AAA Travel Tips / Shoulder Season: My Favorite Time of Year to Travel

Shoulder Season: My Favorite Time of Year to Travel

Peeter Viisimaa/
By Samantha Brown, Host of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”
January 09, 2020
If you love to travel, but dislike crowds, I have good news for you: Shoulder season is here. No, that doesn’t mean it’s time for tank tops—I’m talking about the in-between travel season. Come Labor Day, kids are back in school. Summer vacationers are back in the office. Peak season is done, and that’s good news for those of us with flexibility. With fewer tourists to compete with, you’ll find great deals, shorter lines, fewer crowds, all paired with spectacular weather. If you’re able to travel in September, do it. It’s one of the best months to explore.
Here are a few trips to consider during shoulder season.
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Walt Disney World

Let’s be honest: Disney and Budget Vacation rarely find themselves in the same sentence. However, the weeks following back-to-school tend to be some of the least busy at this iconic vacation spot. You’ll find great hotel deals, score better pricing at the parks, and not want to gouge out your eyes waiting in line for rides. If you can go on a Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, you’ll save even more time and money. It’s worth noting that if you stay on property, you get complimentary parking, transportation to the parks, and access to Magic Hours—meaning you may arrive at the park an hour before it opens, or on some evenings, up to three hours after close. Off-peak travel also means great deals on dining packages. Time to dust off your mouse ears, friends!
Favorite places to stay: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas-Jambo House (wake up to giraffes and zebras outside your balcony… need I say more?); Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (nice and more moderately priced rooms. However, there’s a convention center here, so you may want to double-check their event calendar before booking).

Busy National Parks

If you like to explore nature with thousands of people, go to the national parks between Memorial Day and Labor Day. If you crave a little more solitude, book your trip in September. You’ll slip in after kids go back to school, but before the fall colors tourists hit. In most parks, weather tends to still be warm, but not oppressively so, and everything from rental cars to accommodations tend to put less pressure on the pocketbook.
A few parks to consider: Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Zion, and Acadia.
Erin Cadigan/

Beach Vacations

With the arrival of autumn, the crowds are gone, prices are low, and cooler temps mean you don’t have to wear a bathing suit! In fall, I love a long stroll on the shore or planting a chair in the sand and losing myself in a great book. Paired with low hotel rates and less busy restaurants, I say there’s a great argument for saving your beach vacation until fall.
Here are a few of my favorite beach destinations. For more beach ideas, check out these picks from AAA.
Samantha Brown Media

Beloved European Cities

Everyone and their bubbe heads to Europe during the summer. And that includes Europeans, who, enviably, spend weeks vacationing in August. Crowds swell, temps climb well into the 30s (that’s in Celsius, for my fellow Americans), and the humidity makes even the most put-together Parisian look a bit disheveled. I personally prefer to visit the Spanish Steps or the Rialto Bridge without accidentally getting selfie-sticked in the eye, which is why September is the perfect time to go. Great weather, fewer lines, kinder locals, and you get full license to purchase an on-trend sweater or scarf at Zara for the cool evenings.
Favorite destinations: Rome, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; London, England; Berlin, Germany; Amsterdam, Netherlands; Prague, Czech Republic

About AAA Travel and Samantha Brown

New places, different perspectives and heartwarming people around the world sharing their day...what’s not to love? That’s why AAA Travel is sponsoring Season 2 of “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”—offering you added insight that brings our trusted travel information to life.