How to Plan a New England Vacation
The first step in planning a New England Vacation is to decide when to go, and what part of New England you plan to visit. If you already know a little about the region and the time you want to visit, skip down to the next sections.
It’s also helpful to consider what activities you plan to do, or what type of vacation your are looking for. Do you plan to catch an outdoor concert in one of the coastal cities? Are you looking for the best places to leaf peep in the fall? Do you want to find the best spa vacation for you and your friends? The information below will help you plan the best adventure for your New England vacation.
New England Map
Take a look at the map of New England below to get a sense of the region. With a long shoreline, the coastline dominates the eastern portion of New England with a long history of fishing, whaling and seaside occupations.
The other geographic feature that dominates the western part of the region is the northern portion of the Appalachian Mountains. These mountains provide ample opportunities for fun outdoor activities.
The 6 states that make up New England include: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
When to Visit New England
There is something to see in New England all year long. That said, the summer months are the most common time of year to plan a New England vacation. Temperatures are warm and can be humid, making it a great time to spend a week on the coast or in the mountains. September and Oct are also tremendous a time when it is slightly less crowded but with amazing colored leaves.
The winter months offer holiday activities in the cities and a host of winter activities including skiing, snowshoeing, winter hiking, skating, ice caves and more. Late winter and early spring is what locals call mud season that turns to warm spring-like weather in April.
Booking in New England
If you are planning to travel in New England during the summer months, you should book ahead at least a few months and up to 9 months if possible. Sept and Oct are also busy months and if you are planning to book a ski vacation, you should book at least 6 months in advance. It’s almost never too early to book a New England Vacation.
How to Get to New England
If you are coming from another country, your best bet is to fly into Boston or New York although there are smaller flights to the other airports as well. From Boston, most major tourist areas are within a 5 hour drive and many are less than 2 hours. The exception is Northern portions of Maine. Many major airline carriers come to New England, and you can often find cheap airfare using Skyscanner.
You can also take a train if you are travelling from other parts of the United States. The Amtrak system takes about 4 hours to get from New York to Boston and connects to other places in New England from there including to the ferries to Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island, Maine, Vermont and Cape Cod.
Bus travel is possible in New England as well, including more than 10 companies. You can catch a bus around the region and connect to the area from Chicago, New York and Montreal.
Once you’re in New England, car rental is an easy option and available from all the airports. Unless you are staying only in the city you fly into, car travel is the best way to get around New England and is pretty much essential to getting off the beaten path. You can travel by bus and train to some of the same places, but car travel gives you more flexibility.
New England Travel Itineraries
Once you know how you’ll get to New England, your biggest decision will be where to go on your New England vacation. There are so many places to explore. The most popular places in New England to visit include:
- Acadia National Park, ME – A breathtaking National Park on the coast of Maine with hiking and sightseeing
- Cape Cod, MA – sandy beaches and dunes offer a wonderful place to vacation
- Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Block Island, MA – New England’s southern island destination offer sandy beaches and a strong seafaring heritage
- Stowe, VT – find the quintessential Vermont town in Stowe – ski in the winter, hike in the summer and leaf peep in the fall
- Mystic, CT – explore New England’s seafaring heritage in Mystic, CT
- The Berkshires, MA – close to Boston, this mountain region is dotted with photographic towns tucked into the valleys.
- Burlington, VT – Take a stroll down the pedestrian Church Street and explore the culture of of Vermont at Sherburne Village
- The White Mountains, NH – Beautiful mountains dominate the Northern and Central region of Vermont – drive the Kancamagus Highway, visit Mount Washington and see an explosion of fall colors in October
- Boston, MA – The hub of New England, Boston is full museums, excellent restaurants, and activities for the whole family
- Mid-coast, ME – soak up the culture of Maine and the tradition of lobstering along the stretch in mid-coast Maine that stretches north of the fun city of Portland
- Newport, RI – Sailing, food, mansions, and music make Newport a fun scene and a great place to explore
- Portsmouth, NH – quaint and hip Portsmouth, NH is just an hour from Boston and has sandy and rocky beaches and it’s own culture and history
- Litchfield Hills, CT – quaint and beautiful villages, waterfalls, and covered bridges make this a fun place to visit in Southern New England
Places to Stay in New England
From Inns and Bed and Breakfasts to Hotels, camping and house rentals, New England has accommodations for any budget. There are truly amazing places to stay in every state from large family style resorts to romantic places for couples. Prices for accommodations in New England range from $20 for a space at a campground to high end fees for luxury accommodation.
When you’re ready too book your New England Vacation, you can search directly through the lodging site or look at sites such as booking.com or Airbnb.com to find the best places to stay in New England.
New England has it all: culture, history, outdoor adventures, luxury, beaches, mountains and amazing sightseeing. The type activities and experiences you are looking for will determine where you will book your New England vacation.
You can find more specific information throughout this website, but for a snapshot, explore some of the activities below:
- Culture and History -New England has a colonial history. There are many places you can explore the history of this region from countless small museums and center to places like Sturbridge Village, Plimouth Plantation, Strawberry Banke Museum, Sherburne Village. New England cities are also rich with history and culture and have driving and walking tours.
- Outdoor Adventure – if you are looking to get outside for your New England Vacation there are several destinations to consider. For hiking, backpacking, climbing, and skiing, visit the Green Mountains, Vt, the White Mountains, NH, the Berkshire Mountains, MA, and the Maine Mountains. You can find shorter walk throughout New England including along the coast. Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding are popular activities on New England lakes, ponds and rivers. Along the coast you can sail, fish, or even surf. You may also want to consider an extreme sport such as river rafting or tubing, zip lining, or visiting an outdoor adventure course.
- Beaches – If you are looking for a sandy beach vacation, look from Southern Maine to the South. Anywhere north of here will have rocky beaches. The water south of Cape Cod is considerably warmer. There are also many beaches on lakes and ponds throughout the entire New England Region.
- Leaf Peeping – many people come to New England for the fall foliage each year. If you want to see leaves you should plan your trip to Northern New England in the first two weeks of October. Peak foliage in Southern New Hampshire, Southern Vermont and Southern Maine is the 2nd and 3rd week of Oct, and the southern part of New England comes into prime around the end of Oct. Remember it is slightly different each year – you can see a map of the foliage here.
- Food – New England cities and big towns are known for creative and delicious food with an emphasis on farm or sea to table. You’ll enjoy fresh, locally prepared food with a strong preference for seafood.
Tours of New England
If you don’t want to plan your own vacation in New England, another option is to book a tour. There are several tour companies that offer multi-day excursions in New England and many day long tour opportunities. A few you can check out include:
Tour Radar – has a number of tour options
What to Pack
No matter what time of year you visit New England, it’s important to bring layers. Even in hot and humid summer, you should have a rain jacket and a warm top for cool evenings. In the winter you can expect cold and windy temperatures often well below freezing. You will need a warm coat, a hat and gloves (snow boots and a scarf are a great idea too). In addition to layers and warm clothes, make sure to pack a camera and binoculars for your New England trip.
There are a few other considerations when you are travelling in New England.
Tipping – it is customary to tip 15-20% on restaurant service like in the rest of the United States. It is also common to tip taxi drivers, anyone who helps with luggage, some tour guides, and for other services. Make sure you work this into your budget for your New England vacation.
Daily Time: You will find nightlife and evening transportation in most New England cities and towns, but you may have trouble finding a ride late at night in many rural parts of the region. In addition, in New England, most people eat dinner between 6-9 in the evening.
Tax – tax is state dependent. All state in New England have a sales tax except New Hampshire. If you are planning to do any big shopping on your New England Vacation, consider visiting NH.
Special Travel Situations
Kids – New England is a great family destination. Many parts of the region have travel experiences catered towards young kids including parks, museums, and more. In addition, families will love the outdoor activities such as beaches, boating and hiking. A family New England Vacation is a perfect experience for everyone.
Couples – There are many places in New England that cater specifically to love and romance.
Celebrations – New England is home to a number of venues for special occasions including concert venues, wedding venues, and special activities geared towards special occasions.