Best value winter getaways for Kiwi travellers

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 05:00 13/04/2014
Kuta beach
MURDANI USMAN/ Reuters

SUNNY DREAM: There's plenty of winter getaway choice for the Kiwi traveller this year thanks to the high dollar.

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It's the week-long oasis in the middle of a dark, grotty winter. Scenes of sun loungers keep you going as the mornings get darker and the nights are spent with soup.

But is your default holiday package destination offering the best value? The New Zealand dollar is close to a record high against the Aussie, but if you can stretch your annual leave past seven days, then Southeast Asian tourist traps like Bali and Phuket become more affordable.

With Jetstar dropping its Auckland to Singapore route after July 21, this year may be your last chance to have a discount Asian winter escape that beats Australia or the Pacific Islands in terms of value. Putting my travel agent hat on, I scoured the web to find the cheapest holiday. The results may cause you to rethink where you want your sun lounger.

FAMILY FAVOURITE FIJI

Fiji can cause some damage to your bank balance. Flight and accommodation bundles are popular and average close to $990 for seven nights (although shorter stays are more common and $200 less). Resorts often include breakfast, but budget for $45 a day for two meals and drinks, less if you enjoy eating like a local.

If you limit yourself to one tour, explore the main island by scooter and spend much of the time relaxing on the sand, the grand total for your trip could come in just under $1450 a person.

NORTH QUEENSLAND WONDER

The Great Barrier Reef is a world wonder and you'll pay for the privilege to enjoy it. Flights to Cairns start at $780 return in June on Air New Zealand and Virgin, with a four-hour layover.

Cairns is your best bet for a cheap poolside hotel room, with a weekly rate split between a couple starting at $225 each. However, once you add three meals with drinks a day for $50, a Great Barrier Reef day trip at $200 a pop and $40 transport to Palm Cove beach, your weeklong escape totals almost $1600 a person.

RELIEF ON THE SUNSHINE COAST

The combination of intense airline competition on the trans-Tasman route and the favourable exchange rate makes the Sunshine Coast ideal for a winter getaway. Flight and accommodation packages start at around $800 for holidays in June. But our strong dollar can do only so much.

Expect the bill for a week of meals to be about $50 a day, less if your hotel or apartment has a kitchenette. If you add $300 for car hire from Brisbane airport, petrol and a pass to attractions like the Australia Zoo, seven days in the sun can total $1500 per person even without some retail therapy.

PHUKET PLEASURE

Jetstar offers $700 return flights via Singapore, which are great value if you bring your own entertainment, snacks and can deal with a cramped flight. Your flight there is going to be by far your largest cost. A selection of resort-style accommodation around Patong and Karon beaches can be as low as $25 a night.

Hotels often include a basic breakfast, but three meals including drinks total only $15 a day. Travel insurance will set you back $45. Scooter hire, offshore island trips or seeing a Muay Thai bout would add to the final bill, which is likely to still come in under $1000.

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VALUE IN BALI

This mecca for Aussies offers value, even if regulars tell you it "ain't what it used to be". Return flights with Jetstar start from $685. Four-star resorts start at $50 a night. If you eat a mix of local and Western food and avoid resorts, daily food and drinks can be around $25 a person.

Obviously this fluctuates with your taste buds and hygiene expectations. Exploring the island with a car, driver and petrol can be done for $60 for 12 hours, while adventure activity tours are around $120 and cooking classes start at $110. So a packed holiday schedule would set you back $1300, but as little as $1100 if you're happier on the beach.

- Sunday Star Times

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