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Plan to hop aboard for adventures by rail

Santa takes a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer, which travels between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Banff, Alberta. Santa takes a ride on the Rocky Mountaineer, which travels between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Banff, Alberta.
Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / December 24, 2006

My grandson wants just one thing for Christmas -- a toy train that chuffs along the tracks, giving a hearty toot now and then as it makes its never-ending journey to the land of imagination. At the age of 3, he has become entranced by the wonder of trains, as have people many times his age. Here is a sampling of trips on vehicles that may not always be the fastest way to go , but for many are the most magical.

For travelers who can decide at the last minute, the Rocky Mountaineer train takes guests on a two-day, Christmas-themed trip through the winter landscape of the Canadian Rockies as it travels eastbound or westbound between Vancouver, British Columbia, and the ski resort town of Banff, Alberta. The Mountaineer leaves Vancouver on Dec. 27 and Banff on Dec. 29, with prices starting at $469 US per adult and $219 per child, ages 2-11. Included are two breakfasts, two lunches, one dinner, overnight hotel accommodation s , and rail transfers.

Call 800-665-7245 or visit .

Or maybe you would like to cross a great deal of Canada by rail. From April-October, Fresh Tracks Canadian Train Vacations conducts such a trip in 12 days, staying at selected hotels along the way. Guests travel from Toronto to Vancouver or vice versa, spending two nights in Toronto, two nights aboard VIA Rail , two nights in Jasper, a night in Lake Louise, two nights in Banff, a night in Kamloops, and a night in Vancouver. Prices start at $2,548; book by Jan. 15 and each adult will receive a $35 gift certificate to a steakhouse.

Visit or call 800-667-4744 .

Amtrak devotes a separate website to its vacations, with dozens of destinations that include hotel stays. Prices and included features vary, so it may be best to request the Amtrak Vacations brochure and register for special offers.

Visit or call 800-AMTRAK-2 (268-7252) .

Mexico's Copper Canyon is considered one of the world's top scenic rail trips, and Caravan Tours has an escorted eight-day expedition beginning at a land-only price of $995. The trip, with departure dates throughout 2007, also includes travel by motorcoach and river float as it visits a variety of villages and scenic sites, as well as most meals.

Call 800-CARAVAN (227-2826) or visit .

Eurail is adding even more countries to its rail pass program for 2007. National Passes, for travelers who want to explore a single country , will add Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg), Croatia, Ireland, Italy, and Portugal on Jan. 1, increasing the total number of passes to 15. The Eurail Regional Pass, which allows unlimited travel in two bordering countries, will add Austria and Hungary or Italy and Spain in addition to the 16 other passes already available. Prices vary.

Visit or see a travel agent.

Enjoy group travel? The Great Trains of Europe is a 13-day jaunt from London to Venice, during which participants ride such trains as the Eurostar, TGV, Glacier Express, and Bernina Express . The trip, from Grand European Tours, starts at $3,099 with air fare from Boston and includes hotel stays in England, France, Switzerland, and Italy, as well as 16 meals, transportation by train and motorcoach, and sightseeing. An option to ride the British Pullman of the Orient Express costs $540.

Call 800-552-5545 or visit .

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
You already may have made your New Year's celebration plans, but what about Chinese New Year? Feb. 18 marks the Year of the Pig, and the Langham Hotel, Hong Kong, is offering a $666 package that includes a two-night stay on the Club Floor, which means special amenities; a piggy bank, which symbolizes prosperity; a silk tie for him and silk pouch for her; and a $65 dining credit. The price is for double or single occupancy.

Visit or call 852-2378 9351 .

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Check Monday-Friday for a web-only New England Real Deal. Contact Richard P. Carpenter at

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