Off-season, on discount

With the first frost, the deep green colours of the summer landscape start to show subtle shifts to lighter shades. Nature’s colourful display of brilliant foliage signals the start of the fall season — a time to trade in your swimsuit and sandals for a cozy sweater and a pair of wool socks.

The Lake Louise Fall Festival runs from Sept 1 to 30 and features a number of guided activities

The Lake Louise Fall Festival runs from Sept 1 to 30 and features a number of guided activities

With the first frost, the deep green colours of the summer landscape start to show subtle shifts to lighter shades. Nature’s colourful display of brilliant foliage signals the start of the fall season — a time to trade in your swimsuit and sandals for a cozy sweater and a pair of wool socks.

But don’t despair if you are not quite ready to hunker down for the winter yet. Autumn is also one of the best times to travel — both close to home or abroad.

With a few exceptions, autumn is not peak season in most travel destinations.

This means that those who are able to travel during the fall enjoy smaller crowds, lower prices for airfares and hotels, and great packages, festivals and events designed to entice people to fill up rooms during the slower season.

Here are a few suggestions to help you get started with planning the perfect autumn escape. Take out that sweater, pull on those socks, and pour some hot apple cider — planning an autumn escape might take a while.

Kananaskis raptor migration

In late September and early October, thousands of golden eagles fly over Kananaskis Country during their fall migration. As many as 500 raptors have been observed in a single day – mainly golden eagles, but also bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawk and northern goshawk.

You can arrange a local guide through an area hotel such as the Delta Kananaskis (www.deltahotels.com) or just head out on your own to Hay Meadow or Barrier Lake, where scientists perform bird counts.

Sit back, relax, and watch the skies — with binoculars.

More information can be found at www.eaglewatch.ca.

Lake Louise Fall Festival

Lake Louise is particularly beautiful in the autumn when the needles of the larch trees start to change colour. The hike to Larch Valley from Morraine Lake is particularly stunning in autumn when the larch trees begin to drop their needles.

The annual celebration to usher in the autumn season is the Lake Louise Fall Festival, which takes place this year from Sept. 1 to 30. Many activities are scheduled to take place during the festival, including guided hikes, guided bike trips, canoe trips, photography classes, interpretive programs, fine dining events and cooking classes.

Packages are available and hotels are offering reduced rates on accommodations during the festival.

More information can be found at www.banfflakelouise.com.

Christmas in November

The Jasper Park Lodge will be hosting its 23rd annual Christmas in November event from Nov. 4 to 14th this year.

The event, which has become an annual getaway for many women, brings together celebrity presenters and other experts to teach women the secrets to finding balance in their lives while creating a memorable holiday season.

Hosting the festivities this year is Food Network star Michael Smith, host of Food Network’s Chef at Home. Other familiar faces include Anna Olson, host of Fresh on the Food Network; Karl Lohnes, home decorating expert on CTV’s Canada AM; sushi expert and chef Brett Yasukawa, who has worked at Hollywood hotspots Nobu and Spago; and Dawn and Lindsay, the dynamic duo behind Bikini Bootcamp.

A two-night weekend package is available from Nov. 4 to 6 from $799 per person, or Nov. 11 to 14 from $899 per person. The weekday package is available Nov. 7 to 10 from $849 per person. The package includes welcome gift, meals, all demonstrations and classes, entertainment, welcome reception, gala dinner and gratuities.

More information can be found at www.fairmont.com/jasper or 800-441-1414.

Sun destinations — last-minute deals

Rock-bottom prices and last-minute blowout deals to sun destinations are plentiful in the fall. This is largely due to the fact that autumn is hurricane season in many of these places.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and the Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 to Nov. 30, but the peak season for both is from mid-August to late October.

Travelling in hurricane season doesn’t mean you will have poor weather during your visit, it means that you have the potential to be there during a hurricane storm.

Many people travel during this season and enjoy wonderful hot weather.

It’s a good idea to protect yourself and your investment by purchasing cancellation insurance — especially if you choose to travel during hurricane season.

You can also minimize the risks of experiencing a hurricane by booking a destination that is less likely to be affected on any given year. Some destinations have a higher incidence of hurricanes and named storms than others. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, has a lower risk of named storms than Cancun, for example.

Bermuda and Miami have approximately a one-in-four annual risk of being affected by a hurricane. The odds for Nassau, Bahamas are about one-in-five. The islands of the Western Caribbean are less likely to be affected by hurricanes than those of the Eastern Caribbean.

The southernmost Caribbean islands (Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Grenada, Trinidad, Tobago) are rarely hit by hurricanes. A recent Dow Jones Island Index assessing hurricane risk rated Curacao as the Caribbean island least likely to be hit by a hurricane, followed by Bonaire, Grand Cayman, Barbados and Aruba.

If you want to avoid hurricane season, but still want to enjoy great off-season rates, try visiting in early December. The prices are still great and you will be travelling outside of hurricane season.

To find last-minute discounts to sun destinations, visit www.selloffvacations.com or contact a travel agent (the price should be the same either way).

Cyber leaf peeping

Fall is high season in places like New England and Quebec, where people book months in advance and pay top dollar to secure accommodations in quaint inns where fall foliage can be observed at its best.

If you are looking for an inexpensive way to access the most beautiful foliage, the Internet might be the answer. There are a number of groups that have set up “leaf cams” on the web, to allow leaf peepers to be instantly transported to the most scenic fall spots to visually imbibe of nature’s stunning display.

Check out these webcams for a fall cyber adventure at www.leafpeepers.com/cams.htm.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.