American workers let nearly 430 million vacation days go to waste last year, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Travel Association. One of the biggest excuses for staying deskside--cost. If you’re among the 33% of workers who think they can’t afford a vacation, consider taking an off-peak trip.
Traveling off-season is one of the best ways to keep costs down, save on airfare, score competitive prices on lodging and venues, and avoid crowds. Need more convincing? The U.S. Travel Association found that 85% of workers who took paid time off felt happier and less stressed when they returned to work. What’s more, senior business leaders agree that utilizing PTO improves employee concentration, productivity, creativity, and satisfaction. As for the mountain of work that awaits when you return—well, a paid vacation won’t make that disappear, but a trip to the Rocky Mountains will make it seem more manageable once you get back.
Consider one of these five off-season vacation ideas this fall and make PTO something worthwhile. Trust us: Once you take the plunge, you’ll never let another paid vacation day slide by again.
Off-season travel tip: Think outside of the box and visit a typically winter destination in autumn for a change of scenery and activities.
Where to use this advice: Glenwood Springs is a historic resort town nestled along the convergence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers. Take advantage of world-class fishing, rafting, and paved recreational paths where you can admire the fleeting colors of fall on foot or by bike. And if you couldn’t tell by the name, Glenwood Springs is acclaimed for its hot spring pools. The 400-foot main pool with lap lanes (about 90 degrees Fahrenheit) and the 100-foot therapy pool (104 degrees Fahrenheit) are constantly flowing with mineral spring water, believed to restore health and wellness to bathers—the perfect reprieve from Wall Street.
Special deals: Book three weeks prior to your arrival and Glenwood Springs Resort will take 20% off your room rate per night (any day of the week). Enjoy a full hot breakfast and unlimited hot springs pool access at whichever lodging accommodation you want. This promotion is only available September 21-November 20, 2014.
Off-season travel tip: Go to an iconic destination off-season to sidestep exorbitant prices and crowds. Also, avoid booking around holidays and major events.
Where to use this advice: New Orleans is one of the most well-known entertainment hubs in the States. So well-known that 1.2 million people crowded the streets last year for the illustrious Mardi Gras celebration. But if you think breast baring, bead battling, and booze binging are the only activities the Big Easy has to offer, think again. Jet set in October to take part in the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival (October 17-18), the New Orleans Film Festival (October 16-23), and Deutsches Haus Oktoberest (October 17-18 & 24-25) for authentic German music, food, and you guessed it, German beer. Sit back and let the good times roll with a Munich Lager Warsteiner and a Bratwurst.
Special deals: October to January is New Orleans’ shoulder season, providing visitors with comparatively lower prices on accommodations and airfare. Use travel search engines to search for the best deals and book midweek—that’s when flights are cheapest.
Off-season travel tip: Beach destinations are among the most popular vacation spots, but most people go mid-December through March. Don’t fall into the trap; go in the off-season when the weather is most reasonable, crowds are smaller, and rates are lower.
Where to use this advice: September to mid December is Maui’s low season, but October is arguably the best time to visit since the temperature hovers around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’re in between the Labor Day and Thanksgiving crowds. If you’ve always dreamed of a private beach getaway, then this is about as close as it gets. In need of some adventure? Try your hand (and feet) at some of the island’s favorite sports like hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing—kite, wind or board—kayaking, and snorkeling. You can even island hop to Oahu or Waikiki and take part in Endless Adventure Hawaii’s activities packages, one of which includes a Glowpaddle sunset evening tour. Specialized paddleboards come fixed with underwater LED lights, which give you incredible views of the wildlife below. Once the sun sets, the night tour caps off with a fireworks show.
Special deals: Search for group travel packages; they tend to be cheaper.
Off-season travel tip: You can still experience a city or state’s local flair and popular attractions without the crowds. Simply adjust your travel dates and be flexible.
Where to use this advice: Taste your way trough Sonoma County. With over 360 wineries and a slew of breweries, distilleries, and cideries, this southwestern county will satisfy all your craft cravings—and you may even learn a thing or two. The North Bay Brewery Tour will educate you on every stage of brewing craft beer, and show you how to pair gourmet eats with ales. Better yet, you don’t have to designate a driver; the company provides every group with environmentally responsible transportation. Plus, fall is harvest season for wineries, so you can witness the process of pressing and bottling some of Sonoma’s famed Sauvignon Blancs and Zinfandels—obviously in addition to tasting them, too.
Special deals: Check out adventure tours like wine country treks and bike tours.
Off-season travel tip: Taking a vacation when school is back in session is one way to ensure fewer crowds and better deals. Autumn is a great time to book since ships are returning from Europe and Alaska.
Where to use this advice: Nab a room aboard a Royal Caribbean International ship and take a cruise of New England and eastern Canada, both of which have distinctive natural features and historical charm. And lets face it; you’re bound to find a kick-ass lobster bake at one of the ports. You can simply relax and take in the oceanic views, retreat to the library or card room, or enjoy spa treatments catered specifically to men. Or you can get active: try zip lining, rock climbing, and boxing before exploring the ports.
But if you want to splurge and feel like—well, royalty—then push your vacation back to November. Quantum class ships are equipped with SeaPlex, the largest indoor active space at sea, where you can roller skate, drive bumper cars, and shoot hoops. You can also stand within a jewel-shaped capsule (think, the London Eye) that ascends up to 300 feet above sea level so you can ensure a bird’s eye view of your surroundings. Feeling really crazy? Fly—yes, fly—in the RipCord by iFly sky diving simulator and experience land, sea, and air aboard the Royal Caribbean.
Special Deals: Check out royalcaribbean.com for special packages, and for walking tours offered at each individual port.