Insiders call it the ‘Secret Season,’ when travel bargains are everywhere: It’s happening now

A car loaded with luggage drives toward a traffic sign that says "savings"
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

I need a break. And you do too.

After a summer spent hiding inside the house to avoid pestilence, scorching temperatures and soot-filled air, we crave liberation and escape.

The good news: We’re entering the Secret Season, the answer to a frustrated traveler’s prayers. It offers bargains, uncrowded destinations and mild temperatures. It’s the ideal time to take a drive and get away from it all for a few days.

We’ve targeted three out-of-state (but relatively close) destinations where tourism is at low ebb this time of year, making it easier to socially distance. If you’re nervous about staying in a hotel, check out the websites of places you’re considering to read about their COVID-19 safety protocols, then make a phone call to find out more. Some people pack disinfecting cleaning supplies to be on the safe side.


Then grab your gear and hit the road. Our first pick is Scottsdale, Ariz., a big proponent of the Secret Season, which lasts through December. Locals in this resort town say fall offers some of the best weather of the year, ideal for hiking and other outdoor activities.

When you visit, take an easy drive two hours north of Scottsdale to see fall’s vibrant colors in Sedona, where the reds and golds of the season complement the red rock landscape.

You’ll find some of the nation’s top resorts in Scottsdale, where the nightly room rate often tops $1,000 during the spring season. But during the Secret Season, you’ll find 60%-off deals at some high-end resorts. Others have BOGO — buy-one-get-one-free deals — or three-nights-for-the-price-of-two specials.

Check out these bargains:

Hotel Adeline: If you like Midcentury Modern, you’ll love sleek and stylish Hotel Adeline, a boutique newcomer in Old Town Scottsdale. The 215-room, pet-friendly hotel had a $13-million makeover and now sports a restaurant and a lively pool with bar and cabanas. Rates start at $116 per night.

The hip Valley Ho hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., has a "Slip Into Fall" deal from $240 a night.
(Mark Boisclair / Valley Ho)

Hotel Valley Ho: Anytime is martini time at the oh-so-hip Hotel Valley Ho in downtown Scottsdale, where the pool is shaped like a martini glass, complete with an olive. This Midcentury Modern hotel has a Slip Into Fall Deal that includes a $50 daily hotel credit and a bottle of wine, with rates from $240 a night.


Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa: This award winner, in neighboring Paradise Valley, isn’t near downtown shops or restaurants but it has panoramic views and offers a great place to escape, relax and rewind. Hike, bike or run on the many trails near the resort. Secret Season visitors from California can take advantage of a “Welcome, Neighbors” special (booking code PROCA3) that allows guests to stay for free on their third night. Rates from $373 per night.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: Get a BOGO deal this fall at Scottsdale Princess, one of Arizona’s top resorts. With 65 acres, this Fairmont hotel has much to offer, including a top-rated spa, four golf courses and six pools. It’s a longtime winner of AAA’s Five Diamond award and also scores a high fun-factor rating with guests for its rip-roaring water slides. The resort’s “Stay Close” package is a BOGO opportunity for guests stay one night, receive the second night free — through Dec. 29. Rates from $365 per night.

Lake Tahoe

How long has it been since you’ve seen this spellbinding lake shimmer in the sunlight? Visit during the Secret Season and your bonus may be catching sight of fall color. Lake Tahoe, one of the nation’s deepest and highest-elevation lakes (at 6,245 feet), is about an eight-hour drive from Los Angeles. The route can be boring (Interstate 5 north to Sacramento to Interstate 80 east) or scenic on Highway 395, which will take you along the eastern spine of the High Sierra.

The Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort has a new menu of wellness activities, hikes and adventures.
(Kressa Olguin / Hyatt)

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort: This waterfront hotel and casino in North Lake Tahoe wants you to be healthy. That’s why it has a new menu of wellness activities, hikes and adventures. You can meditate, join a “Paint and Sip” art class or enroll in a boot camp with cardio and strength-training exercises designed to help guests prepare for the snow sport season. Rates from $148 per night. (Email for details.)

Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe: The Secret Season rates special attention at the Ritz-Carlton, which advertises that it’s the ideal time to enjoy mountain activities surrounded by colorful Lake Tahoe foliage. Activities include hiking to nearby lakes and along the Tahoe Rim Trail and mountain stargazing programs. Rates from $254 per night.

Las Vegas

You may be wondering why we included Las Vegas in this compilation of getaway trips. Didn’t we say we were focusing on places where visitor traffic was slow? Yes, and that’s definitely Vegas. Its Strip and downtown hotels had an occupancy rate of nearly 89% last summer. This summer the rate was 42%. So if you want to be lonely — as lonely as it can get in Vegas — this is the time to go.

Less is more right now in the city, where trade show and convention traffic is at a standstill. Most hotels are offering midweek promotions, with some weekend deals too.

Caesars Palace: Not only will you find bargains here, Caesars hotels now allow cancellations up to 24 hours before check-in. That’s a nice change. This ballyhooed casino and hotel is offering standard rooms from $94 per night, or try the “Suite Escape” deal that starts at $119 a night midweek for rooms that often sell for three times as much. (Book by Oct. 26 for travel through August 2021.) Or stay three nights for $240. (Sundays-Thursdays; book by Nov. 2 for dates through Dec. 24.)


Other deals in the Neon Capital of the World:

You can say Bonjour to Paris Las Vegas for just $49 a night midweek (from $95 on Saturdays) or Ciao! to the swanky Venetian from $112 weekdays and $202 weekends. Check to see other deals.