May Road Trip: Where to Travel in May and Late Spring

0

Summer has almost arrived, but the kids are still in school.  That’s good, if you’re looking for a bargain on travel.  May offers many of the benefits of summertime travel without all of the crowds and the high prices on hotels and flights.  Here are a few great getaway ideas for May road trips in late spring.

May Road Trip: Alaska

May Road Trip: Alaska

Alaska is amazing.  And it’s expensive.  For years, the pricey plane tickets and astronomical rental car rates kept me away from the 49th state.  Finally, I hit it at just the right moment — late May.

Alaska’s tourist season picks up steam in June and runs through September.  The shoulder seasons are much more affordable.  I’ve now taken two trips to Alaska, arriving in late May and staying into early June.  Getting in before June 1st gave me a much cheaper rental car and a stunning bargain on airfare (just 25,000 Delta Skymiles, flying from Florida).

It could still snow on you in May, but you’re more likely to have a mixed bag of cold, rainy days and warm, sunny days — warm for Alaska, that is.  And, with the summer solstice just a few weeks away, the days are long, and the sunsets (around midnight) seem to last forever.  You’ll have plenty of time to see places like Denali National Park, Talkeetna, Exit Glacier, Valdez, and the Kenai Peninsula.

Start here:

Anchorage is the most popular starting point for a May road trip in Alaska.  From here, you can easily drive down to Seward or up to Denali, or make the big loop up to Fairbanks and back.  Alternatively, you could fly into Fairbanks and make the loop.  You cannot fly into the capitol, Juneau, and drive up, unless you utilize a ferry, which would be quite expensive.

Why it’s the best time:

Abundant daylight and more reasonable prices for flights, rental cars, and hotels.  The only time of year that might be better would be late August into September, when Alaska’s fall colors are on display.  But, you’ll pay full-price for everything at that time of year.

 

May Road Trip: The Loneliest Road

May Road Trip: The Loneliest Road

This is how you get away from it all: take a drive across the middle of Nevada on US 50 — a road so desolate, it earned the title Loneliest Road in America.  Your May road trip should be not too hot and not too cold, and certainly not too crowded with other tourists.  There are a few towns along the way — real, authentic living ghost towns like Ely, Eureka, Austin, and Fallon that still fight for survival, and offer an authentic Silver State experience in the process.

Start here:

The Loneliest Road is in the middle of a triangle formed by Reno, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City.  Any of those airports will provide access to the area.  Reno is the closest, but you’re more likely to get a good deal at LAS or SLC.

Why it’s the best time:

May is late enough to not worry much about snow in the mountains, and early enough in the year to avoid soaring temperatures in the valleys.  If you visit in late May, you may also be able to drive the road to the top of Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park.

 

May Road Trip: Shenandoah National Park

May Road Trip: Shenandoah National Park

Spring arrives slowly in Shenandoah National Park, but it should arrive by May, just a few weeks before the kids get out of school.  The park certainly isn’t deserted during this time, but attendance does climb throughout the summer.  Fewer visitors will mean less congestion along the park’s 105-mile-long Skyline Drive.  Along that scenic road, you’ll find numerous places to pull off and enjoy the view, take in a waterfall, or go for a hike.

Start here:

The northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park is less than 60 miles from Dulles International Airport (IAD), which itself is just outside Washington, D.C.  The other Washington/Baltimore airports provide additional options, and you could also consider Richmond and Roanoke as starting points.  The Blue Ridge Parkway, which begins at Skyline Drive’s southern end, runs right through Roanoke.

Why it’s the best time:

Fresh, bright green leaves will be sprouting from the trees in May, and wildflowers should be blooming, as well.  Crowds are smaller than in the summer or fall.  Of course, mid-October is truly the best time to visit Shenandoah National Park, because of the autumn leaves, but it will be more expensive and much more crowded.

 

May Road Trip: The Lost Coast of Northern California

May Road Trip: The Lost Coast of Northern California

It’s hard to imagine that there’s a single square inch of Pacific coastline in California that hasn’t been touched by developers.  Turns out, there are many miles of it, so remote and rugged that nobody has bothered to build a resort or open up a Starbucks.  If you don’t mind a long, curvy drive along some narrow, rough roads, you can experience the Lost Coast for yourself.

South of Eureka and north of Fort Bragg, Mattole Road is a treasure, largely forgotten by the rest of the state.  Here, happy California cows graze, all the way down to the beach.  The road itself only touches the shoreline for a few miles, but the entire experience is unforgettable.

After you’ve seen the lost coast, find your way back to US 101 and head north into Redwood National Park.  You can drive through a redwood tree on your way there, and then spend the night in a motel built entirely out of one redwood log in Crescent City.

Start here:

The San Francisco area is a good starting point, with several airports competing for your business.  Don’t forget to also compare rental car rates at SFO, OAK, and SJC.  If you’d like to make it into a real road trip, start in Portland, Oregon and drive down US 101.

Why it’s the best time:

The truth is, the weather along the Pacific coast doesn’t change much throughout the year.  Any time during spring, summer, or fall would be acceptable.  In winter, strong storms can come ashore.  The chance of rain drops significantly from April to May, increasing the likelihood of a sunny drive.  And, the long days of late spring can help, since this area is quite remote.

 

Start your search for a May getaway right now! Pick a state to begin:

No comments

You might also enjoy this...

Hemingford, Nebraska

North of Alliance and Scottsbluff, the Nebraska panhandle is a pretty lonely place.  Towns are few and far between, and when you finally do find ...