The stock market is swooning. The economy is wobbling. An election is pending. The future is foggy.

Sounds like a great time to take a vacation. What better way to relieve stress?

In fact, tourists who scrape up the cash this fall and winter will find some of the best bargains since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks devastated the travel industry.

This time it's worry over money, not safety, that is keeping would-be travelers at home. But the result is the same: bargains to tempt the reluctant. You think blue chips are cheap? Check out these recent prices:

* A Las Vegas hotel room for $1 per night. Thursdays, with three-night stay. From Excalibur Hotel & Casino.

* An Eastern Caribbean cruise for $336 per person, double occupancy (with taxes and fees). Five nights round trip from Miami. From Carnival Cruise Lines.

* Hong Kong for $1,542 per person, double occupancy (with taxes and fees). Five nights, including hotel and round-trip air from Los Angeles. From Pleasant Holidays.

In the next few months, the travel industry is "going to be in a very difficult time," said John Monahan, president and chief executive of the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau.

It already is, in many quarters.

As fast as U.S. airlines drop flights, demand drops faster. Some travel agents report that cruise bookings have fallen by more than half, says industry newsletter Cruise Week.

Even the wealthy seem to be losing their nerve.

Abercrombie & Kent recently ran a "buy one, get one free" offer for adventure cruises that start at $7,995 per person in New Zealand, Melanesia and other destinations. Über-luxe Crystal Cruises was throwing in free airfare to Miami for Los Angeles guests on Panama Canal itineraries.

Responding to the malaise, tour operator Asia Transpacific Journeys, based in Boulder, Colo., has said it will waive cancellation penalties for bookings through Nov. 14.

"Your investment portfolio may not come with a money-back guarantee, but now your travel dreams do," it said in a news release.

In this environment, uncertainty is your friend. When in doubt, travel companies discount. A look around:

Cruises and tours: Cruises are at the fore of price cratering, especially in the Caribbean, where hurricane season continues through November.

"We are focusing more on deals than we ever have in five years," said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of Cruisecritic.com, a consumer information website.

Brown says she's astonished by fares as low as $25 per night for Bahamas cruises, adding, "They're desperate to fill the ship." She has also seen Mediterranean cruises as low as $599, plus airfare, for seven nights. (Newer ships still command top dollar.)

Even the holidays are shaping up to be different this year.