Magazine article Sunset

Fall Travel Bargains

Magazine article Sunset

Fall Travel Bargains

Article excerpt

The weather's good, the little nippers are back in school, and rates are down

To many seasoned travelers, September and October are the best months to travel. Even the hottest climes become tolerable. Days are still long enough to pack a lot in, and children, including groups of spirited teens, are back in school (no offense, kids).

Less demand means you can get last-minute bookings. Reservations that are elusive before Labor Day are now yours. There are fewer crowds everywhere you go: restaurants, museums, historic sites, hiking trails. And instead of paying more for this solitude, you pay less. This is the time to book that resort or luxury hotel you couldn't possibly afford during high season. Saving 20 to 40 percent, occasionally as much as 60 percent, over the high-season rates is like getting bumped into first class for the price of coach.

This isn't true of every destination, of course. The big cities do a steady year-round business: families one week, conventioneers the next. The bargains are in the resort areas, where families make up much of the business.

The rates quoted are standard rack rates for a double room. There may be even better deals at booking time.

Montana

Fall comes early in Montana, so plan a September trip. There are still plenty of activities such as rafting and horseback riding. The hiking trails and country roads remain open and are uncluttered. At MEADOW LAKE RESORT (800/321-4653), just outside Glacier National Park in Columbia Falls, high-season rates of $129 drop to $109 on September I (and to $89 on October 20, if you go that late). In West Glacier, at the GREAT NORTHERN WHITEWATER RESORT (800/735-7897), the summer rate of $162 for a small chalet (sleeps four) drops to $147 on September 3, then to $105 on September 16.

Wyoming

Jackson may have fewer visitors after Labor Day, but business is still brisk enough to keep hotel rates up most of September. So think October. It can be chilly at night, but worth shivering a little to enjoy the wildlife - moose, deer, buffalo - which is much more abundant and visible than in the summer months. This is the time of the elk bugle, a sunset serenade that marks the mating season. October is also when the numerous sporting goods stores here hold their best sales. Rafting, horseback riding, and golf are usually available through mid-October, weather permitting. At the 1941 WORT HOTEL (800/322-2727), the oldest hotel in Jackson, rates for the Western-themed rooms (lodgepole pine furniture) drop from $174 to $125 on October 1. At SNOW KING RESORT (800/522-5464), $190 rooms turn into $100 rooms on September 27.

Colorado

Built in 1889, the HOTEL JEROME (800/331-7213) in downtown Aspen is a Victorian treasure with iron bedsteads and antique furnishings in every room. Rooms that rent for $445 a night in high season drop to $160 starting September 27, an incredible bargain for those who'd rather go hiking and flyfishing than ski. Though you may not rub elbows with any celebs this time of year, you may very well be staying in the same rooms.

The SITZMARK LODGE (970/476-5001) in Vail offers rooms for $66 (from $122 in the high season) starting September 27. Even without snow, the mountain views are spectacular and the mellow mood of the low season sets in. Activities include hiking, golf, tennis, fishing, ballooning, and just watching the leaves turn color - a highly respectable pastime in the Rockies.

Arizona

Phoenix and Tucson have a definite bargain season. …

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