6 months in advance is too early to ask about models, because in 6 months many current models will have been discontinued and better new ones will be on the scene. But if you want to look at cameras, try the Fuji S602. It's only 3 MP, but it's peculiar CCD gives it a resolution about equal to most 4 MP cameras. Has 6x zoom, and shoots true VGA video at 30 fps until your memory is full. Will accept microdrives for up to 1 gig memory. About $500 online from reputable dealers.
Olympus C-730 has 10x optical zoom, 3 MP, about $450.
The best all around camera under $400 is the Olympus C-4000, with 3x zoom, 4 MP, excellent image quality.
If you want to stretch your budget, the Minolta 7i has 7x zoom, with a true wide angle to tele lens (28-200 mm equivalent). Very nice camera, with lots of features, but definitely won't be available in 6 months, as it's already got a successor, the 7Hi. 5 MP, about $700.
The Sony 717 might still be around in 6 months. 5 MP, 5x zoom, very high resolution of detail.
Handy list of reviews:
By the way, with the 5 MP cameras, you can extend your zoom by a factor of about 1.6 by cropping to 2 MP, or increase your print size (edgewise) by the same amount at the same resolution you get with 2 MP.