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Off-Season begins as early as October in Scandinavia, is established throughout Europe by Nov. 1 and continues through March. The weather is much like the United States: expect snow in the far north; cold and damp everywhere except on the Mediterranean shore. Bring clothes you can layer instead of single heavy sweaters that fill your luggage.

Airfares to Europe go way down on or about Nov. 1. You are also more likely to find flights where you can use your frequent flyer air miles than in summer.

Weekends in the cities, prices drop 40 percent or more. Hilton Hotels (800) HILTON for example, also offer room upgrades and free breakfasts. Resort areas are cheapest Mondays through Thursdays. Tourist offices in railway stations will find accommodations in any price bracket you name.

1999-00 off-season highlights: Oct. 3-9, Baltic Herring Market, Helsinki, Finland; Oct. 15-31 Budapest Autumn Festival (contemporary art); October-November wine festivals in Germany; Oct. 30-Nov. 7 International Antiques Fair, Bruges, Belgium; Nov. 1, All Souls Day especially in the Grand Place, Brussels; Nov. 6-10, St. Martin's Fair, Golega, Portugal; late November-December, Christmas Markets in Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Germany, Holland; Dec. 6, St. Nicholas Day in Holland; Dec. 13, Santa Lucia Day in Sweden; March 3-7, 2000, Carnival notably in Venice, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, Germany and the French Riviera; March, ski races and festivals in Sweden and Norway; March, Spring Festivals throughout Hungary; March 15-19, "Las Fallas" (the bonfires) festival of St. Joseph the Carpenter in Valencia, Spain.

More information: Rail Europe, (888) 324-7245. On the Internet, links to Web sites for all European countries.

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