'll reap some savings off the bat.

5. Consider a private vacation rental

If you're the type of person who enjoys hiking and being outdoors, then you may not mind staying at a rustic cabin in the woods during your fall foliage trip. And if you're willing to give up the amenities of a hotel, you might save yourself a nice amount of money on lodging. Plus, chances are good that your private rental may come with a functional kitchen so you can do your own cooking and save money on food costs.

There's nothing like experiencing the splendor of fall leaves. These tips could be your ticket to pulling off a fall foliage trip without busting your budget.

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