While many travelers cast their eyes to tropical climates in search of the best vacation deals, the deepest values are popping up in America's backyard: Canada. Our neighbor to the north rarely elicits excited responses from travelers, but this year, thanks in part to heavy discounting and a favorable exchange rate, a Canadian vacation will give you some serious bang for the buck. "The best deals in North America can be found in Canada," says Edward Hasbrouck, author of
The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World . "This is one of the best times I've ever seen to go there in terms of value." The discounts will be especially impressive in the fall, a traditional off-peak travel period wedged between the summer rush of Canadian vacationers and the winter inflow of skiers and other outdoorsy types. Indeed, some airlines have already taken steps to deal with reduced demand. On Wednesday, Air Canada ( ACNAF) slashed 1,300 seasonal jobs on a temporary basis to cut costs during the period of weak demand. As in the U.S., the Canadian travel market took a rather sizable hit in the wake of Sept. 11. But Canada's travel market isn't such a magnet for international travel, relying more on intra-Canadian tourism than on business from U.S. customers. As a result, Hasbrouck says that many service industries that cater especially to tourists are offering extreme discounts. "Restaurant meals are going to be a really strong bargain, but hotels will be the best deals," says Hasbrouck, who recently returned from a tour of bed and breakfasts in the Canadian Northwest. "I was staying in high-end places that cost $80 to $90 Canadian. That's just $50 to $60 in U.S. currency, which would have cost between $100 and $150 in a major metropolitan city like New York or San Francisco." Instead of day-tripping through the hills of Vermont or New York State to see the foliage change colors, consider a three-day trip to Quebec City and Montreal. Both cities have old European charm and are nestled in the Laurentian Mountains, where pristine forests explode into reds and oranges during the first weeks of October. "The Laurentians will be absolutely wonderful that time of year," says Evelyn Hannon, publisher of JourneyWoman.com, a travel Web site targeting female travelers. "And the fun of going to Montreal is getting a taste of Europe. They speak a lot of French there, but it's also bilngual. And the mountains are just 45 minutes away." Orbitz.com has some outstanding weekend deals to both Montreal and Quebec City, which include airfare and three nights at high-end hotels. Round-trip airfare from New York City, plus three nights at the four-star Wyndham Hotel in Montreal, starts at $319, not including tax and fees. Three nights at a four-star hotel in Quebec City, including round-trip airfare from Chicago, starts at $472, not including tax and fees. (In both cases, other destinations will cost more money.) Those who shun package deals in favor of a la carte selections will find airfare surprisingly reasonable in the fall as well. "Traditionally a good fare from the East Coast to the East Coast of Canada costs between $200 and $250," says Silvers.