The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel.com's resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She's always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
gortonsfisherman writes, "My wife and I would like to visit Australia, taking about three weeks during the coming Australian summer. We're flying from the East Coast, so we know airfare will be a little more than if we were coming from the West Coast. Still, would it be possible to do this for under $5,000, including air? Thanks!!!!"
Talk about putting my deal sleuthing skills to the test. Not only have you chosen one of the more expensive destinations to fly to from the East Coast, you've also selected one of the most expensive times to travel—peak season. You're really making me earn my gumshoe degree this week, so let's see if I can rise to the challenge.
Start by searching air-and-hotel packages for a comparison point. I priced a 13-day Australia deal with Gate 1 Travel for $3,413 per person (with taxes and fees) in March. The package includes round-trip airfare from New York City (other departure cities are available for varying prices), intra-Australia flights, transfers, lodging in Sydney, Cairns, and Melbourne, daily breakfast, sightseeing from a motor coach, local guides, and entrance fees. The total cost for two people comes to $6,826, which is a bit over your budget and is for fewer days than you initially wanted to spend. However, you will want to take into consideration that this package includes airfare between cities, so you may get to see more despite a shorter period of time.
Now, let's see what we can find when we price everything individually. You're correct about airfare to Australia costing more from the East Coast than the West Coast. In fact, in some cases, it can be several hundred dollars more. For instance, I priced tickets from New York City to Sydney starting at $1,129 per person (with taxes and fees) in March, while prices start at $910 per person (with taxes and fees) from Los Angeles for the same dates. You can try to combat this by searching for a cheap flight from New York City to Los Angeles, but this might end up being more of a headache than a help.
Flights in-between cities in Australia when purchased separately can be a bit expensive. For instance, I priced a flight from Sydney to Melbourne starting at $187 per person (with taxes and fees) in March. If you want to fly to several places in Australia, you may want to buy an Aussie AirPass from Qantas, which starts at $1,899 from New York City in March, and includes round-trip airfare from the States plus three extra flights within Australia, including Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, and Canberra; other destinations are available for a higher price. You must book by September 30 for these prices.
If you decide to go with just the basic round-trip fare, you will spend $2,258 for the two of you, or a little less than half of your budget. This leaves you with $2,742 for lodging, transportation, and food for three weeks, or about $130 per day.
Another thing to keep in mind is that $1 U.S. equals $1.22 Australian dollars right now (check XE.com for current exchange rates), so you can save a bit that way as well.
When it comes to booking hotels, you have several options to choose from, especially in a bigger city like Sydney. Renting an apartment is a great way to not only save on cash, but also get insight into the daily culture of a place. I priced a one-bedroom apartment in downtown Sydney starting at $800 AUD (about $652 U.S.) per week, or $1,956 for three weeks. If you went this route, this would leave you with $786 for food, or about $37 per day. This may not seem like a lot, but you can eat cheap on some days and splurge on others. Plus, the apartment comes with a kitchen, so you could cook at home and save that way.
If you want to go ultra-cheap, you can stay in one of Sydney's many backpacker hostels, which start at about $23 U.S. per night for a twin room, or about $483 for three weeks. This option would allow you a lot more spending money on food and activities, but doesn't come with as many creature comforts as the apartment. As a point of reference, hotels in the city typically cost about $100 per night.
These are only a few ways to visit the Land Down Under, but you can find a slew of options on how to explore and experience Australia within your means. Also, if you can be a bit flexible in your travel dates, you can save by visiting during the Australian winter.
A call to my other readers: I know that many of you have tricks and tips on how to visit Australia, so please share your suggestions with everyone and help make gortonsfisherman's travel dream a reality.
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