If you've looked around lately, you know it's not just the autumn leaves that are starting to fall. With the peak summer travel season now squarely behind us, the rates on that vacation getaway you've been planning are starting to fall too.

Granted, it's not going to get any cheaper if your trek calls for a New England tour to watch the foliage work wonders with the color wheel. We're also kicking into the convention season where big corporate gatherings might eat into your metropolitan lodging plans.

But if you're a traveler willing to take the road less traveled -- to zig while others zag -- you can't beat the fall season bargains.

Fly cheap
The skies are getting friendlier -- to your pocketbook at least. This isn't as much a seasonality perk as simply a welcome trend to the spendthrift air traveler. Remember when Southwest (NYSE:LUV) rocked the industry with its no-frills rock-bottom fares? Rival carriers dreaded Southwest's entry into their travel hubs because it meant that they had to make lower-price promises their bulky overhead couldn't keep.

The end result was that Southwest became the one airline that passengers and investors could rely on to stick to their flight plans. Smooth departures. Consistent profitability.

But no good idea goes uncloned. The landscape today is more in tune with the bargain jetsetter. JetBlue (NASDAQ:JBLU) has taken that same low-cost model of maintaining a similar fleet of smaller planes, yet turned up the bennies with leather seats and DirecTV programming. Even the major carriers have started to play the game. Earlier this year, stodgy Delta (NYSE:DAL) launched the entertainingly hip, budget-conscious Song Airline.

More will come as the industry transforms itself into a viable sector -- not one that has left investors and the occasional load of passengers stranded on the runway.

Sleep cheap
Capacity is a funny thing. In the lodging industry it is also a highly inflexible thing. An empty room to a hotel operator is a total loss, so great deals are always to be had in the off-season. And, yes, those summer family vacations are over now that the kids are back in school. The Northern snowbirds are still months away from making their way to the welcome warmth of Florida's beaches.

This is the perfect window to lock in some great rates at popular destinations all over the country. You can probably locate some decent promotional rates by going to the hotel's website directly, but you may find a broader collection of offers -- and lodging alternatives -- at major portals like InterActive's (NASDAQ:IACI) Expedia and Hotels.com or Sabre's (NYSE:TSG) Travelocity.

But if the portals are discounting, can you imagine how deep the discounters are discounting? Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN) and Hotwire have carved a cozy living marking down the industry's excess capacity. You can save a lot of money this way, but you must be prepared for the related mysteries. Hotwire won't reveal the actual name of the hotel attached to its location and amenities until after you have booked. Priceline blurs the process further still by letting you bid on a price, rather than come back with the lowest price available. Still, they are attractive options if you really want to stretch your getaway dollar.

Incidentally, you will find links to all of these money-saving travel sites, along with various other features on maximizing your trip planning online, in our Travel Center.

Cheap ships
The "hit 'em where they ain't" baseball adage also applies to vacation planning. Vegas hotels will always cost substantially more over the weekends. Ski resorts, even those that are open year round, will charge peak pricing during the winter holidays. The same goes for cruises. Over the winter, folks take to cruising to escape the cold weather, while enjoying tropical ports of call. Over the summer, families and teachers with time off roll with the bon voyage.

That brings us to the wonders of autumn cruising. Disney (NYSE:DIS) and Royal Caribbean (NYSE:RCL), two cruise lines that go out of their way to cater to families, typically offer bargains that are less than half of what the berths would fetch in season. Others like Carnival (NYSE:CCL) and its "Fun Ship" fleet have little choice but to go with the promotional flow during these light travel months.

Maybe I'm spoiled by the South Florida advantage of having popular cruise ports so close to home, but if you've never gone cruising, you really should give it a shot. Beyond the endless dining options and round-the-clock entertainment you get to travel to some amazing foreign places without ever having to repack your suitcase.

Still here?
It's not easy to get up and go. If you have financial concerns or other obligations that have you shackled close to home, you're not alone. Maybe next year. But for everyone else, what are you waiting for? Dig into our Travel Center for some ideas and inspiration, then go out there and make some memories.

The next time you see one of those Southwest ads on TV, ponder the tagline. Wanna get away? It's not supposed to be a rhetorical question.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz was born into a nomadic clan of travelers. He didn't realize how good he had it until he grew up and realized that he had to start paying for his own treks. While Rick brought up quite a few publicly traded companies here, he only owns a small stake in one of them -- Disney. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.