Harpswell Maine fall color

Stress-free Fall foliage trip planning

two bike riders under an orange canopy of foliage

Stress-free fall foliage trip planning

I know for me that this is possibly one of those rock and a hard place things to try and write about.

My stress level starts rising in mid Sept as my northern friends in Vermont and New Hampshire start posting their early fall foliage shots on the New England Photography Guild page Or my New England foliage FB page.

Since I live in a fairly central location in New England I tend to ignore most of the rules that I’m going to tell you to follow..

Note! if you came from my Fall foliage site clicking this sentence will take you back to it!

So, yes, DO as I say and not as I DO :-)

Here is a short list of what I feel are stress contributors, although your list may be different

  • Driving long hours only to arrive at your desired location but little to no color
  • If I don’t make reservations will I be able to find a place to sleep at night
  • The weather craps out so now what am I going to do???

This is a basic list and if you have others I’d love to read about them! (comments are open!)

Number one stress factor – Driving long hours, locating a great spot to photograph but no color!

pond surrounded by fall color

To me, a stress-free trip is not spending the whole day on the road driving and normally, this is exactly what I do.  Of course my mission is to scout out the fall foliage and broadcast what I find through my blogs and tweets.

There is no sure fire way to beat this one. But you can minimize it in a couple of ways. First, my fall foliage page and there you will find the resources from links to the sites I research from to my posts on real time reports from photographer friends around New England and my own observations. I also tweet these reports so click the follow me on the right.

Next don’t try to cover all of New England (that’s my job). Look at your dates and pick one or two locations to visit. I can’t give you hard and fast dates but if you arrive around Columbus Day you will have the greatest latitude for selecting locations to pick from. The downside and you knew there would be one…  Everybody always heads into New England for this long holiday weekend.

Reservations… and whether to make them or not

If you want to “wing it” then you need to get here on a Monday and leave on a Friday because everybody who makes reservations arrives on Friday and “usually” leave on Sunday or Monday.  So don’t plan on getting into a place on the weekends. Ok,  Could I be wrong? Of course but unless you are willing to sleep in that cold car backseat all night, do you want to chance it.

I have a friend who came for two weeks and only made two reservations for one night a piece the entire time. But… you knew there’d be a BUT… somewhere in here, right?  He told me horror stories about the places he stayed at. He experienced minor things like taking a smoking room all the way to having small furry guests in the room, all night… His girlfriend who was with him on this trip, left him after this… :-)  Ok you make you call on this one… was it the smoking room or the furry friends?

If you are showing up on the Tuesday before and leaving on Friday… problem solved, you just missed all the traffic and you saw all the foliage they will be seeing from behind their windshields.

fall foliage behind the windshield

fall foliage from behind the windshield

Next, about those windshields, get out from behind them. Yes, leave the car and take a walk and explore. You would be amazed at what you will find if you actually explore the area.  To ensure you feel you have time to get out and explore, plan to travel no more than 100 miles in a day. Yes you can travel safely 300+ miles on the highway but that is getting you from point A to point B in the minimum time.  Plan on getting out at every bridge and scenic outlook and really enjoy them. Plan to watch the sunrise coming over the horizon and standing at a ponds edge and watching the far bank and hillside light up with those fiery reds and gold’s of autumn.

Weather is Wicked crappy… is your vacation shot?

Well to make this easier, you can read this article on ideas and alternatives when the weather just isn’t cooperating.

Your best options for having a stress free fall foliage trip.

Ideas that reduce stress

  • BOP – Base of Operations
  • Central location based on dates
  • Not trying to drive all day
  • Having alternative plans ready in case weather is “Wicked Crappy”


Bead and breakfast in the fall with pumpkins lining the front walkway.

Choose a Base of Operations:

This one step can solve much of your stress. A Base of Operations (yes, I was in the service) is nothing more than a location that based on your dates, will be centrally located so you can travel north or south to find color.

  • First, you don’t have to worry at the end of the day where you are going to stay.
  • Second, you awake each morning, well rested, in a comfortable surrounding able to catch breakfast.
  • Thirdly, you are already either in the heart of New England’s fall foliage or very near to it.

For instance you arrive on 1 Oct, so you plan to stay at a wonderful B&B in the North East Kingdom (Peacham VT) or somewhere near there. Now for the next few days you get up in the morning and get reports from the owners where they suggest you should go such as foliage festivals and the like and then on the 4th day you pack up and travel a ways south (Why south? The color always moves south) Maybe over into NH in the White Mountains. And you explore all those towns and festivals and then you head home… Did you cover all of New England? No!

But you might have a real meaningful vacation and you found some great little places to share with your friends, and hopefully you got some wonderful snapshots of New England fall foliage… No color? Well that is why they have post cards in the stores… :-)

Or you can go to my online gallery and purchase a print to hang on your wall. You can say the next time, we’ll go find where he found this and see what we find.

I’ll continue next time with the what if the weather craps out part and maybe some of you will have posted a question or two between now and then that I can answer…

Jeff “Foliage” Folger
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