SOME bumper stickers on cars seen of late: ``Caution: I brake for garage sales,'' ``A woman's place is in the Mall,'' ``Honk if you like sales,'' ``He who dies with the most toys, wins,'' ``When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.'' For some travelers, shopping is a national pastime. Even an international one. Rare is the tourist who doesn't pick up a piece of Delft on a trip through the Netherlands, a bottle of perfume in Paris, or an eel-skin belt on the streets of Korea.
Are you confused about where to order your custom-made suit in that maze of Hong Kong streets? Or where to find the best pottery shops in Mexico? If so, there are a growing number of guided shopping tours that cheerfully help you find use for your credit cards or unload your pockets of pesos.
Christmas shopping in Asia
Ruth Law's Asian Shopping and Dining Spree is offering ``Bargains in the Best of Taste.'' This tour, Nov. 6-20, hits three major Asian cities. Bangkok is the first stop, with plenty of time to pick through Thai jewels, handicrafts, and antiques, as well as imports from Cambodia and Burma.
Four nights in Hong Kong include two Chinese banquets hosted by Ms. Law, plus another escorted shopping excursion, this time featuring tailor-made clothes, Oriental rugs, furniture, and optical goods.
Additional days in Seoul will zip you through markets and shopping centers to track down handmade Korean furniture, lacquer ware, dolls, and, of course, eel skin.
This trip leaves from Los Angeles and costs $2,285, double occupancy, including air fare, hotel accommodations, and some meals. For more information, write Ruth Law's Asian Adventures, PO Box 323, Hinsdale, IL 60522, or call (312) 986-1595.
Best Way Travel Service Ltd. wants to take you Christmas shopping in Asia, too. Its tour departs Nov. 9 from Oklahoma City, St. Louis, and other cities upon request. With eight days in Hong Kong and an optional three days in Seoul, there should be plenty of time to stock up on some pretty exotic stocking stuffers. Gail Walker will walk you through the best stores for designer and custom-made clothes, watches, radios, and electronic equipment. The price is about $1,549, depending on your city of departure. Air fare included.
For more details, call Gail Walker at 800-352-4942 (or from within Missouri, at  291-0110). Or write: P.O. Box 904, Bridgeton, MO.
Shops and theaters of London
For daytime shopping sharks and evening culture vultures, how's this offering?
Best Way Travel Service Ltd. will fly you from St. Louis to London for a week of shopping and theatergoing for $1,495. You may have had a hard time getting seats for ``Phantom of the Opera'' in New York, but they are guaranteed on this trip. In addition, you get tickets to the new hit ``Ziegfeld'' and one other show as well. Then there's a walk through Trafalgar Square on New Year's Eve and a New Year's Day fete at the Royal Albert Hall. Hardly leaves enough time to pound the halls of Harrods in between!
Week-long spree in Spain
You'll come back with more castanets than pesetas in your pocket on this one.
El Corte Ingles, Spain's largest department store chain, is sponsoring a gala shopping spree in their biggest Madrid outlet.
Bilingual hostesses will take you by the arm and escort you through nine levels and three buildings in their downtown branch.
El Corte Ingles will give you a $50 gift certificate to get you started. Majorica pearls, Lladro figurines, lace mantillas, and Spanish guitars are among more than 500,000 items to pick through. You'll have to buy some new shoes to replace the ones you wear out on this trip, especially after you break long enough to visit the Prado Museum and the Royal Palace.
Tour prices start at $699, including an Iberia Airlines flight from New York or Miami, hotel, meals, sightseeing.
Five- and six-day tours run from October to the end of March.
Contact ECI Travel at 500 Fifth Avenue, Suite 940, New York, NY, 10110, for further information.