The shoulder season refers to early spring and late fall – times of the year when there isn’t as much traffic and popular tourist towns aren’t as busy and bustling.
Shoulder season is a perfect time to go on a road trip because you’ll avoid a lot of road congestion and won’t have to deal with marked-up prices in tourist trap areas.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about harsh winter weather or uncomfortably hot summer vacations.
Whether you’re ready to climb into the RV and hit the road or you’re driving solo in a classic car, traveling during shoulder season lets you enjoy all of the benefits of certain seasonal locations without the hustle and bustle that typically goes with them.
But, what are the best shoulder season road trips? Where should you be heading to get the most out of your time away, and how can you prepare ahead of time to make your trip easier?
Know Where to Go
Not all road trips are created equally. Knowing where to go in the “off-season” can make a big difference. The sooner you decide on a destination, the easier it will be to start planning, which can help to keep your stress levels low. Planning a vacation can actually be good for your mental health when it’s done the right way.
Some of the best road trip locations for shoulder season include
- Napa Valley
- Yellowstone National Park
- The Gulf Coast
- Lake Placid
- The Finger Lakes (New York)
Seeing a pattern?
Many shoulder season favorites are destinations that are extremely busy in the summer.
Heading to any coastal or beach town in the early spring or late fall will help you avoid crowds and higher prices.
Visiting National Parks like Yellowstone is also great during shoulder season as you’ll have more time (and beautiful weather) to walk around, explore, and learn.
Don’t limit yourself to the popular parks. Consider making a list of interesting National Parks you’d like to visit and cross them off your list one by one!
How to Plan Ahead
The nice thing about shoulder season road trips is that it’s unlikely you’ll have to deal with inclement weather. Depending on where you’re going, you should be able to avoid things like ice and snow, so you won’t have to worry about preparing your vehicle for those elements.
However, whether you’re taking a car or RV, it’s important to plan ahead and prepare your vehicle for your trip in advance. If your current car is unreliable or on the verge of breaking down, make sure you get either repair it or buy a new one before heading out on a long trip.
Even if your vehicle is in good shape, it’s worth it to visit a mechanic before your trip to make sure everything is in working order. A trusted mechanic will check things like:
- Fluid levels
Once your car is properly tuned up, it’s up to you to make sure you have everything you need for a successful trip.
That will vary from person to person, but it’s always a good rule of thumb to have a first-aid kit in your vehicle, as well as some emergency food and water, a flashlight and batteries, flares, and extra clothes in case you get stranded somewhere.
Shoulder season traveling isn’t for everyone.
If you have kids, they’ll usually be in school during most shoulder season months.
However, it’s great for singles, couples, retirees, or anyone looking to take a “break” from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives without dealing with winter weather or the craziness of summer travel.
Consider these shoulder season destinations and prepare yourself for some classic road trip fun along the way.