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It’s the happiest season of all for many travelers: shoulder season. This blissful period of the year is marked by temperate weather, fewer crowds at popular destinations, and (most importantly) big savings on travel as many people return to school and work. If you’ve been saving your vacation days, shoulder season is a great time to use them.
Priceline recently ran the numbers on the most popular summer destinations and compared average summer hotel prices to shoulder season rates. Travelers can save as much as 40% by visiting some locations during the fall instead.
Here are the destinations where Priceline found the biggest drops in hotel prices:
1. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This family-friendly golf haven and beach town has incredible savings during the shoulder season, when the average daily rate at hotels is only $107 per night, according to Priceline. Compared to an average rate of $181 during the summer, that’s 41% off.
When we checked prices, the Caravelle Resort, Crown Reef Resort and Carolina Winds Resort were offering hotel deals with a third night for just $1. There are still plenty of things to do in and around Myrtle Beach this fall, too, like the Pawleys Island Festival of Music & Art or the Myrtle Beach Seafood Festival.
» Learn more: How to find free and cheap things to do in any city
2. Ocean City, Maryland
There are two reasons to visit Ocean City in autumn: a shorter line for the famous Thrasher’s fries on the boardwalk and savings of 35% on your hotel this season. While summer rates usually hover around $233 per night, fall prices average just $152 per night, according to Priceline's research.
Plus, summer in Ocean City doesn’t end until Sunfest, an annual September celebration featuring music, kids activities and a kite festival on the sand.
3. Orange Beach, Alabama
Visit this Gulf Coast beach town and save almost $100 daily on average hotel prices. Usually, summer daily rates are $269, but in shoulder season average prices drop to $177, Priceline found.
The cooler weather makes exploring nearby Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail more comfortable, too. You can traverse more than 15 miles of trails on foot or by bike, and maybe even spot an alligator.
4. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Hotels in Virginia Beach will run you about $210 per night during the summer. But during shoulder season, you can expect to see average daily rates around $150, according to Priceline.
You can’t miss the big bronze Neptune presiding over Virginia Beach. The king of the sea gets his day in the shoulder season, when the annual Neptune Festival in late September boasts a parade, regatta, arts and craft show, 5K, music performances and the North American Sandsculpting Competition.
5. Wailea, Hawaii
It’s no secret that Hawaii is a tropical paradise any time of year. But visiting this high-end resort town in Maui between the busy summer tourist rush and the heaps of holiday-goers could save you almost $140 per night on average, Priceline found.
In shoulder season, average hotel rates dip to $403 per night, compared to summer’s $542. Treat yourself to a stay at the luxurious Grand Wailea Resort, which is running a special fifth-night-free offer on select dates through the end of the year. They have a stunning beach and a new three-story lava tube slide. (Note that most pools and slides will be closed for a week in late September while they’re being resurfaced, so plan your trip accordingly.)
6. Newport, Rhode Island
Newport used to be a summer getaway for the mega-wealthy during the Gilded Age. These days, you can visit without paying for an opulent “summer cottage” mansion.
The summer average daily rate is about $298, but Priceline found that you can save just over 20% during shoulder season when the rate falls to $237. While you’re there, try grape-stomping during the Newport Vineyards’ annual Harvest Festival.
7. Clearwater Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach is known for white-sand beaches and beautiful sunsets, and you might even find a hotel where you can optimize your travel rewards there. If you’re not using your points to book, shoulder season rates are pretty affordable at $185 per night on average, compared to $231 during the summer, according to Priceline.
» Learn more: Why Clearwater Beach should be your next beach vacation
8. Edinburgh, Scotland
Thought this list was all U.S. beaches? Edinburgh, Scotland, made the list, too, with a 19% drop in average hotel prices during shoulder season. Priceline found the average daily rate during the fall is only $163, compared to $200 during the summer.
The famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival will have passed, but so will the crowds. Instead, travelers will be treated to beautiful fall foliage and events as part of the International Storytelling Festival. You might even catch the fireworks for Guy Fawkes Night on Nov. 5.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: