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Empty nesters travel destinations

Sep. 6, 2013 at 10:28 AM ET

Forget weepy goodbyes. Parents are dropping their kids off at school and waving a cheerful goodbye as they head out on their own adventures. Instead of packing up junior's toys and trophies to convert his room into a den, empty nesters may just pack their bags for a trip.

Orbitz senior editor Jeanenne Tornatore joined TODAY Friday morning to share ideas for for empty nesters looking to check some items off their bucket lists.

“With budget-friendly hotel rates and crowds at a minimum, fall is the perfect time to travel,” Tornatore said, encouraging empty nesters to take advantage of this “shoulder season."

Where to go? Tornatore likes Santa Fe, New Mexico, "The City Different."

“I think it's really the city unexpected,” she said. “This seemingly sleepy town set at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is anything but a ghost town,” Tornatore likes Santa Fe's art galleries, spas and restaurants and four centuries of southwestern history. Her hotel pick is the 4-star Hotel St. Francis which offers rates starting at $157 a night in mid October. (And for parents who don't want to leave the whole family behind, these are pet-friendly digs.)

Francophiles short on euros can get their fix with a weekend escape to French-speaking Québec City, Canada, according to Tornatore. Think bistros, boutiques and quaint alleyways.

“You'll feel every bit like you've spent the weekend strolling around a Parisian neighborhood,” she said.

The place to stay is the 4-star, fairytale Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac standing above Old Québec , where you'll find rooms starting at $205/night in early November.

Tornatore admitted Savannah, Georgia, “might not be hidden,” but, she said, citing its history, romance, and southern hospitality, it “maintains a charm and laid-back luxury that makes it a must-stop for any traveler.”

“From sipping sweet tea at a sidewalk café to taking a walking tour of the city's dramatic architecture from centuries past, whatever your speed is you can enjoy it here,” said Tornatore.

Book in at the 4-star Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa for $189 a night in early October.

“Amazing savings” can be had in Aspen, Colorado, before the ski resorts open, Tornatore said, and “if you hurry, you may be able to catch some of the beautiful colors of the Aspen trees.”

Visiting at this quiet time means “you'll have your pick of the best hotels and no trouble getting reservations at the most romantic restaurants,” said Tornatore, “Not to mention, hiking some of the most scenic trails in the country.”

A room at the vibrant, 4-star Limelight Hotel starts at $135 a night in mid October.

“Although most Americans visit Holland during tulip season, you can find incredible deals during shoulder season,” said Tornatore, “and autumn is a great time to enjoy all that the country has to offer.” She recommends staying in Amsterdam “and planning easy day trips ... to some of the great nearby destinations like Rotterdam, the Hague and Haarlem.”

Beyond Dutch cheese, canals, windmills, and Van Gogh, Tornatore said “with the leaves turning color, Holland's parks and forests are at their most beautiful and it's a great time to get on your bike and explore the way the Dutch do.”

Packages on Orbitz that include airfare from NYC and five nights at the stylish, 5-star NH Grand Hotel Kransnapolsky Amsterdam on the central Dam start at $1,433 per person.

Follow Dana McMahan, travel, food and fitness writer, at @danamac.

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