7 Helpful Tips for a New England Road Trip in the Fall

If you’ve been following us for a while, you’ll know we love road trips. And a New England road trip in the fall has always been high on our USA bucket list.

Tips for a New England road trip in the fall

Back home in Australia our trees are mostly evergreens. And since moving to the USA in 2004, we’d never made it further than New York City.

That was until, last fall, when we road tripped through Vermont and New Hampshire.

In case you don’t know, New England consists of six states; Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

The region offers natural beauty, culture and incredible history and is included on our best road trips in the USA list.

New England Road Trip in the fall - see the Bennington Battle Monument in Vermont
Bennington Battle Monument, Vermont

But when you think of New England, you might think of it’s world famous fall foliage. It’s one of the most popular things to do in New England.

In fact, chasing the New England fall foliage has become so popular people are referred to as “leaf peepers”.

All up we spent a week exploring Vermont, taking in Manchester (one of the best New England towns), the Green Mountain National Forest, driving through covered bridges and along the famous Vermont Route 100.

We also visited Burlington and picturesque Stowe – one of our favorite places to visit in New England.

New England road trip tips - Visit Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, Vermont
Church Street Marketplace, Burlington

Then we had a few days in New Hampshire exploring the White Mountains and Franconia State Park, and drove along the spectacular Kancamagus Scenic Byway (one of the top USA scenic drives)!

Below are our travel tips for planning a New England fall road trip.

1. When to Go on a New England Fall Road Trip

New England Road Trip in the Fall - 7 tips for planning a road trip to see the famous New England fall foliage
Vermont Route 100

If you plan to road trip New England in the fall, typically late September to mid-October is considered the best time to visit New England to see the fall foliage.

But it varies state-by-state.

It can be a bit of a challenge to time your visit for “peak” viewing of the leaves and when they are “popping”. Check out this fall foliage map or this one for a guide.

The changing of the colors is a different show every year due to temperatures and moisture leading up to it, and the leaves begin to change first in the northern most states, Maine peaks first, so keep an eye on Maine then follow their progress down.

family friendly bike ride on the Stowe Recreation Path in Vermont New England (3)
Stowe Recreation Path in Vermont

We were about a week too late to see them really popping in Vermont and New Hampshire, but they were still more beautiful than we’d ever seen before!

Although we only visited Vermont and New Hampshire, we did drive up to New England from our home in North Carolina which took in Connecticut and Massachusetts briefly.

But apparently you can’t go wrong with anywhere in New England in the fall. Just keep in mind that prime leaf peeping conditions often last only a week or two!

2. Booking Accommodation

Wilburton Inn, Manchester, Vermont
Our cottage at Wilburton Inn, Manchester, VT

As mentioned, visiting New England in the fall is popular which means higher prices and booking ahead as much as possible.

Or, if you don’t mind embracing the road trip spirit and booking accommodations on the spot, you can get lucky with last minute deals.

To look for hotels or apartments and guest houses, we start with Booking.com. And also check reviews on Trip Advisor. 

We stayed at the charming cottage at Wilburton Inn in Manchester Vermont.

Wilburton Inn, VT
Wilburton Inn, VT

We also like to use our American Express credit card which accumulates points we can use towards booking hotels through their travel portal as another way to save money.

Tips for Saving Money on Accommodation:

  • Stay More Than 1 Night – many hotels provide their best deals when you stay over more than one night.
  • Stay over Sunday – many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights.
  • Check for Family Deals – Always ask about discounted rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
  • Enrol in a Loyalty Program – Many hotel chains offer free loyalty programs with incentives like earning free rooms after multiple stays. If you travel often and stay at the same chain, or one of its participating partners, you may save on future road trip

3. Renting a Car

Tips for a road trip New England

If you are driving into New England from your home like we did, you’ll obviously have your own car.

But if you live too far away or are flying in from overseas, you’ll need a rental car. 

The best way to visit New England and explore the small towns and scenery is by doing a New England road trip.

If flying in, the obvious starting point is Boston.

You could easily spend a day or two in Boston exploring all the incredible history. Consider walking the Freedom Trail, or even popping out to Harvard University. 

New England fall foliage in Vermont. Get tips inside for doing a New England road trip in the fall

Tips to Save Money on Rental Cars:

  • Book in advance
  • Check prices frequently
  • Use an agregator site like RentalCars.com that searches all the major rental car companies at once to find the cheapest price
  • Adjust pick-up and drop-off times
  • Book the smallest vehicle you need
  • Off-airport locations are usually cheaper
  • Be wary of one-way drop-off fees

Read More –  19 tips for saving money on rental cars. 

Fall Foliage Tours:

If you don’t want to drive your own car, or even rent a car, Viator offers a one day fall foliage tour from Boston.

Or, to go in-depth, a 10 day New England fall foliage tour including Cape Cad.

4. Travel Mid-Week

Moss Glen Falls, Vermont. See this waterfall on a New England road trip
Moss Glen Falls, Vermont

Fall in New England is a busy time, but the weekend’s are especially busy as not only do you have tourists, but locals on their days off from work leaf peeping!

So if you can time your New England road trip to avoid weekends and make it a midweek trip it will help you to save money on high priced accommodation and avoid the crowds.

And keep in mind local events and festivals, which can also add to demand for accommodation and raise prices, so avoid those dates as well.

5. Eating out in New England

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

As a family of four, eating out three times per day adds up real fast.

So where possible we like to stay in apartments or guest houses or Airbnb’s that have kitchen facilities so we can self cater as much as possible to save on eating out.

By staying in places with a refrigerator you can store breakfast foods, snacks, and bottled water. Purchasing your own supplies from the grocery store can save you big bucks.

But we like to experience the local food as much as possible, it’s a big part of the traveling experience, and we always get the best tips from asking the locals or from our online community.

JJ Hapgood General Store, Vermont
JJ Hapgood General Store, Vermont

And you do want to try classic New England foods like clam chowder, lobster roll (seafood in general), maple syrup and warm apple cider!

So finding a balance between eating out and self-catering is important.

Ways to Save Money on Food:

  • Go out for Breakfast or Lunch – Try and avoid dinner as restaurants raise prices. OR, have brunch instead of 3 meals a day. Many restaurants offer lunch specials where items on the dinner menu are offered for a fraction of the cost you’d pay for the same meal in the evening.
  • One meal for two kids – Our kids are young enough to share one kid’s meal so on most occasions we only buy one. You can always buy another if they’re still hungry but you can’t send one back!
  • Free Breakfasts – When booking a hotel look for one with breakfast included. Also, have picnics or barbeque’s
  • Pack plenty of healthy snacks for yourselves and your kids for the car.
  • Bring an insulated stainless steel water bottle that you can refill (buying water several times a day adds up).

6. Beware of Toll Roads

Mount Mansfield toll road Stowe Vermont
Mount Mansfield toll road

Who knew the North East had so many toll roads?!

On our drive up 1-95 from North Carolina and then into New England, we couldn’t believe how many times we were confronted with a toll booth.

Once we pulled off the interstate to get gas, and right off the exit was ANOTHER toll booth!

We ran out of cash there were that many collection booths!

And we’d never heard of an EZ Pass before (an electronic toll collection system used on most tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels) and were initially confused as to how the whole system worked – luckily there are still humans working at some of the booths!

So get yourself an EZ Pass for your car or talk to your rental car company about including one.

7. Visit the Tourist Information Center

Things to do on a New England road trip - Hiking the Prospect Rock Trail in Manchester Vermont.
Hiking the Prospect Rock Trail in Manchester, Vermont.

We always make a point of stopping in at the local tourist information centers.

The locals working here know all the best places to visit in New England and are a wealth of knowledge, and that includes the New England foliage.

Plus you can pick up maps and information on all the free things to do in each town, ask about the best places to eat and drink, if any events or festivals are happening, and get tips on the best hikes and photography spots.

And, they often have coupon books for attractions and even accommodation.

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10 thoughts on “7 Helpful Tips for a New England Road Trip in the Fall”

  1. This looks beautiful! I’m from North Carolina and I’ve wanted to visit New England for years, just never got around to it. I’m not in the states right now, but when I get back I will definitely be hitting up the Northeast and use some of your advice. New Hampshire and Maine are huge points of interest for me and I really want to try the clam chowder. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hey Dee,

      Happy to hear you enjoyed our New England road trip post, and that you’re from NC! We didn’t make it to Maine as we were late in the season and missed the changing of the leaves up there, so decided to concentrate on Vermont and NH. And yes, eat all the clam chowder!!

  2. I read your article seriously, very seriously, at least three times. It’s a wonderful trip for me,
    I hope that in the future, I will be able to travel around the world like you. This is my dream for many years.
    I am from distant China,now live in Melbourne with my work. I love to travel and love the beautiful scenery and culture of Europe。
    Unfortunately I may not have as much time as you, and also I don’t have enough money to support me.
    But I will not give up my love for travelmy current job is also in the travel industry,one day i will use some of your advice and experiences and take my lover have a road trip like you.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I grew up north of here in New Brunswick, Canada and fall is such a great time to road trip around. The river valleys especially are just so pretty. You’re making me long for cozy sweaters and PSLs now. 😛

  4. Reminds me of the New England tour I did from the UK back in 1990. A trip up Mount Washington can be recommended! Thanks for the memories!

  5. I just spent all summer in New England! The toll roads are literally all over the place – this Midwest girl was shocked. On one leg of my trip, I even drove through Canada to avoid the toll roads. 🙂

  6. What I find key from this is how budget savvy you are – especially regarding room and board and toll fees. I didn’t know that there were so many toll fees in New England and that’s an important insight for a trip I am planning on taking during next year, Fall. My husband and I want to rent a high clearance vehicle and camp at some of the national parks for about 2 weeks. Camping is a big money saver but it’s not always convenient for folks. Love your blog!

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