September 16, 2011 -- Now that summer is over and the kids are in school, many families think that dreams of fun vacations and sunny getaways need to be packed away along with swimsuits and sunscreen.
Not true, as fall is a great time to travel, says Genevieve Shaw Brown, editorial director at Travelocity.
"With the cooler weather and fall schedule, there's naturally a drop-off on the sheer number and volume of people traveling – meaning there are more available seats on the airlines and in hotel rooms," Shaw Brown told ABCNews.com. "Airlines know to expect fewer travelers, so they can cut back on flight schedules. Because existing hotel rooms need to be sold, the easiest way to book rooms is to lower prices."
What's the bottom line for the budget-conscious consumer? Airfare may still be expensive, but hotel prices have been driven down considerably compared to last fall. With so many bargains on lower room rates and "value adds" -- free nights, free room updates, free meals for kids, on-site credit -- an affordable, fun-filled vacation can be yours if you shop for the best deals and plan carefully.
Here are four fabulous fall getaways that can be your next vacation.
Hawaii doesn't immediately bring to mind "bargain destination," but hotel rates in Honolulu are down more than 20% compared to last fall, said Shaw Brown, making it a more affordable dream vacation destination. Hawaii's tourism is heavily reliant on Japanese visitors, who are traveling less after the March tsunami. The drop-off in visitors accounts for the competitive pricing and free-nights packages that many hotels and resorts are now offering, explained Shawn Brown.
On Oahu, get $250 off at the brand-new, newly opened Aulani hotel with the promo code MOUSE250 on Travelocity. Other free night promotionals across the islands include Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa (3rd night free), Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk (4th night free), and the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas (4th night free).
Escape on a Cruise
Cruises are a great value in the fall, with many cruise lines offering bargain packages on destinations to Europe and the Caribbean. "A cruise isn't for everyone," said Shaw Brown, "but it's a great value because there's so much included in the price: accommodation, meals, transportation and on-board entertainment, making it a great way to travel without breaking the bank."
Check out Norwegian Cruise Lines, which is currently offering a $50 per person per night deal on several of its upcoming voyages. Other cruise bargains include Western Cruises, which offers a variety of travel itineraries for $60 per person per night, and the Panama Canal route on the Norwegian Star, which is currently priced at $37 per person per night and departs from Miami on Oct. 1.
Spend quality time in Orlando, Fla.
Orlando, the No. 1 family destination on Travelocity, is a family resort and theme park destination that does the bulk of its business during the summer months. However, come fall, the number of visitors falls dramatically and hotels slash prices and add incentives for potential visitors – making it the perfect time to scout for deals. At Travelocity, you'll find promo codes for $100 off flight and hotel packages (SMILE100) and $50 off hotel stays (SMILE50).
Explore Nature in North Carolina
In the wake of recent hurricanes, resorts in scenic destinations like North Carolina, New Jersey and Massachusetts are offering a variety of great deals to entice visitors. The Sanderling Resort & Spa in Duck, N.C., currently offers a "Goodbye Irene" special, which includes discounted rates and room upgrades on weeknights through October. The resort, located next to the 3,400-acre Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary, offers bike paths, nature trails, fitness center, tennis courts and spa, as well as an on-site restaurant offering organic, artisanal and local cuisine.
"Many of our visitors thought we were devastated by the hurricane, but we're open and ready for business – we'd love to have our guests come and see that we've weathered the storm perfectly," Hannah Hendricks, reservations specialist at the resort, told ABC News.com.