For most people, the month of October means hot apple cider, crisp autumn air, and fun Halloween festivities. For the travel lover planning their next fall vacation, however, October means cheap flights, discounted hotel rooms, and fewer crowds in the places they’ve always wanted to visit.
With everyone back in school or at work, even some of the US’s most popular and most expensive destinations become affordable getaways in October. Whether you’re looking for beautiful fall foliage, spooky guided tours, or a luxurious beachfront hotel room, there are plenty of ways to save money if you know where to look.
To help you take full advantage of the incredible travel deals that the month of October brings, we put together a list of America’s best budget friendly places to visit in October.
Honolulu, Hawaii’s beautiful capital, is located on the south shore of Oahu. The city is known for everything from beautiful beach resorts to historic landmarks and everything in between. Though Hawaii isn’t normally considered to be one of the cheapest places to travel to, October is actually one of the best times to visit Honolulu on a budget.
Oahu is the most affordable island to visit year-round but if you really want to save big, plan your vacation for the fall months, when the massive summer crowds have long since left the famous beaches of Waikiki. October is an especially great time to visit Honolulu, as airfare and hotel room rates are at their lowest prices of the year before spiking back up for the winter holidays.
Getting out into nature is always a great way to preserve your travel budget and that’s incredibly easy to do in Hawaii. To save money, take advantage of Honolulu’s breathtaking natural landscape by visiting the Hanauma Bay Nature Reserve or hiking to the top of Diamond Head, one of Hawaii’s most famous landmarks.
San Francisco, California
Believe it or not, the fall months are actually the warmest time of year in San Francisco. In October, the average daytime temperature hovers around the high 60s to low 70s, making for ideal sightseeing weather. October is also a great time of year for outdoor festivals in San Francisco, such as the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and the donation-based Castro Street Fair.
Despite being known as America’s most expensive city, it’s still possible to have a great time in San Francisco on a budget. Some of the city’s most famous attractions, like the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and the massive Golden Gate Park, are always free to visit.
Boston is a premier fall vacation destination. At this time of year, the New England air is wonderfully crisp, the leaves are changing from green to gold and crimson, and the city is fully energized, as fall is the only time of year when all four teams are active in this sports-crazed town.
If you’re visiting during October, you’ll enjoy having fewer tourists around while you walk the famous 2.5 mile Freedom Trail and learn about Boston’s rich history. It’s completely free to walk the trail alone, but consider signing up for a guided pay-what-you-wish tour with Boston By Foot. Or, if you’re in the spooky Halloween spirit, October is a perfect time to take their Beacon Hill Crime tour.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Don’t let the cobblestone streets and colorful Spanish colonial architecture of Old San Juan fool you. The charming, tropical paradise of Puerto Rico is a US territory, meaning you won’t need to worry about currency exchanges or passports when visiting.
Though San Juan is a year-round vacation destination, the hurricane season (June to November) brings room rates and airfare down drastically, with October offering the lowest room rates of the year. If you’re looking to visit Puerto Rico on a budget, you’ll get the best bang for your buck in October, when beachfront rooms can be had at a fraction of the cost.
Once you’re in San Juan, there are plenty of free and budget friendly activities. History buffs will be enthralled by the historic San Cristobal and El Morro fortresses while nature lovers will appreciate the white sand beaches of Isla Verde and the towering canopy of El Yunque – the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest Service.
You might think of Denver as a premier winter destination along the lines of Salt Lake City or Vail, but the fall months are actually one of the best times to visit Denver.
In October, Denver hotel rooms are cheaper, tourist crowds are smaller, and the crisp weather is perfect for hiking. October is also when visitors can attend one of the city’s massively popular fall festivals or, if you’re in the Halloween spirit, attend the annual Denver Zombie Crawl.
In our budget travel guide to Denver, we noted that the city is absolutely filled with cheap and free things to do year-round. Whether you’re into brewery and distillery tours, antique treasure hunting, or just enjoying the great outdoors, there are countless ways to enjoy Denver on the cheap.
San Diego, California
While warm weather and October’s low hotel room rates make San Diego a great fall vacation spot, the truth is that there’s really not a bad time to visit San Diego on a budget. In Fact, thanks to its near-flawless year-round weather, San Diego also made it on our list of best places to visit in July.
Thanks to October weather that averages temperatures in the 70s, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get outside on your trip. Whether you hike the scenic trails of the Torrey Pines State Reserve, visit the countless free attractions within Balboa Park, or just want to kick back on Mission Beach, you’re guaranteed plenty of budget friendly fun.
If you’re visiting San Diego with a family, be sure to take full advantage of Kids Free San Diego, a promotion that allows kids to eat, play, stay for free at over 100 hotels, attractions, and restaurants all October long.
Similar to Puerto Rico, Miami’s low hotel prices in October can be best attributed to the Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June to November. Of course, plenty of people still visit in October and if you’re one of them, you’ll enjoy warm weather, less crowded beaches, and some of the city’s premier festivals. If you are willing to risk rain for big savings, you should consider buying travel insurance from a company that covers things like trip cancellations and delays, such as SafetyWing.
In October, the South Beach Seafood Festival invites you to stuff your face with Florida stone crabs until your heart is content. Then, head over the famous Little Havana neighborhood and cool off with some café con leche ice cream from the famous Azucar Ice Cream Company.
For more free and cheap ways to live it up in the Magic City, be sure to check out our guide to visiting Miami on a budget.
Located just a short train ride from New York City, Washington, D.C. is one of the East Coast’s best travel destinations. And when it comes to the best time to visit DC, October is right up there alongside the famous cherry blossom season.
During this shoulder season, the throngs of tourists have dispersed and the summer heat is long gone. In the fall, the leaves are changing and the weather is cool enough that you can take your time walking along the National Mall without breaking ever a sweat. If you do begin to feel chilly, simply duck into any of the area’s countless free museums.
If you want to get into the Halloween spirit while visiting DC, check out the always spooky pay-what-you-wish Ghosts of Georgetown and Ghost of the White House tours offered by DC By Foot. Or, for a more family-friendly celebration, grab tickets to The National Zoo’s annual Boo at the Zoo event, which offers a trick or treat bag, 40+ treat stations, and after-hours access to animal houses and exhibits.
Still not sure which free attractions to visit first? Check out our Washington, D.C. budget travel guide where we break down the best budget friendly things to see, eat, and do in DC.
Start Planning Your Fall Vacation
Whether you’re looking for a tropical island getaway or a place to enjoy the crisp autumn air, October is the perfect time to finally experience somewhere new. And by taking advantage of shoulder season deals on hotel rooms, embracing the cooler weather, and signing up for free cheap flight alerts, you’ll be able to save big on your next fall vacation.
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BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.