Frankfurt, Leipzig, Dresden, Annaberg, Schneeberg, Plauen, Bamburg: 5 nights, from $969 per person
The Real Deal: Five nights' accommodations, breakfast daily, sightseeing tours by bus, entrance fees, the services of a tour guide, and all taxes. Hotels include the InterContinental Frankfurt, Hotel Mercure in Leipzig, Steigenberger Parkhotel Dresden-Radebeul, and the Hotel Alexandra in Plauen. Sightseeing highlights include Wartburg castle in Eisenach, Meissen's china factory, Semper Opera House in Dresden, and the town of Plauen, famous for its handcrafted lace.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
When: Depart Dec. 2 or 6, 2008.
Fine print: All taxes included. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $166.
Why it's a deal: The Christmas Delight package breaks down to about $194 per person per night, including taxes. For that rate, you get not only your accommodations but also the services of a tour guide.
At the market: The Leipzig Christmas market has trees strung with lights and a huge freestanding Advent calendar. There are also stops at the markets in Dresden, Annaberg-Buchholz, and Bamberg.
Getting there: The trip begins and ends in Frankfurt. A recent Kayak search for round-trip flights in early December produced the following fares: $577 from New York City (Continental), $681 from Chicago (United/Lufthansa), $682 from Philadelphia (U.S. Airways), $685 from Seattle (Air France), $704 from San Francisco (United), and $736 from Atlanta (United). You can also opt to book airfare through the tour operator; do some research through online booking sites to see how Nordique's fares compare.
Contact: Nordique Tours, 800/995-7997, nordiquetours.com.
Frankfurt, Munich, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Lucerne: 8 nights, from $1,625 per person
The Real Deal: Eight nights' accommodations, hotel transfers, sightseeing tours by bus, entrance fees, the services of a tour director, breakfast daily, and three dinners. Hotels include the Sheraton Congress Hotel Frankfurt, the ArabellaSheraton Grand Hotel in Munich, the Castellani Parkhotel Salzburg, the Hilton Innsbruck, and the Hotel Astoria in Lucerne. Sightseeing highlights are St. Jakob's Church in Rothenberg, Salzburg's Mirabell Palace, and Mount Pilatus. Additional nights start at $91 per person per night.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
When Departs Nov. 28, Dec. 5, 6, 8, 12, 2008. Note that there are additional dates available that don't include stops at Christmas markets.
Fine print: All taxes included. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $475. Children 5 to 17 years old receive 10 percent off. Round-trip hotel transfers are not included but may be purchased for $25 per person.
Why it's a deal: The Winter Wonderland and Christmas Markets package breaks down to about $203 per person per night. For that rate, the package takes care of your accommodations and all sightseeing tours and entrance fees—and provides the valuable services of a tour guide. Plus, you're packing highlights of three countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland) into a little more than a week.
At the market: The Lucerne Christmas market has festive decorations, sweets, and wreaths; you can expect to find handcrafted toys and other goods, as well. There are also stops at markets in Munich, Salzburg, and Innsbruck.
Getting there: The trip begins and ends in Frankfurt. A recent Kayak search for round-trip flights in early December produced the following fares: $577 from New York City (Continental), $681 from Chicago (United/Lufthansa), $682 from Philadelphia (U.S. Airways), $685 from Seattle (Air France), $704 from San Francisco (United), and $736 from Atlanta (United).
Contact: Atlas Cruises & Tours, 800/942-3301, christmasmarkettours.com.
Vienna: air/3 nights, from $1,199 per person
The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, three nights' accommodations at the Hotel Alpha, hotel transfers, breakfast daily, a ticket to a Mozart and Strauss concert at the Kursalon, fuel surcharges, and hotel taxes and fees.
Gateways: D.C. and New York City; add $75 for Boston; $175 for Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, and Miami; and $205 for L.A. and Seattle.
Book by: Nov. 22, 2008.
When: Nov. 10-Dec. 11, 2008.
Fine print: Does not include taxes of about $120 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $135.
Why it's a deal: The Vienna: 2008 Christmas Markets package includes round-trip airfare. In a recent Kayak search, we found a round-trip flight between New York City and Vienna in early December for $1,076 (Jet Airways). For $243 more, including taxes, Austrian Airlines covers airfare as well as your accommodations and a concert ticket (tickets range anywhere between €39 and €97 ($56-$140), depending on dates).
At the market: Austrian Airlines provides helpful descriptions of Vienna's various markets; goods at the Vienna City Hall market (Nov. 15-Dec. 24) include glazed fruits, baked apples, and cotton candy. There's also the Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace—in addition to souvenirs, decorations, and traditional food, the palace also has a carousel.
Contact: Austrian Airline Vacation Center, 800/790-4682, austrianair-vacations.com.
Munich, Salzburg, Nürnberg, Leipzig, Berlin: air/7 nights, from $1,999 per person
The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare—arriving in Munich and departing from Berlin—seven nights' accommodations, hotel transfers, breakfast daily, sightseeing by bus, the services of a guide, entrance fees, and fuel surcharges. You'll stay at the following hotels: the Holiday Inn Munich-City Centre, the Mercure Salzburg Kapuzinerberg, the Ramada Nuernberg Parkhotel, and the Park Inn Berlin-Alexanderplatz. Additional nights start at $175 per room per night. Sightseeing highlights include the glockenspiel clock in Munich, Linderhof Castle, and Nürnberg's WWII sites.
Gateways: New York City; add $32 for Boston; $36 for Seattle; $65 for Atlanta, Chicago; $121 for L.A.; and $242 for Denver; additional gateways available.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability. These tours are filling up fast—we suggest you call to book soon.
When: Depart Dec. 6, 2008. Add $50 for Dec. 13 and $80 for Nov. 29.
Fine print: Does not include taxes and fees of about $136. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $437.
Why it's a deal: The 9 Day Christmas Markets in Germany package breaks down to $305 per person per day, including taxes. In addition to your multicity fare (flights are usually on Lufthansa or United), this package also includes accommodations and the services of a guide.
At the market: Salzburg's Christmas market has 180 wooden stalls; foods for sale include mulled wine and local sausages, plus chestnuts, gingerbread, and toasted almonds. There are also stops at the markets in Leipzig and Berlin.
Contact: Gate 1 Travel, 800/682-3333, gate1travel.com.
Before you go: Remember that Christmastime in Europe also means winter—temperatures will hover around freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit), and there's the possibility of snow and ice, so pack clothes that will keep you toasty as you explore the primarily outdoor markets. U.S. citizens will need a valid passport for travel; a visa is not required. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.