If you take time to travel this autumn, you could rake in some big savings on airfare and tours to many of Europe's grandest cities.

So says Chris DeSessa, a professor of travel and tourism management at Johnson & Wales University."If I weren't busy teaching classes in the fall, I'd definitely spend time traveling through Europe," DeSessa says. "Everything people pay top dollar to see and do in summer is available in autumn - theater, art, museums, shopping, sightseeing, restaurants. The only things you're missing when you go to Europe in the fall are the crowds, high airfares and premium hotel rates. And for the most part, the weather is comparable to autumn in New England.

"If that's not ideal, I don't know what is."

With summer drawing to a close, prices are dropping on everything from London theater and shopping tours to extended tours of Spain and Portugal and getaways to the French Riviera.

For example, the land-only package prices of Collette Tours' 10-day Spanish Heritage and 11-day Treasures of Portugal drop $100 per person in October and $200 per person in November. The two packages include most meals, escorted sightseeing daily, hotel accommodations and transportation.

From Nov. 5 to Dec. 4, Tauck Tours discounts $300 per person off its 10-day, land-only tour of Venice, Florence and Rome. The package includes 18 meals, hotel accommodations, sightseeing and transportation, including a rail trip from Venice to Florence.

Summit Hotels and Resorts, a collection of independent hotels, recently introduced "French Leisure Breaks," a program offering savings of 30 percent to 64 percent on hotel packages in Cannes and Brittany during the months of October and November.

In Cannes, the Hotel Gray d'Albion is $185 per night, double occupancy. The rate includes break-fast daily and a sunlounger on the hotel's private beach. The rate is good through October 31 and is 30 percent lower than the summer season.

In Brittany, Summit is offering discounts of up to 64 percent at the Hotel Heritage, Castel Marie-Louise and Hotel Royal-Thalasso.

Some even more significant savings can be found on the Internet. (OneTravel.com), a Web site for discounted tour packages, is showing a seven-day/six-night London package for $449, including air-fare from New York City, Boston or Washington on Virgin Atlantic, six nights' hotel accommodations and continental breakfast daily.

The site is also offering a two-week French "Provence Untour." For $1,670 per person, double occupancy, the package includes roundtrip airfare from New York City, two weeks in a furnished Provence apartment, a two-week car rental, airport transfers and an orientation session. For more information, go to (www.1travel.com) on the World Wide Web.

Of course, getting to Europe is always a big part of the expense. Not to worry, says Mary Alice Kellogg, executive editor of The Shuttle Sheet, an in-flight magazine for Delta Airlines. Airlines are eager to fill seats in the fall, and are discounting fares accordingly. Through October, she says, Delta is offering roundtrip tickets from New York City to Paris for $418; the fare falls to $338 for the month of November.

Other airline deals can be found through travel agents and on Web sites such as (www.travelocity.com), (www.travelweb.com), and (www.TheTrip.com).