Fall foliage fans are eagerly checking leaf-peeping maps right about now. As leaves begin to burst into spectacular colors before succumbing to the cycle of life, millions of people will be descending upon roads, trails, and bike paths across New England and elsewhere in the Northeast to witness one of nature’s most beautiful evolutions. Let them have their fun; Mother Nature doesn’t focus her autumn efforts on just one region of the country, and neither should you. If you’d rather check out underrated but great places to leaf-peep in the United States, read on.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Before the Rockies don their annual winter whites, they sport a golden hue, thanks to the aspen trees that carpet the region. Rocky Mountain National Park features over 900 different plants, creating an even wider array of colors during leaf-peeping season. While you’re soaking in the scenery, keep an ear out for the bugle call of male elks trying to attract female cows; early fall is rutting season for the 3,200-plus elk residing in RMNP.
The Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. A multi-week extravaganza, leaf-peeping season in the Great Smoky Mountains features changing shades of green, gold, red, and yellow that roll slowly down the mountains from peak to base. Step back in time with a trip down the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, or hoof it along five other suggested hiking paths, including the Appalachian Trail, the Alum Cave Trail to Inspiration Point, and Sutton Ridge Overlook.
To find underrated but great places to leaf-peep throughout the United States, click here. To get 5% cash back on reservations and rebates on travel services, check out Travel Plus. Where’s your favorite fall foliage destination? Leave us a reply to let us know.
Tipping is one of the trickier issues in the travel industry. Most people believe in rewarding hospitality workers who provide quality services in hotels, restaurants, and certain types of transportation, but the circumstances and amount often vary wildly from traveler to traveler. There are no hard-and-fast tipping laws, but the following guidelines on how much you should tip while traveling represent a consensus of opinions from several respected sources, including USA Today, Emily Post, AARP, and Consumer Reports:
$0-3 for parking your car; $2-5 when picking it up
A simple “thanks” for opening the door; $1-2 for hailing a cab (an extra $1 if it’s raining); $1-4 for carrying luggage; $1-4 for special services
Nothing for simple services; up to $25 for extra tasks (e.g., finding hard-to-get concert tickets)
$2 for your first bag, $1 for additional bags
$2-3 per guest per night, left each morning in an envelope marked “Housekeeping — Thank You”
Room Service (food)
10% for a regular order; 15-20% for a difficult order; $1-2 if your bill already includes a “service charge”
Room Service (room needs)
$1-3 per item; $5-10 for particularly quick service
Room Service (laundry)
$1-3 per item; $5-10 for quick turnarounds
FYI: “Automatic gratuity” charges are standard at many restaurants, but that may change in January 2014. If you don’t see such a charge on your bill, please tip your waitstaff appropriately.
$1-2 per drink; $5 for a round of drinks; 10-20% if paying a tab at the end of the night
$1 per item
10-15% of the bill; $2-5 for pizza delivery
Host or Maitre d’
Nothing for simple services; $10-20 for special treatment (e.g., finding you a table quickly on a busy night)
No charge for pick-up; 10% for extra service or special orders
$2-5 when you pick up the car
15-20% pre-tax for sitdown service; 10-20% pre-tax for buffet
$1-2 per bag, depending on size
10-20% of the fare
Nothing, although there’s no law against it
$1-2 per person
$5-10 for a ride to the gate; $10-20 if extra services are provided
While tipping isn’t always mandatory, tips often account for the majority of compensation for many hospitality-industry workers, who shouldn’t have to go above and beyond their duties to merit some appreciation. If you’re not sure whether to tip, try imagining a family member in the service provider’s position. If your loved one performed the exact same service for someone else, should he or she fairly expect to receive a tip? If your answer is “yes,” consider tipping for that service yourself.
To help ensure that you can afford to tip hospitality workers appropriately, check out Travel Plus, which offers members 5% cash back on travel reservations and rebates on travel-service charges. And let us know in “Comments” what your tipping policy is.
October in the United States brings shorter days, brisk breezes, colorful leaves, an abundance of Halloween decorations, but few family vacation opportunities. Aside from Columbus Day, schools are generally in session for the entire month, so families with school-aged children don’t have much time to travel (although it’s an ideal vacation time for folks who prefer not to travel with young ones). That doesn’t mean you can’t find places to go and things to do, though. If you’re hoping to get away for a spell (with or without kids), here are a few of the top vacation events in the U.S. this October:
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The International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, NM. The 41st edition of the Fiesta lifts off this October 5-13. Unless you’ve already registered your balloon, you won’t be able to enjoy a ride in the clouds, but the Fiesta is that rare balloon event that allows spectators to walk among the balloons on the ground and mingle with the pilots. If watching balloons soar isn’t your thing, the fiesta offers a wide assortment of other activities to suit virtually every fancy.
The National Apple Harvest Festival, Arendtsville, PA. The festival, held this year on October 5-6 and 12-13, is located midway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Celebrating a favorite fall fruit in its various forms, the festival keeps visitors entertained with over three dozen attractions, from apple art and antique cider presses to pie-baking, pie-eating, and much, much more. And should you need a break from all things apple, Gettysburg is just 10 miles away.
The Major League Baseball Postseason, TBD. October marks the start (and, weather permitting, the end) of the MLB playoff schedule. As of this publishing date, no team had clinched a playoff berth yet, but likely candidates include Boston, Detroit, Oakland, and Texas in the American League, and Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati in the National League. If you want to attend a postseason game, keep an eye on which teams are clinching spots, and act quickly.
From watching unusual flying objects to witnessing unusual forms of apparel, there are vacationoptionsaplenty in October. You’ll also find plenty of ways to save on travel with Travel Plus, from 5% cash back on reservations to rebates on travel perks and more. Where do you want to go this October?
Traveling solo has never been more popular, according to a March 2013 Travel Guard study. For a variety of reasons — life changes, a wider embrace of independent living, an increasing desire to pursue personal interests — there’s been a marked uptick in the number of unaccompanied vacationers. Of course, single people have a built-in edge over group travelers when choosing vacation destinations: They only have to please one person — themselves. If you’re planning to spend some time vacationing by yourself, consider the following vacation spots for solo travelers this fall:
Perth, Australia. Virtually anywhere in Australia is a nice destination for single vacationers, but Perth in springtime (September-November Down Under) is particularly appealing. The wildflowers are in bloom, the weather’s warming but not hot, the beaches are buzzing, and the nights are alive with culture. Plus, Perth offers a variety of attractions, both in the city and nearby.
Ottawa, Canada. The capital city of our neighbors to the north, Ottawa is a bilingual hotspot for vacationers who love museums and galleries, guided tours of all kinds, cultural entertainment, outdoor fun, and simple country fare. (Or you could take a different approach to your visit.)
Malaysia. Adventurous solitary trekkers will enjoy Malaysia, a country about the size of New Mexico in Southeast Asia. With territory on both the Malay Peninsula and the island of Borneo, Malaysia offers coastal resorts, the oldestrainforest on the planet, and a variety of mountains. Tourists can also explore the Mulu Caves, a rehabilitation center for orangutans, the Cameron Highlands, and an assortment of other attractions. (Just keep an eye on the weather if you want to avoid the monsoon.)