Take holiday shopping on the road
Getaways add air of adventure to seasonal ritual
By Marnie Hunter
(CNN) -- Getting ready for the holidays is bound to involve some shopping, whether it's finding a perfect gift, a festive outfit or decorations and refreshments to prepare for the season's guests.
Why not fold those shopping objectives into a getaway before the frenzy begins at home?
"It's fall, it's pre-holiday craziness and it's a great way for you to go out with your girlfriends or your significant other and get some fun shopping done, to really kind of enjoy yourselves and reconnect before the holidays," said Kari Swartz, a spokeswoman for Expedia.com.
The festive layer of big-city glitz and glimmer in many top destinations is an added enticement for visiting holiday shoppers.
Internet sites such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity allow travelers to package flights and hotels together for added savings year-round.
The customer sees only the bottom line price for the two components together, giving providers an incentive to offer additional savings on published rates, Swartz said.
This season, Expedia's editors have put together a list of 10 top holiday shopping destinations and corresponding travel packages.
In the United States, San Francisco and Los Angeles, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Chicago, Illinois; and New York are among cities on the list. Airfare plus three nights at the Sheraton Universal hotel in Los Angeles starts at $376 per person.
The Minneapolis, Minnesota, area, home to the Mall of America, also makes the list, with a flight and three nights in a hotel starting at $343 per person.
For those looking for gifts with an international flair, Paris, France, and London, England, are choice shopping cities.
Packages are particularly attractive for European destinations where the dollar is weak, according to Heidi Mitchell, a senior editor at Travel + Leisure magazine.
Mitchell finds the best retail deals in London immediately following the holidays. A visit to her in-laws in Scotland usually involves a side-trip to London's chic shops to catch the after-Christmas sales.
"We always go to Harvey Nichols on Boxing Day (December 26) because everything's on sale and the prices are really good -- everything is 50 percent off. Even with the weak American dollar, it's still pretty good," she said.
British Airways offers a holiday shopping package starting at $399 per person for roundtrip airfare and three nights hotel accommodation in central London. The offer is good for travel now through March 31, 2005.
For a good deal on a pre-Christmas trip to Paris, Mitchell suggested a shopping package from France Vacations. A six-night organized tour with round trip airfare starts at $999 per person. Daily breakfast and several lunches, tours and transportation passes also are included in the price.
Hotels also get in on the holiday shopping season with special promotions. Check with major hotel chains for discounted rates and added perks.
New York's Hilton Hotels offer shopping packages starting at $239 per night for a double room plus a $50 Bloomingdale's gift card and several additional coupons and discounts at Bloomingdale's, The Sharper Image and Tourneau.
If getting into the hustle and bustle of a big city doesn't sound like fun, consider a luxury retreat to California's Napa Valley.
Candlelight Inn owner and innkeeper Mark Tamiso hopes to draw visitors to the valley during the slow season with a special package geared toward wine and food lovers ready to stock up on holiday goodies and gifts.
Rates start at $629 for the complete two-night, double-occupancy package, including a three-course breakfast, complimentary wine and snacks and five hours with a driver to visit wineries and shops.
After all, there's nothing wrong with adding a new flavor to the seasonal shopping ritual.