By John Pedler and Melanie Wynne
Published: Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Updated: July 29, 2021 at 1:54 pm
I think we can safely say that Australia is currently the most popular travel destination for Aussies – it’s about the only game in town. And what a great place to spend your holidays.
It seems that not too long ago, we couldn’t go anywhere. State borders were closed and dreams of overseas holidays were just that – dreams. For a time, even SA regions were no-go zones. But as the old saying goes, what a difference zero community transmission makes. Now that we’re off the leash, we’re keen to go anywhere we can – right now! Of course, this has created another problem for would-be holidaymakers. Accommodation and hire cars in travel hotspots are heavily booked, as are rail trips, local cruises and guided tours.
Travellers to Europe have always been advised to book early to snag an ‘early bird deal’. This not only means saving money on fares, but it provides a better chance of securing a spot on popular cruises and tours, as well as preferred seats on flights and your choice of hotels. Now that Europe – and anywhere beyond New Zealand – is off the table, that advice definitely applies to travel within Australia. Let’s take a look at the where, what and how of booking early.
The list of popular destinations is long – so here goes. Among the main hotspots are the Kimberley, Margaret River, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Port Douglas, outback Queensland, Tasmania, the Red Centre, Darwin, Kakadu and regional South Australia, including Kangaroo Island.
This is not a definitive list – just about anywhere with a sky will likely be seeing higher tourist numbers, and as the most popular regions are booked out, travellers will be looking for alternate destinations. Wherever you plan to go, it would be wise to book early.
Aussies love self-drive holidays and things have never been better for the car rental industry – but they only have so many vehicles. In many popular destinations, hire cars are booked out months in advance.
To secure that 4-door SUV or compact hatchback you’ve had your eye on, book now, particularly if you’re planning to drive in Tasmania, Queensland or Western Australia. RAA members get 15% off the best rate of the day with Thrifty.
Airlines publish flight schedules and pricing up to 11 months in advance and this is when you’re most likely to get a discounted fare, as well as your choice of seat and the most direct route to places like Broome, Darwin, Cairns, Perth and the Gold Coast.
You’ll also save money by travelling outside of high demand periods, like Easter, Christmas and school holidays.
Cruise companies have been hit hard by the pandemic and they’re eager to set sail again. In preparation, they’ve implemented new hygiene protocols, revised dining options, expanded onboard medical services and reduced passenger numbers. In addition, all passengers and crew must be tested for COVID-19 and return a negative result.
Many major cruise operators have already published their offers for 2022-23, and they’re some of the best deals we’ve ever seen.
But it could be a while before we find ourselves among the rivers of Europe or the fiords of Canada. In the meantime, small ship and boutique cruises are operating on the River Murray, and in the Kimberley and Queensland, and they’re booking out fast.
With overseas destinations off the table, it’s a boom time for guided tour operators travelling to Tassie, the Kimberley, Central Australia, the Top End and outback Queensland, and it’s easy to understand why. With transport, accommodation and all or most meals included, a tour takes much of the hassle out of organising a trip.
Tours to popular regions are already heavily booked for 2021 and there’s no sign of this easing in 2022. Major brands like APT, Travel Marvel, AAT Kings, Trafalgar and Insight Vacations already have itineraries available for next year. So, if you’re keen to see Uluru, the mighty domes of the Bungle Bungle Range or the wilds of Cape York, now’s the time to book your trip.
Air-conditioned comfort, fabulous food and great scenery – a train trip is an exciting way to travel to Western Australia and the NT. But there are only so many cabins available and these days they’re selling out in no time. Cabins aboard The Ghan and Indian Pacific are currently on sale for 2022 and package deals are available – like The Ghan’s ‘Ultimate Territory Tour’, which includes a 4WD side trip to Uluru and Kata-Tjuta, a visit to Kakadu and a Darwin Harbour sunset dinner cruise.
RAA Travel offers a great range of exclusive member offers, discounted flights, tours, cruises, rail and hotel packages across Australia. Early bird holiday deals are already available for 2022 and 2023. Drop into an RAA Shop to speak to one of our travel experts and/or check us out online.