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updated 9/24/2008 3:01:37 PM ET 2008-09-24T19:01:37

Fall is one of our favorite times of the year, for one obvious reason. No, we're not talking about back-to-school days, football season or Halloween (but don't get us wrong — we love a good Halloween costume!). We're talking about timely and affordable shoulder season travel deals to fabulous destinations across the globe.

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Shoulder season is the period between a destination's high and low seasons. Typically, the weather during shoulder season may not be optimal, but it will be better than low-season weather. Fall is shoulder season in many regions, including Europe, the Caribbean, Hawaii and American beach towns. Travel deals for these regions start popping up around September and last until mid-December, when the holiday season kicks in.

Shoulder season deals offer rates that often drop well below typical high-season prices. Plus, when you travel during shoulder season, crowds are smaller, the weather is usually mild and, depending on where you're traveling, you can catch some brilliant fall foliage.

Below is a roundup of our favorite shoulder season deals. Keep checking back, as we will be updating this list throughout the season. And don't forget to take a look at our Bargain Box for more outstanding opportunities to save on travel.

7-night W. Mediterranean cruise from $549
Shoulder season deals can save you money in Europe, but you still have to deal with unfavorable exchange rates when you get there. Take a cruise instead and pay in dollars for lodging, food and entertainment. This November, sail roundtrip from Barcelona aboard Norwegian Gem on a seven-night cruise through the Western Mediterranean. This sailing starts at $549 per person. Expires: September 30, 2008

6-night Ireland castle package with air, from $869
Every fall, discount vacation packages to Ireland abound. Here's one of our favorites — a six-night stay at Adare Manor, a stunning castle resort in Ireland. From $869 per person, this package from Aer Lingus includes six nights' accommodations at the Adare Manor Villas, round-trip airfare to Shannon from select cities and a full-size standard car rental. Expires: October 1, 2008

Save up to 50 percent on fall hotels
Planning a leaf-peeping adventure or a getaway to a famous fall festival? If so, this timely deal from Hotels.com has you covered with great rates on hotels across the globe. Save you up to 50 percent on your hotel stay in dozens of destinations from Boston to Buenos Aires. Expires: October 13, 2008

4-Night Barcelona hotel & tour package, from $429
Fall temperatures in Barcelona typically hover around the high 60's. So pack a sweater, book your airfare (you'll find airfare deals to Europe below) and get a complete money-saving shoulder season vacation. From $429 per person, this package includes four nights' accommodations at your chosen hotel, a Barcelona sightseeing tour, breakfast, and hotel service charges and taxes daily. Expires: October 15, 2008

November fares to Australia from $998 roundtrip
November is springtime in Australia, making it a beautiful and temperate time of year to visit. Qantas is offering special fares from Los Angeles to various cities in Australia, starting at just $998 roundtrip when you book a trip on one of the airline's brand-new A380 aircraft.
Expires: October 17, 2008

4-night Bahamas cruise, from $209
Of course, spectacular shoulder season deals include cruises — and this particular bargain fits the bill. Book a four-night cruise aboard Carnival Sensation to the Bahamas from only $209 per person. This short cruise sails roundtrip from Port Canaveral to two fun ports of call: Freeport and Nassau. Expires: November 15, 2008

3-night Hawaii package with air, from $643
Summer in Hawaii, also known as Kau, seems to last forever. So while fall is going strong at home, enjoy Hawaii's year-round warm weather on vacation. Take advantage of a 25 percent discount when you book this three-night Hawaii package from US Airways Vacations. From just $643 per person, this package includes three nights' accommodations and a round-trip flight from select cities. Expires: December 13, 2008

7-night spa getaway in Mexico from $1,120
Pamper yourself this fall with a spa getaway in Mexico. The luxurious Hotel Ixtapan Spa and Golf Resort, a mountain resort less than two hours outside of Mexico City, is offering seven-night spa packages from just $1,120 per person. This rate includes three meals a day, 21 personal treatments with organic ingredients, tennis/golf lessons, access to a well-equipped gym, daily walks and fitness classes. Expires: December 15, 2008

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