This year, take a family vacation with lighter crowds, great weather and better deals
By Colleen Kelly, travel expert, host/executive producer of “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly”
Beautiful October has arrived, and that means we’re in the midst of shoulder season, one of my favorite times of year for family travel. Shoulder season is the travel time that comes between peak and off-peak periods -- it’s when you’ll find lighter crowds and great weather at many popular vacation destinations. Plus, you can get good deals on lodging, especially if you rent a home or condo, which often have deeper shoulder season discounts than hotels.
But saving money during shoulder season is not the only reason I prefer vacation rentals. My family likes staying in a roomy house or condo because we have all the comforts of home -- sometimes even better! We can spread out with separate bedrooms for each family member and a family room where we can play games, watch TV and just relax. I also love having our own laundry facilities, which makes it so much easier to pack for a family of four. And, of course, a kitchen is a must. We stock up on breakfast and lunch items, drinks and snacks, then we eat out at dinner. This makes it easier to please everyone’s tastes, and it saves a lot of money, enabling us to devote more of our vacation budget to fun activities.
My favorite resource for finding the perfect vacation rental is www.HomeAway.com. There are more than one million listings all over the world, so it’s easy to find accommodations that meet your needs and are close to your destination. There’s something for every budget, from amazing dream homes to more simple but comfortable spaces. It’s fun to “shop” on the HomeAway website -- so many beautiful places to stay in unforgettable locations all over the globe. Type in a destination and see what you find!
One of the reasons you’ll find better deals and selection during shoulder season is that many families have trouble making time for travel in the fall; they’d rather go during spring break or the summer months. But if you think creatively when you look at your calendar, you might be able to make it work. Take advantage of your school’s half and full days off in the fall, especially if they fall on a Friday or Monday. Then depart in the late afternoon or evening so that the day off is not devoted to travel. Before you know it, you have a nice long weekend, which can be the perfect amount of time for many destinations. And if you have young children not yet in school, why pick the busier times of year to travel when you’ll have to fight crowds and could be paying more? One day soon you’ll be bound by school, sports and activity schedules -- take advantage of the freedom you have now, and travel in the fall!
Another advantage of shoulder season travel is that it’s a good time to use airline miles, because there are fewer blackout dates. Also, flights are not as full, so it’s easier to find availability. Keep in mind that this is hurricane season, which could affect your plans if you’re taking a beach vacation. This is one reason I recommend travel insurance; just carefully read the clause about trip cancellations and interruptions so you know what kinds of circumstances are covered.
Three of my favorite shoulder season destinations are Pensacola, the Louisiana Coast and San Antonio. Two of these have beautiful beaches, and they all have good weather this time of year and many great family-friendly activities. To inspire you to plan your family’s shoulder season vacation, here are some examples of what HomeAway has to offer in these destinations:
In Pensacola, you can stay in a three-bedroom beachfront condo for $205 a night. You’ll have gorgeous views from your balcony, plus many amenities like pools, fitness center and spa.
In the Louisiana Coast, enjoy the bayou in this private, gated estate for $450 a night. The renovated 100-year-old home sits on eight acres with water frontage. It’s stunning inside and out!
In San Antonio, what could be better than staying right on the River Walk for $72 a night? This two-bedroom suite has warm, comfortable decor. And the charming, historic building is also just a block and half from The Alamo.
So many great choices! I hope this has given you some ideas for your shoulder season vacation. Have fun planning!
Colleen Kelly is a family travel expert and host and executive producer of national PBS series “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly,” which airs in 90 percent of the country. Follow “Family Travel with Colleen Kelly” on Facebook and on Twitter @FamilyTravelCK, and check out the website at www.FamilyTravelCK.com.
*Listings were taken from HomeAway.com at the time that this blog was written. Prices and availability can change.