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Spectacular Christmas destinations

  • Story Highlights
  • New Zealand -- where it's summer -- has night fishing, sub-tropical beaches
  • Munich, Germany, offers the Marienplatz Christmas market
  • In Santa Cruz, California, Santa arrives by surf board
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Travel + Leisure

(Travel + Leisure) -- 'Tis the season to plan your holiday vacation or start thinking about next year's festive getaway.

Children in Santa Cruz, California, greet Santa after he arrives on a surf board.

Children in Santa Cruz, California, greet Santa after he arrives on a surf board.

While this year's shaky economy will force some to roast their chestnuts and stuff their stockings at home, others are building their far-flung itineraries and checking them twice.

For many intrepid holiday travelers, Christmas is just not complete without a passport, a suitcase of good cheer, and a warm bed as far from home as the North Pole.

But deciding where to celebrate is not as simple as it is during other times of the year.

Not surprisingly, fares and rates tend be higher around the holidays, which can dictate which destination you choose. See photos and details of fabulous Christmas destinations »

But local customs (13 Santa Clauses of Iceland or roving masked musicians in the Caribbean), unexpected seasonal closings, even flight availability, especially in the U.S., when you're competing for seat space with whole families flying grandma's house -- all factor into the equation.

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In truth, the holiday traveler's choices are endless. There's a quintessential white Christmas in New England celebrated amid the cobblestone streets of historic Boston, where roasted lobster trumps Turkey on holiday menus. Further to the south, gracious living comes to life in the Victorian mansions of Charleston at holiday time, and eggnog is made with local bourbon. In Santa Cruz, California, Santa arrives by -- what else -- surf board.

On the other side of the pond in Munich, travelers and locals alike look forward to the traditional crafts and hot spiced wine in the Marienplatz Christmas market. New Zealand -- where it's summer in December -- serves up nighttime fishing, sub-tropical beaches, and award-winning wines. And in Bali, with its sunsets over temple spires and miles of terraced rice paddies, expect holiday dishes laced with Kaffir lime jus.

OK, not everyone has visions of exotic locales dancing in their head. For many, a simple change of scenery will do the trick in conjuring the holiday spirit and supplying a dose of much-needed rejuvenation at the end of the year.

So, dash through our slideshow of dreamy destination options and find yourself a merry little Christmas.

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Copyright 2007 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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