Why This Shoulder Season Is an Especially Good Time to Travel

National gas prices are—finally—on the decline

Woman hiking at Artist's Bluff in autumn
haveseen / Getty Images

After a costly few months for summer travelers, it looks like there's finally an end to the chaos—and just in time for shoulder season, too, when airports and tourist attractions are less crowded, and airfare and accommodation are more affordable.

For starters, the national average price for a gallon of gas has fallen to $3.703 as of Sept. 14, 2022, down 26 cents from August's average and $1.313 from the highest-ever recorded average price on June 14, 2022. The American Automobile Association (AAA) chalks this up to a combination of "lower oil prices, modest domestic gasoline demand, and a quiet hurricane season."

"According to weather analysts, it's the first time in 25 years that a named Atlantic storm did not develop in August. That's the good news," Andrew Gross, AAA spokesperson, said in a statement. "But we still have another month of peak hurricane season, and these storms can affect gas prices by disrupting oil production and refining."

For those looking to plan a leaf-peeping road trip around the U.S., the timing couldn't be better, as New England's famed fall foliage is usually at its peak at the beginning of October. And most of the region's states—Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine—have seen some of the most significant weekly decreases in gas prices, according to a recent study by AAA, with Vermont experiencing a drop of 15 cents and both Connecticut and Rhode Island reporting a 14-cent decline last week.

But if you're eager to go far, far away, airfare is expected to drop, too. A new study by Expedia predicts that flights to popular destinations across the U.S. and abroad will see a significant drop in average prices compared to summer travel between May 31 and Sept. 4., with domestic travel the week of Sept. 26 forecasted to be 45 percent cheaper and international travel the week of Oct. 10 about 20 percent less expensive.

"Fall is right around the corner, and while many are looking forward to breaking out their favorite boots and pumpkin bread recipes, autumn also means big travel savings," Christie Hudson, head of U.S. public relations for Expedia, said in a statement. "Many destinations are more affordable than they've been in months, making it the perfect time to have an authentic Oktoberfest experience in Munich or swap out the faux foliage for the real deal in New England."

For a city escape, flights to Seattle and Los Angeles are down 45 percent and 35 percent, respectively, while a plane ticket to Barcelona or London will cost you 30 or 20 percent less on average. And, if you aren't ready to let summer go, you can plan a trip to Cancun, with flights to the sunny Mexican city 10 percent cheaper than they were earlier in the year, according to Expedia.

However, Expedia cautions that searches for fall trips are up by 40 percent compared to last year. So if you want to save the most, they recommend flying out on a Tuesday or Wednesday. "If you can travel early-to-midweek instead of over the weekend, you can typically save on both airfare and hotel nightly rates," Hudson told Travel + Leisure, adding that travelers should also book their trips ASAP.

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  1. AAA. "Gas Prices." Accessed September 14, 2022.

  2. AAA. "Slip Sliding Away: Gas Prices Keep Easing As Fall Approaches." September 6, 2022.

  3. AAA. "Slip Sliding Away: Gas Prices Keep Easing As Fall Approaches." September 6, 2022.

  4. PR Newswire. "Search for Fall Getaways Is Up 40 Percent As Americans Welcome Sweater Weather—and Its Savings, Expedia Reports." August 25, 2022.

  5. PR Newswire. "Search for Fall Getaways Is Up 40 Percent As Americans Welcome Sweater Weather—and Its Savings, Expedia Reports." August 25, 2022.