Hit the Road

Four major airline carriers control almost 85 percent of all air travel in the United States, and it’s leading to fewer flights, higher airfares, and less choice for travelers — not to mention the increasingly frustrating hassle of getting through airport security.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should stay at home. Fall is a fabulous season in which to travel, with the weather often ideal, fewer crowds and, of course, the opportunity to view spectacular autumn colors in many locations. Why not go on a road trip instead?

Necessary preparations

Make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape before you leave. AAA recommends the following:

  • Check your windshield washer and wiper fluids.
  • Inspect the belts, hoses, and fluids: including coolant, oil, and transmission fluid levels.
  • Check tire condition, and make sure they are not worn or damaged and have proper inflation. AAA advises checking tires when cold, and using pressures placed in the driver’s door jam.
  • How old is your battery? The normal life of a battery is three to five years, and you can take it into almost any auto center to check its charging capability.
  • Is your insurance up to date? Confirm it is active, and your premiums are current. You should also have a current copy of your insurance card in the vehicle. If you don’t have it already, consider getting a car insurance quote that includes roadside assistance, which can cover you for towing, fuel delivery, lock-out service, jump starts, and more.

Now, the question that remains is, "Where should you go?" Here are a few ideas to inspire you to get those plans in order.

Taos, N.M.

Taos exemplifies New Mexico’s nickname, “The Land of Enchantment,” and in the autumn, you’ll find it even more enchanting than ever, with splashes of fiery reds, ambers, and golden yellows splashed across the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. This colorful town is the home of numerous artists and galleries featuring traditional art, contemporary fine art, Native American art, Indian Art and Pottery, and much more.

Visit during the last weekend of October, and you find the bright blue skies will be filled with hot air balloons that lift off at sunrise.

Sangre de Christo Mountains-Winter sunset

Photo of Sangre de Cristo by Vivaverdi via Wikimedia Commons

Yosemite National Park, Calif.

Yosemite National Park is just a few hours’ drive east of San Francisco. This is one of the most spectacular, and one of the most popular, parks in the nation, which means hordes of tourists can practically ruin the experience in the summer. But in the fall, you’ll find it much more enjoyable, with peak colors appearing among the Pacific dogwoods, black oaks, and big-leaf maples around mid-October.

In addition to the magnificent scenery, the famous Ahwanee Hotel offers discounted rates during the off-season. Choose from luxurious rooms such as the Mary Curry Tresidder Suite, with its gorgeous four-poster canopy bed. Queen Elizabeth II stayed here in 1993, and ever since, it’s been referred to as “The Queen’s Room.”

Yosemite National Park

Photo of Yosemite from Wikimedia Commons

Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, Wash.

If you’d like to enjoy some of the exciting night life and other cultural activities of the Emerald City as well as awe-inspiring scenery, consider spending some time in Seattle, as well as the Olympic Peninsula. The downtown area is the home of the world-renowned Pike Place Market, a quintessential Seattle experience where local residents come for fresh flowers and seafood, while tourists visit for the entire entertaining scene.

From there, drive your car onto the ferry that embarks on a short journey from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge Island. From there, it’s a scenic hour and a half drive to Olympic National Park. Even during the summer months, this is one of the least-crowded parks in the nation. It isn’t the best for fall foliage, but the scenery is breathtaking nonetheless, with cascading waterfalls around practically every corner, as well as dazzling alpine turquoise lakes surrounded by moss-covered trees. Autumn brings the sounds of the bugling Roosevelt Elk, as well as salmon spawning season, when visitors can watch the Coho salmon leap across the Sol Duc River. Afterwards, take a relaxing soak in the Sol Duc Hot Springs.

HurricaneRidge 7392t

Photo of Olympic National Park's Hurricane Ridge by Wsiegmund via Wikimedia Commons

This Fall: 3 Best Autumn Destinations

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