Beach this fall? You need to ask yourself these 5 questions first.
You've heard me say it before:
Fall is the season of deals at the beach.
Normally, the crowds are smaller, traffic is lighter, beaches are quieter, and beach-front condo prices are slashed. The weather is also amazing in the fall, as in... it won't melt your face off. You know, you can walk in the sand without needing skin grafts afterwards.
But before you make those terrific plans for the beach this fall, you should do a little research. Asking yourself these 5 questions (before solidifying your amazing fall beach itinerary) will make you a well-informed traveler. Not to mention, it will save you time and money.
Ask yourself these important questions.
1. Specifically, what kind of trip am I wanting?
Is it a girls' getaway? A couple's romantic retreat? A guys' trip? A family adventure? A homeschooling trip?
What's your goal for this fall beach getaway? Determining that from the get-go will be the most effective way to start trip planning. Decide why you're going and begin searching out the deals for the activities that match your trip.
We're partnering with one of our most favorite white-sands beach destinations on their #KeepOnSummering campaign, so we'll use them as an example: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach (GSOB), Alabama.
Here are some trip ideas and GSOB activities that match. This is how we'd start planning each of these getaways.
For the girls' getaway: Do I want a spa experience? An parasailing adventure? A day paddleboarding on the water? A Bloody-Mary brunch at the Ruby Slipper?
For the couple's romantic retreat: Do I want a sunset dinner cruise? A quiet bike ride along the trail? A local food festival?
For the guys' trip: Do I want a deep-sea fishing charter? A round of golf? A concert?
For the family adventure: Do I want to go zip lining? Zoo? Dolphin cruise?
2. What's the weather going to be like?
This will help you determine what you need to pack and what you should do when you arrive. There's nothing more annoying than going on vacation and having to spend money on a new umbrella when you have fifteen of them at home, you know what I mean?
It's also a traveler's nightmare to have an itinerary full of outdoor activities, only to arrive to gray clouds and rain, with no backup plan. I wasted many hours in hotel rooms desperately searching TripAdvisor and Yelp for alternate ideas when I didn't research weather ahead of time.
3. Speaking of weather, did I ask about cancellation and refund policies?
Granted some of the best deals don't offer refunds on cancellations, but you should be informed nevertheless. What are the policies concerning severe weather for the events you've booked? Will the hotel provide a refund if you have to leave early due or cancel altogether due to severe weather? Does the fishing charter you booked allow you to reschedule or receive a refund for poor weather conditions?
Don't be left surprised and unaware. Ask these questions well in advance of putting down a deposit or booking fee.
4. Should I purchase travel insurance?
Travel insurance is for those "unexpecteds". Okay, so maybe I just made up a word, but you know what I mean.
Hurricane Irma comes out of the blue and makes landfall right on your arrival date. Your baggage gets lost. A medical emergency keeps you from traveling.
Travel insurance always sounds like a waste of money...until you have an unexpected situation and you desperately wish you had bought it.
Consider the cost of travel insurance against the amount you spent booking the trip to determine if it's worth it to you. Does your credit card company offer travel insurance if the trip is booked on the card? No matter what, read the fine print of any travel insurance you purchase to be sure you are getting the coverage that is important to you.
5. Did I check the destination's calendar and the local attraction websites for closures?
In this case, I'd check GSOB's calendar of events. Do I want to be there for the Annual National Shrimp Festival or do I want to visit for a few days when nothing is going on at all? The calendar will help me decide.
Most importantly when traveling during off-season, be sure to view the websites of the attractions you are interested in seeing. Perhaps their days/hours of operation have changed during the non-peak season. Maybe they are closed for the season.
This happened to us on our last trip!
Two weeks ago, I visited a big city in Kentucky. We had hopes of seeing the zoo and the big amusement park while we were there that weekend. When I arrived in town, I realized that the zoo was closing early that weekend for a festival and the amusement park was closed one full day for a private event. Both of those unusual closures were listed on the attraction's websites. I didn't check ahead of time. Instead, I spent way too much time and energy trying to figure out alternate activities -- and learning an important travel lesson, the hard way.
I want to save you the headache, check for closures and events as soon as you know your dates of travel!