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Christmas specials may be music to your ears

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / November 26, 2006

Not only are radio stations already playing Christmas music, but travel providers are singing the praises of yuletide getaways and trip-related gifts. Here are some examples:

The little town of Bethlehem, Pa., will be forever associated with Christmas. Through Dec. 30, the city celebrates yuletide past and present with horse-drawn carriage rides; night tours that provide a good view of the 93-foot steel Moravian Star on South Mountain ; free concerts in a candlelit, historic chapel; shopping in boutiques along Main Street; and a Moravian Nativity scene. The Hotel Bethlehem starts its Bed, Breakfast, Bethlehem! Package at $134 a night for a room with a view of Main Street or the Moravian Star. Also included are breakfast for two, a complimentary newspaper, high-speed Internet access, an airport shuttle, and parking .

Visit hotelbethlehem.com or call 800-607-BETH . For Bethlehem information, visit historicbethlehem.org or call 800-360-TOUR .

Verana, a secluded boutique hotel overlooking the sea on a remote hillside 30 miles south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is offering a three- or four-day getaway the first and second weeks of December. The package features one spa treatment a day per guesthouse, free yoga, three meals daily , taxes , and boat transportation. The price is $350 per couple per day.

Visit verana.com or call 800-530-7176 .

Shows, shopping, and skating are all part of the scene in Manhattan at Christmastime, and hotels are offering packages at all price levels. For instance:

Apple Core Hotels Super 8 Hotel Times Square's Picture Perfect in the Park package starts at $159, including a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park, complimentary breakfast, and 20 free digital picture prints. The offer is valid Dec. 13-Feb. 28 (excluding Dec. 31). Visit applecorehotels.com/promotions/park.

The century-old Mansfield Hotel has a Winter in New York package, available Dec. 17- Jan. 15 starting at $249 a night. Guests get a superior room and breakfast for two. Visit mansfieldhotel.com and click on Promotions or call 800-255-5167 .

For the bigger spenders, the Hotel Gansevoort has two offers . The Coming in from the Cold package starts at $735 a night and includes in-room chocolate fondue, personalized robes, and a choice of spa treatments. The White Winter Wonderland Escape package offers families tickets to Chelsea Piers Ice Skating (with transportation), a complimentary movie, and continental breakfast. Rooms start at $625 a night. Both packages are valid from Dec. 18-27 and Jan. 1-Feb. 28.

Call 877-426-7386 or, for hotel information, visit hotelgansevoort .com .

Florida is also a popular Christmastime destination, and Rentalo.com specializes in rental homes throughout the state. One recent example is a 3,000-square-foot home with pool, less than four miles from Disney World, with two master suites with king beds, two queen bedrooms, and one twin along with living and dining rooms and fully equipped kitchen. The price is $170 nightly with a one-night minimum.

Visit rentalo.com or call 877-710-5914 .

For penguin fans, more than 100 Doubletree hotels across the country have a Happy Feet package through Dec. 31. Guests will receive two complimentary adult and two children's ticket vouchers for the "Happy Feet" animated movie that can be redeemed anytime between the date of the hotel stay and Jan. 29 at participating theaters . Room prices vary.

Visit doubletree.com/happyfeet or call 800-222-TREE .

Le Méridien Bora Bora will have its first-ever Christmas Pearl Drop. On Christmas morning, guests can dive for five Tahitian black pearls on the sandy floor of the resort's lagoon. Finders, of course, are keepers. Rates start at about $600 a night.

Visit starwoodhotels.com or call 011-689-47-07-29 .

It will be an old-fashioned Christmas at the Tides Inn in Irvington, Va. Its Taste of the Tidings package, available through December and starting at $99 a night, includes caroling, horse and carriage rides, holiday movies, cocoa and brownie socials, live entertainment for dancing, ornament decorating, tree decorating, cooking lessons and demonstrations, the ever-popular bingo, story time characters, afternoon tea, and a visit from the jolly guy on Christmas Eve. The package is only available by calling 800-843-3746 . Visit tidesinn.com for inn information.

Railpass.com has three Holiday Euro Gift Packs that can be purchased with or without buying rail passes or tickets. The basic pack, for $59, includes a Motorola Timeport international cellphone and charger, $20 of prepaid minutes, a $10 iTunes card, a Eurotrip rail map of Europe, and a 12-language phrase book. A $20 or $40 certificate toward travel on Railpass.com can be added to the gift .

Visit railpass.com or railconnection.com . The gifts must be bought by Dec. 31 but are good anytime.

Nav-a-Trip is selling gift certificates for GPS navigation systems, which are especially handy for directionally disabled people like me. The systems are loaded with maps of every town in North America and many in Europe, as well as information on local points of interest. The recipient can redeem the gift certificate through the website. The maximum daily rate for North American units is $9.95; for European units, $14.95. Discounts increase the longer the units are rented.

Visit nav-a-trip.com .

BedandBreakfast.com gift certificates are good at 3,200 inns throughout the nation, including many in New England. They start at $25, and can be delivered online, by mail, or by you in person after printing them off your computer.

Go to the website and click on Gift Certificates.

Good and dead
Expedia.com notes that good prices can be found over travel's "dead weeks" -- the time immediately following Thanksgiving and New Year's Day through mid-January. Cruise ships, hotels, airlines , and even ski resorts are usually slow during this time, offering more discounts and last-minute deals. Using Expedia and its rival websites, I was able to find five-night Caribbean cruises for under $200, with suites at $650. Remember, though, that such offers sometimes sell out fast, even during a "dead" time.

Skiing in Newfoundland
Ski buffs are always looking for new and exciting destinations. One of them might be Newfoundland and Labrador. The Atlantic Canada province attracts black diamond down hill racers, snowboarders, cross-country skiers, and snowmobile fans, with up to 16 feet of virgin snow, miles of uncrowded slopes and trails, no lift lines, and low prices. Starting next month on Sundays and Mondays, Maxxim Vacations is offering a "fourth night free" package with air fare from Boston for $849 US per person with four sharing a quad to $1,119 per person, double. The price includes a three-day lift pass, a car rental and accommodations at the Marble Villa, at the base of the mountain. Visit maxximvacations.com or call 800-567-6666.

From Feb. 3-April 14, the Humber Valley Resort is featuring a five-night ski package in a three-bedroom chalet -- many with fireplaces, saunas , and outdoor hot tubs -- that comes with a three-day lift pass for $398 per person with six people sharing, or $546 per person for three people. Visit humbervalley.com or call 709-686-8100 . For more possibilities, visit explorenewfoundland.com and grosmorneadventures.com .

$1,115, sun included
Spain's Costa del Sol averages 350 days of sun each year and in winter the average daily temperature is 63 degrees. TourCrafters' All-Inclusive Week on the Costa del Sol costs $1,115 until March 31 and includes round-trip air from Boston or New York to Malaga and seven nights at the four-star beachfront Gran Hotel Costa del Sol in Mijas (where the taxis are burros), all food and beverages except premium brands, a daily buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus beer, soft drinks, mineral water, wine, cocktails and snacks all day. The fine print: Holiday stays cost extra.

Visit tourcrafters.com or call 800-482-5995 .

Still a frontiersman
Fess Parker was a wildly popular actor in the 1950s because of his role as Davy Crockett, American frontiersman, politician, and hero. Nowadays, he owns and operates Fess Parker's Wine Country Inn & Spa , located just north of Santa Barbara, Calif. The inn's midweek room with dinner package includes deluxe accommodations with a fireplace for two nights, a full American breakfast for two each morning, a complimentary bottle of Fess Parker chardonnay along with fruit; a two-course dinner for two in the Wine Cask restaurant, three-course dinners for two with a glass of wine at Los Olivos Café , wine tasting for two at the Fess Parker Winery and the Epiphany Cellars tasting room, and free parking. The rate is $480 Sunday-Thursday on selected dates from now through March.

Call 800-446-2455 or visit fessparker.com.

Ah, Shakespeare
There's more to our nation's capital than monuments and politicians. From January through June, more than 40 arts organizations will present Shakespeare in Washington, a festival of theater, music, dance, films, and art throughout the area. Getting into the spirit, The Fairmont Washington, D.C. has created the Romeo and Juliet Package featuring a room with a balcony overlooking the hotel's courtyard garden, a "Romeo and Juliet" DVD , and a love potion for two. (Tell us more!) Available Jan. 1-June 30, the package starts at $189 per night.

Call 800-441-1414 or, for hotel information, visit fairmont.com/washington.

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 carpenter@globe.com

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