In Defense of the Off-Season Road Trip
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In Defense of the Off-Season Road Trip

Car driving on road in Europe
Christian Kerber

We’re fast approaching the time of year when the word “travel” seems like it might as well have four letters. 

Thanksgiving. Hanukkah. Kwanzaa. Christmas. New Year’s Eve. In those sparkling, festive words, some of us start to hear the following: “Traffic.” “Airport.” “Flight delays.” “Mad stress.”

So even though summer is over, leaf-peeping is on the wane, and we’re all gearing up for the big family (or solo) trips of the year, we’d like to posit a defense of the off-season road trip. Thanksgiving isn’t yet here. November is still beautiful in much of this fine country. So get out of town, because this is one of the best and under-celebrated times to take little road trips. Why?

Cheap hotel rooms

Just because the bloom is off the foliage in New England doesn’t mean it’s not still around in much of that part of the country. One favorite industrial-design chic boutique hotel—the Porches Inn at Mass MOCA, adjacent to the sprawling contemporary art museumlowered its rates on November 1st right through the spring, meaning you can save a full 50 to 90 bucks a night on your stay. (Tip: Check out the outdoor hot tub.) And that doesn’t only apply to New England: At Philadelphia’s gorgeous Morris House Hotel, the same room that goes for $429 on New Year’s Eve goes for $299 on less popular nights. (We snagged a room there one early November weekend for a mere $179.)

Summer tourists are gone

Got places you’d never visit in the high season? Paris in July? Cape Cod in August? New Orleans during Mardi Gras? Go now. You don’t have to battle strangers for baguettes/ oysters/ cocktails, and there’s such joy in exploring an enormously popular museum with no one elbowing you.

Use up stray vacation days

Have you counted up your vacation and personal days correctly? Are you positive the extras roll over into next year? Double-check. If you’ve got a few left, or even one, it’s time to pack up the car, snag a cheap rental, or jump on some public transit and go somewhere new.

There’s greater availability in the off-season

Thanksgiving night is booked up—as is Christmas, as is New Year’s Eve—lots of places, but chances are that cute boutique hotel you’ve been wanting to check out has availability in the off-weekends of November and December. So call. Same goes with fancy restaurants, which are dying to pack tables during slower weekends.

Again, the weather

In New Orleans, you’re looking at mid-60s and low-70s temperatures. In San Francisco, it’s in the mid-60s. Atlanta’s in the high 60s and low 60s. No matter what sort of weather you crave, you can find it somewhere in America right now, during these beautiful transitional months.

Better service

In the same way that many restaurant lovers avoid restaurants during “restaurant week”—when kitchens are slammed and the food is often sub-par—the holidays can be frantic at restaurants and bars. But during a recent meal in Philadelphia, the service was noticeably super-attentive, and it seemed in part because the restaurant wasn’t full: Servers had time to be solicitous.

You need a break before your “break”

Let’s admit it: Family time can be stressful. If you celebrate Thanksgiving or a winter holiday, the likelihood of quality time with your nearest and dearest is high. Sometimes you need a little treat before the long stretches of small talk, gluttony, and snowflake sweaters.

Think of the long weekend as an early holiday gift—to yourself.

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