Dream trip not such a dream

A BIG overseas holiday is just a retirement dream for many people but what can you do if you do not want to wait that long?

Travel agents say clever planning and budgeting can put just such a trip within reach of ordinary working people.

Suncoast Travel senior travel specialist Leesa Assaillit said her clients often paid off a big holiday.

She said such holidays were usually booked well in advance which made it possible for travellers to put funds aside.

“Some people do come in and make regular payments. A big holiday might be booked six months ahead,” she said.

Uncango Travel and Cruise Centre operations manager Gillian Connors agreed that progressive payments were one way to go about achieving the ultimate holiday.

“High-end holidays that people tend to do are things like river cruising in Europe, or Alaskan cruising and Canada. People tend to book a long way ahead and they can pay them off,” she said.

“But in the past, I've had families looking to go on a family holiday, say spending $5000 to go to Fiji for 10 days, and they come in every second week and make a payment so that at the final payment, it doesn't seem like such a large amount or it's all been paid for,” she said.

Potential travellers looking to pay off a holiday should expect to pay a deposit of 10-20% upon booking, depending upon the type of tour. Final payment is often due about 60 days before departure, although Mrs Assaillit warned that earlybird specials could require payment sooner.

Payments can usually be made by cash, cheque, direct debit or credit card.

However, as one prospective traveller warned, credit card payments can attract a fee. Add to that the interest paid on the credit card balance and one can easily add to the cost of a holiday before they have even set foot outside the country.

Travellers who would rather save the required money before booking a holiday can find bank accounts designed to help them achieve short-term goals.

The Commonwealth Bank's NetBank Saver and Westpac's eSaver offer high rates of interest with no fees and the Commonwealth's AwardSaver and Westpac's Reward Saver savings accounts offer bonus interest for savers making at least one deposit and no withdrawals each month.

If you have the money, or a fair chunk of it, and do not want to blow it before your holiday, locking it up in a term deposit that will earn interest is also worthy of consideration. Ms Connors said travellers who were able to plan next year's holidays in the next couple of months could also save by booking in stages – airfares first, then accommodation and tours later.

“Every year come the end of October to mid-December, all the airlines release their early bird specials for the next 12 months,” she said.

“A lot of the time, if you book a long way ahead, you get the best price.”

Ms Connors said honeymoons were an example of holidays which could be booked well in advance and paid off over time, as weddings were often planned 12 months ahead.

Betrothed couples could even ask guests to contribute to the cost of their honeymoon rather than buy a gift, she said.

“If someone gives you some money, even if it's a small amount, rather than another toaster, it all helps,” she said.

Mrs Assaillit and Ms Connors said travellers planning a big trip should also watch exchange rates in the lead-up to departures.

Both recommended travellers planning big Europe and North American holidays in the next 12 months make the most of the current strong Australian dollar and organise at least some of their spending money now.

Mrs Assaillit said putting as little as $500 on a TravelEx card – the modern alternative to travellers' cheques – now would be worthwhile.

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