TRAVEL: DEALS OF THE WEEK: CHRISTMAS SHOPPING

Although Christmas shopping is a fraught business, it can often be made more enjoyable if you do it somewhere other than your local high street. Maybe it's something to do with not knowing what's around the next corner, or the possibility of finding an original gift. Combining shopping with a meal in a different restaurant, or a night or two in a hotel, all add to the experience.

Paris

Fancy shopping for gifts on the Champs Elysees? Tickets on Eurostar (tel: 0990 186186) cost pounds 59 per person if you travel with a friend and stay over a Saturday night. You must book by 13 November and travel before 21 November. From 13 December to 16 January, a day trip costs pounds 79. If you prefer to take a more exciting mode of travel to the French capital, Concorde Flights of Fantasy (tel: 01227 763336) offers day trips for pounds 695 per person. The price includes a subsonic British Airways flight to Paris and a return flight on Concorde. Pay pounds 1,250 and you can travel both ways on Concorde with a night at the Hotel Ambassador. The price also includes transfers, a tour and a champagne reception.

Northern France

Take the car to France and stock up on cheap wine. Eurotunnel Motoring Holidays (tel: 0870 3332001) offers breaks to Calais for pounds 103 per person, based on two sharing, including crossings with a car and three nights at the Hotel Copthorne. For pounds 122 per person, you can stay Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Chartreuse du Val St Esprit Chateau Hotel in Bethune - the Sunday is free.

Germany

Germany's Christmas markets are legendary and the oldest and largest is in Nuremberg, which has a ceremonial opening on 19 November. Most markets consist of family-run stalls selling food, drink and handicrafts. The German Travel Centre (tel: 0181-429 2900) is offering packages to Cologne, which has four markets close to the cathedral. One night in a three-star hotel costs from pounds 132 per person, based on two sharing, including flights from London to Cologne or Bonn. Additional nights cost pounds 30 per person. The price is valid for travel between 23 November and 23 December.

United States

Thanks to low prices, New York is a favourite Christmas shopping destination - although availability is limited. Concorde Flights of Fantasy (tel: 01227 763336) offers breaks in New York for pounds 2,710, departing on 1 December on a regular British Airways flight and returning on 5 December by Concorde. The price includes four nights' b&b at the Plaza Hotel plus a city tour. Cresta Holidays (tel: 0870 1610900) has availability on packages to Boston. For pounds 341 per person, based on two sharing, you can fly from Gatwick with Virgin and stay two nights at a superior two-star hotel.

Dubai

Dubai is geared up for shoppers, so much so that in spring it has a shopping festival dedicated to the art of retail therapy. The choice of outlets includes souks, shopping malls and duty-free outlets. Dnata Travel (tel: 0171-932 9900) is offering pre-Christmas trips for pounds 333 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights with Qatar Airways, transfers to the Princeton Hotel, three nights' b&b and all taxes. Fares are valid until 11 December. The deal also includes a visiting companion card which gives discounts at restaurants and clubs.

Italy

Italy is sometimes overlooked as a place to visit for Christmas shopping, but there are good bargains to be had, often in some of the smaller shops. Four-day breaks to Rome with Citalia (tel: 0181-686 5533) cost pounds 267 per person, based on two sharing, including flights from Stansted with Go and three nights' b&b at the Hotel San Remo. Extra nights cost pounds 29 per person. These prices are only valid if you stay over a Saturday night, but more flexible scheduled flights are also available.

London

Forte Hotels (tel: 0345 404040) is reducing the rates at some of its Posthouse and Meridien Hotels in London between 1 and 11 December. If you want to combine a shopping expedition with a trip to the theatre, some Forte Hotels are offering a package that includes one night's b&b accommodation and top-price tickets to see the musical The Lion King. Prices start from pounds 107.50 per person.

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