Just the mention of Christmas in August makes some of us shudder. But let's be realistic: People who plan elaborate holiday trips need lots of getaway leeway. Here are some international offerings so tempting that you might just break out with a chorus of ''Jingle Bells."
Globus has eight Christmas-themed trips, with land prices ranging from $599 to $1,199. They are Christmas in Ireland (five days, from $599), in England (seven days, from $799), at London's Waldorf Hilton (five days, from $849), in Bavaria and Austria (seven days, from $899), in Berlin and Eastern Europe (nine days, from $1,099), in Munich and Eastern Europe (nine days, from $1,099), in Bavaria and Alsace (eight days, from $1,149), and a holiday cruise from Vienna to Prague (nine days, from $1,199). Trips usually include breakfasts and some other meals, visits to attractions including Christmas markets in some countries, and many other amenities. Air fare is available and extra and adds a day to the length of the trips. Globus says the pricing represents a cut of 25 percent over comparable trips in summer.
See a travel agent, visit www.globusjourneys.com, or call 866-755-8581.
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises has four luxury trips scheduled over Christmas and Hanukkah. For example, the Seven Seas Navigator departs Dec. 19 on a nine-night western Caribbean sailing from Fort Lauderdale to San Juan, with Dec. 25 (also the first night of Hanukkah this year) at sea. Prices start at $3,971 with a 50 percent savings for the second person.
Call 800-285-1835 or visit www.rssc.com.
Some people love Branson, Mo., especially at Christmas when it's aglow with decorations. Maupintour, which specializes in escorted packages, has a six-day tour that includes five nights' hotel, five breakfasts, one lunch, and five dinners. Participants will have reserved seats for performances including: the Shoji Tabuchi music and dance show, Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff, and the Andy Williams Christmas Show. They will also visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, Mo., tour the Hallmark Visitors Center, and sightsee in Branson and the surrounding area. Land-only prices begin at $1,799, and departure dates are Nov. 15, 22, and 29. Maupintour has nine other Christmas trips in the states and a half-dozen in other countries.
Call 800-255-4266 or visit www.maupintour.com.
How many people can say they have attended the Night of the Radishes? In Oaxaca, Mexico, a huge exhibition on Dec. 3 includes figures sculpted from radishes in scenes depicting the birth of Jesus or the history and culture of Oaxacans. Other figures are made from dried straw flowers and corn husks. Austin-Lehman Adventures has an all-inclusive, small-group trip Dec. 24-31, starting at $2,598 per person plus air.
Call 800-575-1540 or visit www.austinlehman.com.
Windstar Cruises' luxury motor sailing yachts -- the 308-passenger Wind Surf and 148-passenger Wind Spirit -- both have holiday excursions. The Wind Surf's 10-day round-trip holiday cruise departs Dec. 18 from Bridgetown, Barbados, calling on Tobago, West Indies; Mayreau and Bequia, Grenadines; Pigeon Island, St. Lucia; Roseau and Cabrits, Dominica; Basse-Terre, Gaudeloupe; and Iles des Saintes, French Antilles. Rates from $2,695 per person. The Wind Spirit sails Dec. 17 for a 10-day cruise trip from St. Thomas. Ports include St. John, Saba, Iles des Saintes, Pigeon Island, Bridgetown, Bequia, Roseau, and Virgin Gorda. Prices start at $2,995.
See a travel agent, call 800-258-SAIL (7245), or visit www.windstarcruises.com.
African adventure ''Roaring Dunes & Silent Skies" is a luxury 13-day journey through Namibia that brings together sand dunes, ocean, and desert skies, then ends with three nights in Cape Town. Among the activities are dune boarding and walking, quad biking, sea kayaking, rhino and elephant tracking on foot, night game drives, hot-air ballooning, fly fishing, river boating, and walking with the nomadic Himba tribe. Prices for all this exotica start at $10,890 per person.
Call African Travel Inc. at 800-421-8907 or visit www.africantravelinc.com.
No-fee card One of the latest of many credit cards promising travel rewards is the
Call 877-425-8375 or visit www.americanexpress.com/bluesky.
Speaking of cards If you have one of those credit cards that gives you a frequent-flier mile for every dollar spent, you are probably paying $50-$100 in annual fees. I have found that if you call to cancel your card, many companies will offer you a fee-free alternative that gives you one mile for every $2 spent.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Contact Richard P. Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org.