Winter is settling in, but if you can't get away right now, perhaps just dreaming about the future will provide solace. Well, a little anyway.
The new year offers tempting travel possibilities, among them an off-beat safari to Africa; a champagne tour of France led by a champagne maker; boardsailing and bicycling in the Caribbean; a grand tour of Italy's opera capitals; and a lovers' winter weekend in Pennsylvania.
Here are 10 special trips -- from bargain getaways to the big splurge -- to plan for or dream about in 1986:
*Champagne week in France: Listen, and you can hear the festive sound of popping corks.
Nadine Heidsieck, whose husband is president of the famous Charles Heidsieck champagne cellars, is the host for a tour of France's champagne region. The package tour includes a visit to the Heidsieck cellars (with a tasting lesson) and cooking demonstrations and dinners at two of the region's Michelin-starred restaurants.
Four nights are spent in Reims in champagne country -- with a view of the vineyards -- and three nights in Paris. The farewell dinner is at one of Paris' three-star restaurants.
The cost is $2,176 per person (double occupancy), which covers air fare from New York, lodging, most meals and city tours. Departures: May 24, June 21 and Sept. 20.
For information: Travel Concepts, 191 Worcester Rd., P.O. Box 307, Princeton, Mass. 01541, (617) 464-2933.
*Toronto at half-price: A winter weekend in Toronto may sound daunting -- the weather can get nippy. But 38 of the city's hotels are hoping to attract visitors by offering 50 percent discounts on weekend rates through March 2.
Toronto is a sophisticated city, and its winter cultural calender is lively. Among other attractions: outdoor ice-skating in Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall; cross-country skiing at the Metro Toronto Zoo; shopping in the city's warm underground malls; and antique-hunting at the Harborfront Antique Market, where more than 200 dealers are on hand on Sunday.
Discounts are available Thursday or Friday through Sunday at the 38 hotels, many located downtown or on Lake Ontario. The discounted rate for a room for two in a top-rated hotel is about $50 to $60.
On check-in, guests also receive a "Toronto Doubles Your Pleasure" coupon book for discounts on selected restaurants, theaters and other attractions. And visitors from the United States can apply for a refund of the 5 percent tax on their hotel bill and the 7 percent sales tax on any purchases (if they spend more than $100).
For information on participating hotels, Toronto sightseeing and tax-refund details: Ontario Travel, (800) 268-3735.
*Safari to gorilla country: Travelers can now see mountain gorillas up close in their native habitat. Two mountain gorilla families in the African nation of Rwanda have been "habituated" to tourists, so they don't flee when approached.
Proceeds from guided tours to Parc National des Volcans, home of the gorillas, help enable officials to fight encroachment of park lands.
To protect the animals, only 12 visitors at a time can be taken on a gorilla trail, and the outing can be strenuous. The terrain is described as "heavily forested mountainside, crisscrossed with deep gullies at a height of more than 9,000 feet."
In the morning, guides lead the group to one of the gorilla feeding sites. The guides make a gorilla sound to indicate "friends are approaching." Visitors can get within a few feet to watch the activity and take pictures.
The gorilla trek is part of a 16-day "Kenya and Rwanda: Big Game and Mountain Gorillas" safari that includes three days in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve and four days in Rwanda's Kagera National Park.
The cost is $2,695 per person (double occupancy), which includes lodging and most meals. Air fare to Kenya is extra. Departures monthly beginning Jan. 17 (except April, May and November).
For information: KLR International, 1560 Broadway, New York, N.Y. 10036, (800) 221-4876.
*Bicycling and boardsailing in the Caribbean: This active weeklong tour to the two-island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis in the British Leeward Islands promises a little bit of everything.
Among the activities: cycle tours of both St. Kitts and Nevis; a daylong guided hike up the forested slope of a volcano on St. Kitts to the rim of its crater; an all-day cruise on a racing yacht to secluded beaches; boardsailing lessons; and snorkeling excursions. Plus cozy inns, fine food and an occasional lazy afternoon at the beach.
Groups are limited to 15 participants, and the cycling and hiking pace is relaxed. The cost is $1,140 per person (double occupancy), which includes six nights lodging, most meals, bicycle rental and yacht cruise. Air fare is extra. Departures: March 2 and 16; April 6 and 20; May 4 and 18; Nov. 2 and 16; Dec. 7.
For information: Progressive Travels Ltd., P.O. Box 775164, Steamboat Springs, Colo. 80477, (800) 245-2229.
*Opera in Italy: Italy is the capital of opera, and a 17-day spring tour planned by music-tour specialist Dailey-Thorp Inc. of New York will take well-heeled opera fans to performances at the country's major theaters.
On the itinerary: Massenet's seldom-presented "He'rodiade" with Montserrat Caballe' and Jose Carreras in Rome; Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito" at La Fenice in Venice; Verdi's "Aida" at La Scala in Milan; and Puccini's "Turandot" with Eva Marton at the Teatro Regio in Turin.
There will also be stops in Naples, Florence and Verona, with time to tour each city's art treasures.
The land cost is $4,425 per person, including 15 nights lodging, most meals, performance tickets and bus and train travel in Italy. Air fare is extra. Departure: April 18.
(Of course there are less expensive ways to enjoy Italy's opera houses. Seasoned travelers know that with some planning they can arrange their own opera tour at much less cost, staying in budget hotels, dining at inexpensive restaurants and buying balcony seats.)
For information: Daily-Thorp Inc., Park Towers South, 315 West 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019, (212) 307-1555.
*A look at the architecture of the coastal South: The historic homes and buildings of the South from Annapolis to Savannah are the subject of a special 10-day bus tour offered in March by the Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, a noted school of art, design and architecture.
As described by architectural historian Arthur Edwards, who will lead the tour: "We will tour historic buildings, study southern furniture and dine on southern cuisine served in period surroundings." Historians, preservationists and other experts have been enlisted to offer comments at many of the stops.
One stop is the Adam Thoroughgood house in Virginia Beach, considered America's oldest brick home (1636-40). In Charleston, participants will join the annual house tour of private homes.
Pratt's tours are designed for professional architects as well as interested individuals. The cost is $1,631 per person (double occupancy), which includes first-class lodging, seven traditional southern evening meals, and entry to all architectural sights. Return air fare from Savannah is extra. Departure: March 21.
For information: Pratt Institute, Continuing Education, 200 Willoughby Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11205, (718) 636-3453.
*Partridge shooting with a Spanish duke: This is, admittedly, another expensive trip, but travelers with a taste for Old-World pleasures may be pleased (or amused) to know such outings still are available.
The hunt is a week's package put together by The Ritz, a luxury hotel in Madrid, which promises "challenging partridge shooting expeditions on the ancestral estate of a Spanish duke."
Three days are devoted to the shoot at the estate, La Flamenca, in Aranjuez, about an hour south of Madrid. Lunch, described as "gourmet," is served in the duke's manor house. Other days are reserved for sightseeing excursions in Madrid and to Toledo and Segovia. The final night is a partridge feast at the hotel.
The cost is about $5,530 each for hunters in the party and about $1,080 for nonhunters (price depending on existing exchange rate). It includes lodging, meals, the hunt and sightseeing. Departures: As arranged individually, through February.
For information: Leading Hotels of the World, (800) 223-6800, or Trusthouse Forte Hotels, (800) 223-5672.
*Lovers' weekends at Historic Strasburg Inn: Nothing like a little romance to warm up a winter weekend.
The Strasburg Inn, a large inn-hotel set on 58 acres in Pennsylvania's Amish farm country -- about two hours north of Washington -- has put together an interesting winter package for couples. It features candlelight dining, brunches for late risers and an afternoon ride in a horse-drawn sleigh.
The cost is $280 per couple, and specifically included are two nights lodging, a Friday evening social gathering, a Saturday continental breakfast and/or brunch, the sleigh ride, dinner at the inn's Washington House Restaurant, a moonlight train ride on the Old Strasburg Railroad and a Sunday country breakfast, as well as taxes and tips. Available: Weekends from Jan. 17 through March 21.
For information: Historic Strasburg Inn, Route 896/Historic Drive, Strasburg, Pa. 17579, (800) USA-0201.
*Golfing in Scotland and Ireland: Two Scottish brothers, Gordon and Colin Dalgleish, specialize in arranging custom-designed golfing tours to the finest courses of Scotland -- the "home of golf" -- and Ireland. Gordon is based in Atlanta and Colin remains on home ground in Helensburgh, Scotland.
Since each tour is designed to suit the traveler's desires, prices vary. But a sample 10-day tour that includes golfing on eight courses -- among them, picturesque Mahoney's Point in Ireland and the historic Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland -- is about $1,580 per person (double occupancy).
The price includes eight nights lodging in first-class hotels, full breakfast, green fees and rental station wagon. Other meals and air fare are extra. Available: Year-round.
For information: Caledonian Golf (Travel) Ltd., 6318 Baker Court, Suite 100, Building D, Norcross, Ga. 30092, (404) 449-9738.
*The museums of Tuscany: This is a three-week tour for art-lovers, with the added bonus that for 14 days participants stay in the 13th-century cottages of a restored castle in the Tuscan hill town of Gargonza.
From Gargonza, easy day trips are made to the artistically and historically rich cities and towns of the region: Florence, Pisa, Siena, Assisi, Arezzo, Chiusi, Montepulciano and San Gimignano. On view are the treasures of the Etruscans, the Romans and Renaissance Italy.
Also on the itinerary is an overnight in Ravenna and three nights in Rome.
The cost is $2,964 per person (double occupancy), including round-trip air fare from New York, 18 nights lodging, most meals and museum entrance fees. Departure: May 29.
For information: Jacqueline Moss Museum Tours, 131 Davenport Ridge Lane, Stamford, Conn. 06903, (203) 322-8709.