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A Rhapsody to Autumn Travel

Posted by A Colin Treadwell on 9/6/2018
Posted in: Musings From Colin Treadwell
Tags: Travel, Tauck, Fall Foliage, New York City

Ah … now, as we slip into September there has been a break in the weather in the Northeast. The temperature is in the 70s. The cool temperatures are startling, like a memory from the deep dark past. It is a reminder that the dog days of summer will soon be coming to an end.

Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting?
Autumn in New York, it spells the thrill of first-nighting
Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds in canyons of steel
They're making me feel I'm home

(from “Autumn in New York”  by Vernon Duke)

Autumn TravelThe song, with its tune as well as its lyrics, evokes better than I ever could, the beauty and pleasure of autumn. Vernon Duke is said to have written the song in Westport, Connecticut, during the heat of summer, when New York would have been a good daydream destination for him. But it wasn’t just the place he was singing to, it was also the time. Not just New York, but autumn in New York.

It’s not just where you go, but when.

This little sample of moderate weather in August will quickly be wiped from memory when the wrenching heat clamps down again to remind us that the dog days of summer will be reigning for a good while yet. But it is a taste, a signal that the cooler weather is coming.

That also means that school will be starting soon and it will bring an end to the summer vacation season. A large part of the traveling population will evaporate from the tourist sites around the world. And that is a good thing in some ways. It is one of several reasons autumn can be the time for some of the best travel experiences.

Avoiding Crowds
This is nothing against students. Please. I love students. They are among my favorite kinds of people to be around. I love their energy and enthusiasm, their freshness. I will always consider myself one of them.

I’m only talking about the numbers. When a significant portion of the traveling population must pack most of its travel into the three months of summer, it concentrates most of the world’s travel into one quarter of the year.

The students bring with them a large number of parents and grandparents who also schedule their travel during the summer months so they can travel with the kids. When a huge part of the population travels during those three months it inevitably leads to crowding at some tourist destinations. And that is no fun, either for the tourists or for the native populations at those places.

Lower Prices
When school starts and those numbers suddenly drop, the market responds with lower prices. So that generates an additional reason to choose fall for travel. You can save money.

A recent market research study by the firm Ask Your Target Market showed that 59 percent of travelers were planning their travel for the summer months. Using that approximation it’s easy to see the problem. If you put 60 percent of the population into 25 percent of the year, it will have an effect on crowding and pricing. The summer months will be packed with the most travelers, creating the largest crowds and traffic problems. And the peak demand will lead to peak prices during that season.

In some places hotel prices will be considerably cheaper in fall than in summer. In other cases not. It varies a great deal, so you have to evaluate each destination separately. In Anchorage prices drop by half in fall. In Berkeley and Boston hotel prices actually increase in fall. In Hollywood the change from summer to fall makes no difference.

In New York hotel prices rise a little in the fall. That’s because summer in the city can be oppressively hot and many residents get out of the city as much as possible in the summer. When the summer ends, New York business gets back into full swing and the famous splendor of “Autumn in New York” sets in. So hotel prices nudge upwards a bit when fall comes, but not a lot.

The change in demand from summer to fall also affects airfares, which fall in fall for many popular tourist destinations, roughly along the same cycles of demand as hotel prices. Airfares to Europe tend to drop considerably when summer changes to fall, though the airlines may compensate by reducing capacity.

Milder Weather
Besides less crowding and lower prices, another reason for traveling in autumn is milder weather. This is becoming an even greater consideration as temperatures around the world rise every year. All of these factors vary by destination of course, but temperatures in many popular destinations can sometimes become oppressively hot in summer, and will be much milder if you wait a couple of months.

You adapt to these things. You dress differently and travel differently in different seasons. But in many places temperatures are more comfortable in autumn than at the height of summer.

Fall and spring, the transitional periods between the extremes of summer and winter, provide balance between the extremes. Depending on your personal heat preferences, you can choose early fall, on the summer side, or late fall, as it transitions into winter.

Autumn Itself
Of course there are so many reasons people travel. Sometimes you travel not just to go to a particular place, but to do a particular thing. So then you travel at the appropriate time for that thing. If you want to attend Oktoberfest, for example, you are going to have to travel in late September and early October. You ski in ski season, and so forth.

Many festivals happen in fall. So if you’re going to go to them, you’ll travel when the festival takes place. It is historically a season of festivals in part because of the harvest season. The harvest season brings a sense of joy and the celebration of abundance. In general fall is a very special part of the year.

The seasons are almost a kind of travel in themselves. The experience of being somewhere in fall or winter can be drastically different from being there in summer. Most places are different in different parts of their seasonal cycles.

In the tropics the changes of season are less pronounced in general. But the changes in wet and dry seasons can alter a landscape radically. And travel destinations in the tropics are affected by the seasonal changes in the temperate zones.

Fall Foliage
And we can’t forget the fall foliage. It creates a royal drapery over many of the destinations that are beautiful all year. Besides the fact that fall foliage tours in New England have always been among the best selling tours, fall foliage adds to the attractiveness of places throughout the temperate zone, where the deciduous trees put on a flaming display in fall. You don’t have to go on a foliage tour to enjoy the foliage in New York or Paris. Being somewhere in fall can give you that extra little feature, the autumn leaves, to enrich your trip.

And the reason I bring this up to you now is because of probably the best thing of all about fall.

It’s just around the corner.

Your humble reporter,

A. Colin Treadwell


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