The top 5 Fall destinations… to be transformed


Mid-September to mid-December can be tricky to get right in terms of travel destinations, mostly due to unsettled weather, rains and even hurricanes.

But help is at hand!

There are parts of the world where these months are ideal: the rainy season has finished and resplendent in greenery in India and Bhutan, the scorching heat has passed in Morocco, the crowds have dropped off in Italy, and Australia, well, it is hard to pick a bad month for Australia, but if I had to, July-August can be pretty cool and wet, at least in the southern states.

What follows is my Top 5 recommendations for travel in the Fall, where you and your family can enjoy luxury accommodation, incredible sights, and leave a legacy by making a difference, creating treasured memories in a diverse array, from wildlife conservation to teaching to building to caring for the homeless.

1. Australia

In early Fall (September and early October) the whole of Australia is up for grabs; beyond that and you risk heavy tropical rains in the far north, such as in Kakadu or the Kimberleys.

Luxury family volunteer vacation Australia

I recommend focusing on Sydney, Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef for first timers, but for those with more time or repeat visitors, South Australia has so much to offer, from the extraordinary Wilpena Pound to Australia’s largest lake (Lake Eyre) to “Australia’s Galapagos” (Kangaroo Island) and of course the Barossa and Clare Valleys for wine lovers.

Superb accommodation recommendations in South Australia are: Southern Ocean Lodge, Arkaba Conservancy, and The Louise.

Make your trip to Australia meaningful by spending a few days conserving wildlife: help count kangaroos and wallabies, protect rivers from erosion and assist university researchers in the Blue Mountains. Stay at the fabulous eco-luxury One & Only Wolgan Valley – I suggest going at least one way by helicopter to truly appreciate the stunning vistas.

2. Morocco

Morocco is arguably at its best from September to November, as the temperature is pleasant everywhere, and snow hasn’t yet fallen in the Atlas Mountains, meaning you can experience some epic hikes. Blend this with a night or two glamping in the Sahara Desert, exploring the souks of Marrakech and Fes, and even some beach time. Dar Ahlam is a little known paradise, and Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot is spectacular in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

Luxury family volunteer vacation Morocco

Of course to really create treasured memories and make an impact, I recommend rolling up your sleeves, and in Morocco you can help renovate the home of a low-income family in Marrakech. By doing so, you get to interact meaningfully with the local people, hear their stories and gain insights into their lives (over copious cups of mint tea), all of which will leave a profound impression and your kids will realize how fortunate they are, and return home changed.

3. India

India is another country that shines from November to December, and much of the country is ideal at this time (except really for hiking in the Himalayas/Ladakh). First timers will love the classic Delhi-Agra-Jaipur (though I have suggestions for making even this extra special, for instance with a walking tour led by a former street-kid, or a cooking class in an Indian home), and wildlife seekers will be enthralled by the sight of a Royal Bengal Tiger in one of the National Parks such as Bandhavgarh.

Luxury family volunteer vacation India

The beaches of Goa round out any itinerary well, or you can explore magical Rajasthan in more depth, or cruise Kerala’s backwaters in a luxury converted rice barge.

You are spoilt for choice in the range of options for making a difference as well, from teaching in an inspiring school in a Delhi slum, to renovating the school, to conserving elephants or bears, to installing an eco-friendly stove for a family. Choosing any of these will hugely enrich your trip – you will create treasured memories, and be the change.

4. Italy

As you know, Italy is an easy destination to get to for UK and even US readers, and the Fall is a wonderful time to be there, as the weather is still good, but the hordes of visitors is reduced – helped even more by me arranging for you to have a private viewing of such treasures as the Sistine Chapel or a wing of the Uffizi Gallery.

Luxury family volunteer vacation Italy

Here you can indulge in a cooking class with a Michelin chef or get your adrenalin fix touring the Ferrari factory and even driving one of their supercars on a track. Your kids can train to be gladiators in Rome, and cycling in lesser-known Puglia is a fantastic family activity.

And you can bond closer with your kids whilst helping at a kitchen serving nutritious, beautiful meals to the homeless – you will see barriers being broken and experience engagement as you interact with dignity and respect.

5. Bhutan and Nepal

Head to the Himalayas just before the snowfall makes it too cold: both Nepal and Bhutan are fascinating and rewarding, with some distinct differences:

Luxury family volunteer vacation Bhutan

Nepal is higher, and in my opinion offers better trekking with more jaw dropping scenery (and Mt Everest of course)

Bhutan has arguably preserved its culture better, with the vast majority of people wearing the traditional attire in daily life

Nepal has better wildlife viewing, especially if you are looking for tiger, elephants or rhino, though Bhutan does have the Takin and Blacked Neck Crane

Bhutan does luxury better – Aman, Como and Taj have been there for years, and if that weren’t enough, Six Senses have opened five incredible lodges this year.

The cuisine is better in Nepal, though in the luxury lodges in Bhutan you will have no issues.

In terms of giving back, in Nepal you can really make a big impact by helping renovate homes damaged by earthquake in a remote part of Nepal (basic tents are the accommodation on offer), and in Bhutan you can renovate the home of a low-income family (within driving distance of one of the luxury lodges).

Not sure which one to choose? Do one this year and another next Fall!

Christopher Hill is Founder and CEO at Hands Up Holidays. Hands Up Holidays is an award-winning travel company specialising in tailor-made luxury family trips that combine sightseeing with hands-on service projects.

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Comments (13)

  1. Dee Battle says:

    I love the idea of helping serve meals to the homeless in Italy. This has been a destination on my list for a long time but this is the first time that volunteering there has crossed my mind. I agree that this would make for a richer experience and a deeper connection to the place.

    From the places I’ve been so far, I’d say another great fall destination is South Korea. The summers there are insanely hot but the fall weather feels amazing and it’s great for outdoor activities.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Nice one Dee! Yes, it really does make for richer connections!
      Thanks for the tip about South Korea!

  2. Sheila says:

    You are absolutely right! Fall is the best time to travel – unless of course you can escape Northern Hemisphere Winter by fleeing to a sun-warmed tropical beach somewhere.

    I just don’t get the point of travelling in Summer. It’s the best time of the at home, the airports are packed, kids are everywhere as they are on school holiday and some of the destinations are would be like a baking inferno. No one in their right mind would head to Morocco in July or August, the sand would be so hot that you couldn’t even walk bare feet on the beach.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Thanks Sheila,
      Yes, summer can indeed be pretty crazy – there are places to go to avoid scorching heat, but for sure, Morocco is at its best in the Fall or Spring.

  3. Gary Childerly says:

    There are some great original suggestions in here. I like the idea of a tour given by a former street kid. On the same lines if you are going to bring any souvenirs home you can also buy art produced by street children too with the money going towards giving them a roof over their heads and an education too.

    I like the idea of helping a Moroccan family with their decorating but I’ll miss out on the mint tea thanks. I’m not a great fan of the flavour of mint nor can I cope with all that sugar which they add.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Great point about buying art produced by street children – that is really special.
      Thanks Gary!

  4. Bob says:

    Interesting that the word “transform” gets into the title. We’re expecting a lot from our holidays and travel nowadays. Fly for a few hours, go through passport checks, spend a week away and then come back as a new character, as a better person. Whether it’s slimmer, healthier, more cultured, wiser, with better skin tone or simply more relaxed.

    We are all expecting so much from our travels. I can remember when if you returned with a sun tan and hadn’t gone bankrupt then it was considered to be a good trip.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      You’re right Bob – we really do expect a lot more out of our travels these days…do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?

    • Maggie says:

      No answer from Bob yet, so here’s what I think. High expectations are good as it puts pressure on the travel providers to provide excellent service and in this age of social media hotels and spas and tour operators can’t afford more than the odd bad review. But aren’t huge expectations putting too much pressure on ourselves when we travel? Deciding that you are going to be 4 kilos lighter at the end of your Wellness retreat is setting yourself up for failure. Most of us our under too much pressure at work as it is. Healing pressure on for a week’s holiday really isn’t a good idea. We need some chill time too.

    • Bob says:

      Sorry, I’be been busy – it’s tough being retired – and I haven’t logged on recently.

      I think Maggie has made all of the points that I would have made but probably much more elegantly and eloquently.

      Maggie – thank you.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Thanks Maggie (and Bob) – eloquently put indeed!
      Maybe we need different holidays to cater to our myriad different expectations?

  5. Jen Scott says:

    It’s good to know there are plenty of amazing places you can visit for a holiday outside of the typical summer season. I do prefer the idea of less crowds in the heavily tourist populated destinations like Italy. I’d love to visit Australia, and I think being able to help out while you’re there with animal conservation would be such a wonderful experience, definitely a more meaningful vacation. My brother went to Italy last year and he wants to go back. I’ll have to recommend he check out Puglia in the fall as he’s a bit cycling fan!

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Thanks Jen – in addition to Australia, other locations where you can make your luxury holiday meaningful by helping with animal conservation is:
      – Thailand (elephants)
      – India (elephants and bears)
      – Sri Lanka (elephants and turtles)
      – New Zealand (penguins)
      – Costa Rica (monkeys, parrots and turtles)
      And yes, Puglia is fabulous for cycling, but if your brother wants a real challenge, tell him to head to the Dolomites!

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