Top five pre-Christmas breaks

The pressure of having the ‘perfect’ Christmas can be overwhelming as it often involves flitting from one social occasion to another, braving the heaving shops to find that one elusive purple Furby the kids have set their hearts on, and hunting down recipes to make your Christmas dinner for 14 as spectacular as Heston Blumenthal’s latest creation.

Christmas lights in an old European town

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But a combination of late nights, endless shopping trips and the winter chill can leave y ou feeling rundown and exhausted for the entire festive period.

So why not make this year different by treating yourself to a pre-Christmas break? A few days away from your daily routine will leave you with a spring in your step, ready to tackle the tangled Christmas-tree lights and piles of presents to wrap.

Here we offer up five pre-Christmas break ideas to give your festive season a boost.

1. Spice up your shopping at a Christmas market

Rather than seeing your Christmas shopping as a chore, make it enjoyable by combining it with a holiday visiting one of the many Christmas markets that are held throughout Europe.

If you want to go traditional, head to Germany to pick up handmade gifts for family and friends – and keep yourself going by treating yourself to glühwein and stollen.

Popular markets to visit include Nuremberg, Cologne, Berlin and Munich. And, be sure to leave some time during your trip to explore the cities’ other attractions such as the Reichstag in Berlin or the Kölner Dom Cathedral in Cologne.

If you want to stay closer to home, many of the UK’s cities host excellent markets too so you could plan a day trip to one near you or even treat yourself to a weekend away.

Good options include Manchester, where the sprawling markets take over the city centre; Bath, where you can complement your market experience with a trip to the city’s new Christmas ice rink; Birmingham, which holds the largest German-style market outside Germany; and Leeds’ Christkindlemakt which is based in the city’s Millennium Square.

Markets tend to open at the end of November and run until the week before Christmas but check the dates and opening times of the market you plan to visit before you book. For further inspiration, take a look at TravelSupermarket’s Christmas markets page where trips to Berlin are on offer for as little as £115 per person and breaks in Cologne start from just £139 per person.

2. Escape the crowds in a countryside retreat

If shopping isn’t your idea of a holiday and you’d rather escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a break in the countryside could be just the pick-me-up you need.

Beautiful pockets of countryside in the UK – including the Lake District, the Cotswolds, the Peak District and Cornwall – all have plenty to keep you entertained whether you love the great outdoors or want to explore local attractions, towns and villages.

Wrap up warm and clear away the cobwebs on a bracing winter walk then head back to your holiday cottage, B&B or hotel and snuggle up in front of the fire with a glass of wine in hand.

And a countryside retreat needn’t cost a fortune. We found deals on TravelSupermarket including two nights in a cottage in Cumbria for just £24 per person (based on two sharing) and a luxury weekend in the a five-star hotel in the Cotswolds from just £179 per couple (based on a stay from November 30-December 2, 2012). 

3. Enjoy a pre-Christmas detox in a spa

It’s hard not to overindulge in the run-up to Christmas as tins of chocolates appear on desks, endless meals and nights out are planned and there’s so much tempting food and drink in the supermarkets.

So planning a healthy spa break at the end of November or early December will help you feel less sluggish in the run-up to Santa’s arrival and a little pampering with your partner or friends is sure to relieve the stresses the countdown to Christmas can cause.

You could book into a bargain B&B or hotel close to your spa and spend the money you have saved on treatments for a day. Or, for a real indulgence, book yourself into one of the UK’s luxury spas – such as Ragdale Hall or Champneys – and enjoy spending the whole weekend completely relaxing.

Keep an eye out for winter spa break deals such as two-for-one offers or money-off vouchers and enjoy a healthy glow at your Christmas party this year.

4. Get into the festive spirit at a show

Do your Saturday nights currently revolve around Strictly Come Dancing then the X Factor? Then shake them up a little and treat you and the family to a night at a show.

You could make a weekend of it and go to London to see Matilda the Musical, The Lion King or the classic Christmas favourite, The Nutcracker. If you can’t find tickets for the show you want to see, you can often get them as part of a theatre break package – some even have dinner thrown in too.

And, if you don’t fancy a weekend in the Big Smoke, look out for the musicals, pantomimes and shows on in the towns and cities near to you. The Lion King is currently touring and will be in Manchester during the festive season, Cinderella and A Christmas Carol are on in Bristol, and Dirty Dancing is on in Edinburgh.

5. Shake off the winter blues with a blast of winter sun

According to TravelSupermarket research, a staggering one-in-four Brits don’t take off all of the days they are entitled to each year. If you have a stash of days still to take off, why not make the most of them by booking a last-minute winter sun holiday?

The Canary Islands, Egypt and Dubai will all be basking in sun in November and December so you can swap the cold conditions here in the UK for a sunlounger, a book and a cocktail. And a week of sun, sea and sand can be temptingly affordable so long as you shop around to find the best deal for you.

For example, TravelSupermarket has late deals on holidays to Tenerife from £179 per person from London, week-long breaks in Egypt from £350 leaving the Midlands and seven-night holidays in Gran Canaria from just £279 departing from Glasgow (all based on travel in the next three weeks).

Please note: All prices are based on two adults travelling and were correct at the time of writing (November 8, 2012).

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