Europe is a great destination for fall family travel. // © 2013 Thinkstock
Fall offers some unique travel opportunities for families. Those who are looking for deals are most certainly going to find savings during this off season, but reduced rates aren’t always the best part of traveling in the fall. Many places offer other types of value as well, such as fewer crowds, shorter lines at attractions and cooler weather.
A recent Liberty Travel survey of 2,000 families asked about their vacation habits and found that families overwhelmingly want to travel and be with their children on a vacation. The survey also showed an equal split on the topic of pulling kids out of school for two or more days to take a vacation, with half of respondents indicting that they would. This means that, for the family travel market, there is great opportunity to schedule a family vacation in the fall.
“There is a good amount of people who will pull their children out of school — especially for something culturally valuable,” said Mimi Cassidy, travel operations manager and special event travel specialist at Moraga Travel in California.
Cassidy also noted that year-round schools have a longer break in the fall, and parents can also request home study and have their children do course work while on the road.
“Children just have to take a couple hours a day to study,” said Cassidy. “In this way, parents can take advantage of these breaks by booking travel in the fall when there are a lot of good deals.”
Cassidy also noted that parents who are traveling during the school season are going to pay less and that not everyone has a set time for a break in September, October and early November — therefore, there is no peak time for travel.
Mike Ertmer, a travel consultant at Wisconsin’s Elm Grove Travel, agrees that fall travel offers some great savings for families, especially travel to an all-inclusive resort in Mexico or the Caribbean, a Disney theme park vacation or European travel.
“Many travelers think summer is a great time to travel to these destinations,” said Ertmer. “However, due to the kids being out of school, many families are traveling at this time, and prices aren’t always at their lowest. As important as school is, if you don’t mind pulling your children out for a few days, you can really capitalize on some great savings.”
If you are going to take your kids out of school, take them to Europe, Cassidy said.
“Parents say that they don’t care what the school says about taking children out during the school term, but when it comes right down to it, they do,” she said. “And telling the school that you are taking your children on a beach vacation because the prices are lower isn’t the same as a cultural immersion in Paris.”
Ertmer also believes that children can get a better history lesson traveling abroad rather than being in school.
“While parents often worry about the time their children will miss in school, I believe that sometimes kids learn the most while on an amazing family vacation — living history instead of reading about it.”
Ertmer noted that a trip to Europe in the fall proves to be not only a great value, but a more pleasant experience.
“By traveling in October and November, travelers will realize savings on airfare and hotel rates,” he said. “When comparing air rates, a roundtrip flight to Rome in August is more than $1,500 per person. The same trip in October drops to about $1,200.”
A closer option for families is to head to Mexico or the Caribbean. Not only are the flights shorter and cheaper, but a variety of resorts catering to multigenerational groups makes each region an appealing choice.
“AMResorts offers some outstanding prices on their family-friendly properties such as Dreams Resorts, Now Resorts and Sunscape Resorts,” said Ertmer. “Families can take advantage of everything from free nights to kids-stay-free promotions and resort coupons.”
Cassidy agrees and noted that Mexico always has a variety of good deals available.
“Families should stick to the resorts that cater specifically to families,” said Cassidy. “Travel agents should make sure that they have activities and a robust kids program that are available year-round. This ensures that the vacation is an enjoyable one for everyone because when the children love the kids club, everyone has more fun.”
Cruises are another way that families can take advantage of fall savings. There are great deals in the Caribbean and in Europe in the early fall.
“Cruise rates are extremely good right now,” said Ertmer. “You can find some excellent rates for sailings to Europe and the Caribbean.”
Ertmer suggested Royal Caribbean as one line that offers great features for multigenerational groups.
“Families will enjoy the Dreamworks Experience onboard select Royal Caribbean Cruise Line ships and can meet characters such as Shrek and the penguins from ‘Madagascar,’” he said.
Cassidy recommends booking cruise lines that are known for their family-friendly options.
“Stick to Norwegian Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Disney Cruise Line,” she said. “These lines tend to have a lot more robust offerings that will keep children entertained. Kids aren’t going to want stay in one room for four hours.”
Many of the cruise lines sail in the Caribbean year-round, so fall deals are easy to find, while several sail in Europe in the early fall.
For families who want a vacation closer to home, theme parks, especially in Orlando, offer great values in the fall.
“If you are looking to stay in the country, take the kids to Walt Disney World in September to take advantage of their Free Dining Plan offer,” said Ertmer. “This offer is such a great value and your kids will enjoy eating with their favorite Disney character.”
Cassidy concurs with this, noting that families can spend upward of $300 per day on food alone in the parks.
“I have had families opt out of the free dining packages, and they have later regretted it,” she said.
While there are deals on fall theme park vacations, you also get more bang for your buck.
“Theme parks are a much better option for families in the fall,” she said. “There are fewer crowds and fewer locals. Families also get some great deals at nearby hotel properties. They will offer a variety of deals that include free meal plans, which is a huge value because you can use it in the hotel and the park.”
So for parents who are looking to capitalize on their vacation dollars, maybe pulling the kids out of school isn’t such a bad idea.