With long-distance travel off the table for many, now is the time to visit a close-to-home destination you’ve always wanted to see, or perhaps it is finally time to plan that cross-country road trip to a national park. US travelers are eager to get out of town and exploring close-to-home can be just as fun and rewarding as traveling to a faraway place.
Destinations that emphasize plenty of outdoor activities will be your safest bet right now and you’ll want to read up on travel restrictions before you go. Consider locations and crowds when booking places to stay and travel with plenty of pandemic essentials such as sanitizer, wipes, and extra masks.
Here are our favorite late summer and fall destinations that provide numerous options for outdoor fun plus plenty of room to escape the crowds.
Between the middle of September and early October, the quaking aspens in the mountains surrounding Aspen, Colorado are aglow in vibrant gold and yellow colors. These weeks are prime for fall color viewing, plus it is also a wonderful time for golfing, fishing, hiking, and mountain biking adventures. The Maroon Bells Scenic Area provides an incredible background for capturing images of fall foliage and the winding road over Independence Pass offers some of the best roadside views in all of Colorado.
Sedona, Arizona has always been a wildly popular destination for nature lovers looking to relax and regenerate, which is what a lot of us could use after these past few months of stay-at-home orders and pandemic stress. Sedona’s stunning red rock scenery and contrasting greenery can have a powerful healing effect and there are plenty of places to practice safe social distancing in this wide expanse of desert.
Yellowstone National Park
Fall is one of the best times to visit Yellowstone National Park. Kids are back in school and the summer crowds have scattered leaving behind more affordable accommodations and campground availability. Plus without the typical tour bus travelers and swaths of international visitors, this fall will be a particularly enjoyable time to visit.
With plenty of wide-open spaces to explore and pleasant fall temperatures, Amarillo, Texas makes for an excellent destination on the Texas Panhandle. You can visit Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States, explore the iconic sites along Historic Route 66, or go horseback riding, hiking, camping, biking, or just enjoy the expansive views unique to this part of Texas.
Seaside, Oregon is a small resort town on the North Oregon Coast with miles of sandy beach, a long coastal boardwalk, and plenty of quaint cafes with views of the sea. Seaside also marks the end of the trail for the Lewis and Clark expedition and several historical sites are scattered throughout the city including a bronze statue in the middle of the promenade and the Lewis and Clark Salt Cairn Historic Monument.
Custer, South Dakota
Fall is a fantastic time to travel to the Black Hills of South Dakota. You can visit iconic attractions such as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, and Custer State Park or mountain bike parts of the 111-mile Centennial Trail. Sylvan Lake is where you’ll find the best fall colors and the hike to Harney Peak is a must-do.
Traverse City, Michigan
This small town in northern Michigan is a delight to visit in late summer and fall. There are more than 40 wineries along the Traverse Wine Coast to explore and numerous orchards allow you to pick your own apples, cherries, pears, and more. The nearby Sleeping Dunes National Lakeshore offers many miles of hiking trails, campgrounds, and interesting landmarks including the South Manitou Island Lighthouse and several historic farmsteads.
Known as the gateway to Smokey Mountain National Park, Gatlinburg has much to offer the adventurous traveler. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, Class-IV whitewater rafting, ziplining, world-class golfing, and plenty of fishing hot spots, Gatlinburg is quickly becoming one of America’s top outdoor destinations. Throughout October, Gatlinburg and the Smoky Mountains put on a spectacular show of fall foliage
Bar Harbor, Maine
September and October are some of the best times to visit Bar Harbor, Maine. There are fewer crowds in Acadia National Park as well as on the streets in downtown Bar Harbor and whales are frequently seen along the coast on their way south to warmer seas. The air can turn a bit chilly this time of year, but you’ll still be able to enjoy a feast of lobsters, mussels, and clam chowder out on the patio of one of Mount Desert Island’s many oceanfront dining options.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
This bustling summer beach destination quiets down by early September making it one of the best times to visit. The weather is a bit cooler, but the water is still warm and the fishing is at its peak. Weekly vacation rental rates drop significantly in September and October and it will be much easier to socially distance on the beach.
Do I Need Travel Insurance For Domestic Travel?
Many travelers only consider travel insurance when it comes to overseas travel, but few are aware of how beneficial travel insurance can be when planning trips closer to home.
Even if you’re not flying, travel insurance can protect you if something goes wrong on your vacation, and given the uncertainty that still remains surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, having a little extra insurance can give you the reassurance you need to finally plan that trip.
Here are the top benefits for domestic travel insurance:
Trip Cancellation and Trip Interruption
Even the best-planned domestic trips may need to be canceled at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. A domestic travel insurance plan can provide reimbursement for any pre-paid, non-refundable expenses if you need to cancel your trip prior to departure or if your trip gets cut short because of an unexpected event covered by the plan. This covers travel expenses such as non-refundable airline tickets, hotel deposits, prepaid tours, and other non-refundable activities.
Trip cancellation and trip interruption insurance only reimburse trip expenses for events that are considered unforeseen and unexpected and each insurance company provides a list of covered reasons. Reasons often include serious illness or death of a family member, job loss, unexpected weather events such as hurricanes, military obligations, and jury duty.
Cancel For Any Reason Coverage
Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) is usually available as an upgrade on most standard domestic travel insurance plans and unlike standard plans, CFAR coverage will reimburse you for a portion of your trip costs if you cancel for any reason. Considering the uncertainty of how COVID-19 may affect future domestic travel, adding on CFAR coverage is a good idea if you have concerns about traveling during COVID-19.
Depending on the plan, CFAR coverage can reimburse up to 75% of non-refundable costs. This type of coverage must be purchased within a set number of days, typically within 10 to 21 days from your first trip payment and trips must be canceled within 2-3 days of travel in order to be covered.
Emergency Medical Coverage
Even when traveling domestically, it’s a good idea to contact your health insurance company to make sure you’ll be covered in the region you are traveling to. Many health insurance companies provide out-of-network emergency care but may have limited coverage for hospitalization and other services. Emergency medical coverage that is included in a travel insurance policy is like having a secondary health insurance policy; it provides supplemental coverage and may help cover items denied by your primary health insurance.
Additional baggage coverage is one of the best benefits of domestic travel insurance. This goes above and beyond the coverage provided by an airline and may also cover having goods lost or stolen goods from hotels and rental cars.