By Echo Montgomery Garrett

(MONEY Magazine) – If you got caught short of time or cash during the recent air-fare wars and are now hankering after a getaway -- you're in luck. Traditionally, the weeks from Labor Day through mid-December turn up travel buys worldwide. This year, with the recession's lingering effects and U.S. hotel occupancy rates averaging 64%, many choice spots are promoting deep discounts. For example, Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean, which were sidelined in the air-fare battles, are now offering terrific airline/hotel packages, notes James Cammisa at Travel Industry Indicators, published in Miami. Meanwhile, U.S. ski resorts have made available a variety of thrifty lift deals. And though the dollar has been taking a beating, U.S. airlines are promoting fares to Europe of up to 40% off and competition among European airlines is fierce too. Virgin Atlantic, for instance, is giving a free economy-class ticket with every first-class purchase. Also, the dollar is still strong against the currencies of Greece and Turkey, so you might consider trips to either country. Besides off-season packages to familiar beaches and slopes, you'll also find low prices for exotic experiences, such as a Polynesian idyll or an African safari. All prices for these fall bargains are based on double occupancy from September through mid-December or so. Here's where to go: For tropical breezes. The St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association (800-524-2026) is featuring a two-day free car rental with any seven-night island stay. At the just-opened Hibiscus Beach Hotel (800-442-0121), a seven- night golf package runs $645.50 per person ($396 less than winter rates), without air fare or meals but covering an eight-day car rental and all fees for a nearby 18-hole course. Take advantage of the new, lower air fares to Hawaii by calling the Hawaii Visitors Bureau (808-923-1811) for names of several of the larger hotels that have joined forces with airlines to offer discounted packages. A week's stay at Honolulu's Outrigger Reef Hotel (800-241-1700), for instance, includes round-trip air fare from Los Angeles on American Airlines for $712 per person. And, yes, Club Med's all-inclusive vacations are still hard to beat, ! especially during off-seasons. Until Dec. 12, kids stay free at many villages. One of the newest, Mexico's Club Med Huatulco (almost in Guatemala), has halved its price to $1,199 per person for a week's stay, including air fare from Chicago. Honeymooners rate $200 off. Other departures: New York City, Miami and Los Angeles. If you're inclined to really get away, consider Tahiti, a 7 1/2-hour flight from L.A. and the stomping grounds for Captains Cook and Bligh as well as Marlon Brando. Faced with competition from a small French airline called AOM, Air New Zealand has dropped round-trip fares from L.A. to $696 (from $923) through Dec. 8, making Tahiti and other South Pacific islands the most affordable they've been in years. Packages are your best buy. For instance: A 12-day trip for $2,565 includes air fare, most meals and accommodations on Moorea, Huahine, Rangiroa and Tahiti islands. Two other all-inclusive tours of the islands cost $1,265 for seven days and $1,865 for nine. Call the Tahitian Tourist Marketing Bureau (310-649-2886) or the largest tour operator for the area, Islands in the Sun (800-854-3413.) For the adventurous. It may not be long before African safaris are no longer even an option. Right now, while there's still thrilling wildlife to see, the trips, though hardly cheap, offer enormous value. Micato Safari (800-642-2861) features the Deluxe Livingston 12-day, $4,368-per-person trip, which includes air fare. The safari begins in Nairobi at the Norfolk Hotel (which hosted Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway) and includes visits to Amboseli National Park, the tamed-rhino reserve at Sweetwater's Tented Camp, the Animal Orphanage at the Mount Kenya Safari Club, founded by the late actor William Holden, and, last, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, heavily populated by lions. On the slopes. By reflex, most skiers head for Colorado, but think again. In Utah, Salt Lake City boasts seven world-class mountains -- Deer Valley, Park City, Park West, Brighton, Alta, Snowbird and Solitude (see the map above) -- all within an hour's drive of downtown and accessible by city buses ($8 round trip). There are also shuttle buses ($1.25) between the ski areas, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Lift and tram tickets for adults run about $37 a day. Avenir Adventure (800-367-3230) recommends getting an overview of the area with a touring package. Called Utah Ski Safari, the weeklong trip gives you a choice of hotels ($850 per person with no meals to $1,150 with full breakfast) and ; includes seven days of ski passes and round-trip transportation to the ski areas and the airport. Or add some sightseeing with a combo package: four days of skiing, similar lodging choices plus a rental-car drive five hours south to Moab, a small town near the spectacular Canyonlands seen in Thelma and Louise.