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The 8 best places to visit for an October vacation

Times are tough for travelers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation, or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

When is your favorite time to travel? For many adventurers, getting away from home is best when crowds are sparse, temperatures are mild and the price of accommodations is reasonable. That might sound like fantasy, but this magical period does exist. It’s called shoulder season, and if you’re planning to travel in the fall, you’re right on time for it. If weren’t already searching for the best places to travel to in October, now is the time to start.

There are many reasons why October is an optimal time to vacation. If you’re in the mountains, an October getaway will fill your views with a dazzling change of color as fall foliage transitions to autumn hues. In beachside locales, October is the bridge between summer’s heat and the winter rainy season. And, as the world begins to reopen for travel, October is an amazing month to begin re-exploring international destinations that have lost crowds after the summer rush.

Our picks for the best travel destinations in October:

A lake reflects red, yellow, and orange fall trees. See the leaves change colors in one of these best destinations to travel to in October

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Disclaimer: Travel restrictions within the United States are changing across county, state and federal lines. Local governments have begun reducing mandates, but potential regulations may still exist. Check current CDC guidelines before booking travel. Additionally, if you’re planning to visit an international destination, be sure to check the latest requirements.

Mountainous locales to visit in October

Autumn is an amazing time to be a traveler. Temperatures couldn’t be more pleasant for outdoor experiences, making it an ideal time to go leaf peeping and even spot wildlife on the move. With fall foliage turning vibrant shades, these high-altitude destinations are some of the best October places to visit.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Although Jackson Hole is known for some of the best skiing in America, winter visits can be crowded and expensive. Summer trips face similar issues as visitors flock by the RV-load to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Instead, consider visiting this gateway town in October. The colors are delightful, the temperature is reasonable and there is more to do around this “off-season” village than you might expect.

Start with a foray into the changing autumn landscape of the Teton mountain range. Orange and yellow aspens wave radial leaves in greeting as moose roam and elk echo throaty calls across miles of hiking trails. Regional tour bureaus offer horseback-riding opportunities through cowboy terrain. The Wild West might not sound like the place for good sushi, but local restaurants like Suda Izakaya flip that notion upside down. This is one unique place to visit in October.

An old wooden barn surrounded by yellow trees with looming grey mountains in the background

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Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia

This year, West Virginia became the site of America’s newest national park. However, it’s the much older town of Harper’s Ferry that remains one of the best mountain destinations to visit in October.

Because it sits where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet (and among the Blue Ridge Mountains), Harper’s Ferry is a lush area where the tree colors rival even the most vivid of New England autumns. Hike the famed Appalachian Trail and don’t miss the Maryland Heights Trail, where a popular overlook offers incredible views of Harper’s Ferry and the confluence of the rivers below. The town also boasts a storied abolitionist history and offers an abundance of museums for travelers to learn from. Best of all, this destination is only a one-hour drive from Washington, DC or Baltimore.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Glenwood Springs is at the intersection of outdoor adventure and waterside wonders. The small pioneer town is home to the world’s largest natural hot spring pool, and October is an exceptional time to take a dip. This luxurious mountain retreat may sound difficult to reach but it’s only a short drive from Denver, Grand Junction or Aspen.

After arriving at Glenwood, you’ll want to head right toward one of the hot springs. The larger pool (a balmy 90° F / 32° C) is 405 feet long and more than 100 feet wide—perfect for social distancing. A smaller therapy pool runs over 100° Fahrenheit! After your soak, you’ll be ready to take on an afternoon hike, bike or kayak trip through the Colorado landscape. (Or, continue resting around the pool—this is a judgment-free zone!) In the evenings, join fellow spring-goers in the annual mountaintop Ghost Walk.

A red brick building overlooking a large steaming hot spring pool

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Oceanside places to visit for an October vacation

If you love the outdoors but can’t stand to watch summer slide into the colder seasons, then these destinations are for you. Keep your beach days going just a bit longer with a trip to one of these wavy locales.

San Diego, California

San Diego is a beach town known for surf, sand and sightseers. Spring is rainy and summer is busy, making October a special time to visit what is aptly described as America’s Finest City.

With an average high temperature of 74°F, sunny beach days are still an option in autumnal Southern California. However, that’s not the only reason to visit in October. Some might say that San Diego has a spooky sife, as much of the city (including the San Diego Aquarium, public parks and Legoland) become decked out in Halloween festivities. Even the city’s famed waterfront gets in on the spooky spirit.

Still, if you’re coming for the beach vibes instead of some Hallow’s Eve excitement, dive into Tacos El Gordo, grab a beer from one of dozens of top-notch craft breweries and enjoy the sunshine.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia may not be the warm and sandy vacation that San Diego is; however, the national park does have a lot to offer, especially if you’re hoping to see famous fall colors and gorgeous beaches all at once. There are 155 miles of hiking trails for outdoor adventurers who want to explore the park on foot. Additionally, the fare-free Island Explorer bus operates complimentary rides for travelers hoping to stay off their feet. October visitors can also find a comfortable middle ground between the two with numerous bike paths and horse-drawn carriages to enjoy.

While you’re there, don’t miss out on the state’s well-known foodie delights, like Maine lobster, freshly caught fish and local mussels and clams. Pack your bags already!

A brown cliff overlooks red, yellow, and orange trees with an ocean in the distance.

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Kauai, Hawaii

October is considered peak shoulder season in Kauai. Yet, it might feel like summer still once you’ve arrived. The average low is a pleasant 60°F while highs often top 80°F. Kauai is a rainy island, but you’ll be thankful for it once you see the incredible waterfalls and rugged mountains that are carved along the NaPali Coast. This is truly one of the best places to visit in October.

Like most of the October travel spots on this list, Kauai is an outdoor paradise. Waimea Canyon is a natural wonder that offers travelers a glimpse into the geological past, and professional helicopter tours give sightseers a bird’s-eye view of the island’s dramatic present-day landscape. Whether you came to hike or to camp out on a beach chair in the shallows, Kauai is an October vacation that will feel like anything but autumn.

turquoise blue ocean meets the green mountains. Kauai, Hawaii is one of the best places to travel to in October

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Destinations for an international autumn adventure

The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations are increasing across the world, and Americans can finally place international travel back on their itinerary. Several countries have begun easing restrictions on leisure passengers from the US, and these are two that we are most excited to visit again. As always, remember to check out specific travel requirements and book flexible travel for a worry-free trip.

Andalusia, Spain

Spain has reopened to American travelers with a few stipulations. First, visitors to Spain must be fully treated with an approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to arriving in the country. Proper and official documentation is required. Following your travel booking, tourists must head to Spain Travel Health to generate a unique QR code that will act as a second verification while traveling. Full vaccination means no testing or quarantine requirements for visitors!

Now that the specifics are clear, you can begin dreaming up your trip to the Andalusia region of Spain. October is one of the best months to visit, thanks to warm weather and low rainfall. Within this temperate region, wanderers can reach popular destinations such as Granada and Sierra Nevada National Park. Rent a car for a fun road trip (which is also great for social distancing!) to make this is an October vacation like no other.

When in Granada, the Alhambra Palace (and its many flowing water fountains) are a must see. Situated in a crux of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Río Darro, the 13th-century Moorish citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site often described as “paradise.” For something more upscale, follow the road to the city of Marbella, where the beachside vistas of Costa del Sol await. Marbella is filled with deluxe dining experiences, including multiple Michelin-star eateries. Establishments such as Restaurante Skina and Messina Restaurante are top of the list, among many others.

The Bahamas

Visiting the Bahamas comes with fewer requirements than in Spain. American leisure travelers can enter the country with either proof of full vaccination (no less than two weeks old) or with a negative PCR test taken within 5 days of departure. With one of the two, your relaxing October beach trip is only a flight away.

October is a special time to visit islands like Grand Bahama and Nassau. Normally, these locales are cruise ship central, but with fewer ships on the water in 2021, visitors can see the islands in a fresh light. Shop on Bay Street or at the Straw Market, or lounge on the white sands of Cable Beach.

If you’re looking for more adventure, hop a catamaran to Exuma Cays Land & Sea Park, the first marine preserve in all of the Caribbean. Pigs still don’t fly down there, but they do enjoy a refreshing swim. With a good set of snorkeling gear, you’ll see even more wildlife than that.

A brown wood dock extends into green blue waters. The Bahamas is one of the best places to travel to in October

Read more: Latest travel news: Where Americans can travel now and more

The best place to visit in October? Wherever you decide!

From mountains full of fall foliage to beaches devoid of traditional crowds, these October travel destinations are your ticket to a shoulder season escape. Be sure to double-check your destination’s coronavirus requirements before you book. And, join the Skyscanner newsletter to get fresh ideas, deals and destinations delivered right to your inbox.

Discover where you can go now

Making plans to get back out there? Find out where borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

A white and orange map of the best places to visit in october

FAQs

What makes October a good time to travel?

There are many reasons why traveling in October is a good idea. In many destinations, the weather is changing during the month of October, giving wayfarers the chance to see natural landscapes bursting in hot colors and cool temperatures. Plus, the best places to visit in October are often experiencing a low travel period known as shoulder season.

What is shoulder season?

Shoulder season is a travel term that means lighter crowds and (often) more affordable accommodations. Destinations experience shoulder season in the timeframe between peak tourist periods when the weather is changing and fewer people are visiting. In many of the best places to visit, October is peak shoulder season!

How will COVID affect my October travel?

As the world continues vaccination efforts against COVID-19, October is looking to be a great time for travel. However, it’s always important to double-check the potential travel restrictions of your intended destination. Skyscanner offers many tools to protect your travel plans, including flexible ticket options for flight reservations and COVID-cleanliness ratings for your accommodations.

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Information in this article was last updated on June 21, 2021.