Aussies taking off overseas

AUSTRALIANS are taking off in grand numbers to the US, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the UK this year, thanks to a soaring Aussie dollar and cheap travel.

Those planning a trip overseas are eagerly researching destinations, mapping out desired routes and actively looking for the best deals to turn their dream holiday into a reality.

Flight Centre Limited executive general manager of marketing, Colin Bowman, said while exchange rates were generally a secondary consideration for travellers behind the cost of air fares, recent increases in the Australian dollar were adding to overseas holidays’ appeal.

He said the strong dollar meant Australian travellers now had better buying power after converting their dollars in the USA, Europe and parts of Asia, along with a number of other global holiday hot spots.

“For most travellers securing a cheap air fare is the primary consideration, and the good news is that fares remain highly affordable,” Mr Bowman said.

“The dollar’s current strength is an added bonus.”

Escape Travel team leader Nick Plevcak, based at Runaway Bay in Queensland, said the strong dollar had driven customers in store to book cheap air fares.

“Travel to the US is hot right now, with plenty of great value holiday packages available and cheap flights to Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco,” said Nick.

“Qantas Airlines has also recently announced a new route from Sydney to Dallas, Texas, which will provide easy connections to hundreds of destinations throughout North America.”

On the other hand, those who haven’t tried cruising should give it a try this year, with more choices available than ever before and new ships raising standards of facilities on board.

Cruise specialist Roland Kautzky, of Cruiseabout Toorak in Victoria, said a series of new ships were docking on Aussie shores soon, while overseas cruise liners had redefined luxury.

“This year three popular cruise ships – Radiance of the Seas, Celebrity Century and Sea Princess – are headed for Sydney and are offering itineraries that depart Australia for the summer cruise season,” said Roland.

“Internationally, the new Allure of the Seas megaliner, by Royal Caribbean International, has made big waves in the cruise industry and has been dubbed the world’s largest cruise ship.”

The $US1.13 billion ship can carry 6400 passengers and offers 40-odd bars, restaurants, theatres and a casino, plus 21 swimming pools and hots tubs, two rock-climbing walls, a running track, basketball courts, golf course, and a day spa.

Other newcomers to the waters include Oceania Cruises Marina, an intimate experience with only 900 passengers that is ideal for those who prefer smaller ships, while the Yachts of Seabourn have a new fully-inclusive six-star vessel Quest.

If you are a first-time cruiser, it is important to pick the right cruise itinerary and the cruise duration for you.

“First-timers should stick to voyages that are 10 days or less. Try a short Sampler Cruise if you are not sure, for example Radiance of the Seas offers a Weekend Getaway, departing in November this year,” said Roland.

“Also, avoid long ocean crossings where you spend more days at sea than on land. Opt for itineraries that include a greater number of days at ports of call, so that you can explore the attractions and break up your journey.”

Student Flights travel specialist Eve Baker, who is based at the University of Queensland, is up- to-date on the best trips for young people.

“There are so many exciting tours on offer this year, from sailing in the Greek Islands to Running with the Bulls in Pamplona or drinking eggnog in a castle at Christmas,” said Eve.

“Young people who want to see heaps on their travels in Europe, Asia or the UK for the summer or winter should join a group trip with one of the leading operators, such as Topdeck, Contiki Holidays or Intrepid Travel.

“One of the best things about being in a group is the sense of security and safety. Tours are targeted at people aged 18 to 35 years, so they are perfect for first-time travellers and are also great for solo travellers who want to meet new friends while they have fun.”

Flight Centre travel specialist Jenny Thomas, from Springwood in New South Wales, said Bali and Europe were also more popular than ever, while volunteering and adventure were hot on the travel radar.

She said that travellers should also consider places like Egypt for its history, sites and culture, as well as Africa for game drives, luxury tented camping and wildlife safaris.

If you are planning a trip next year don’t miss this year’s Travel Expo for a peek at all the latest travel deals for 2011.

See for expo dates and venue details.

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