CHRISTMAS DEPARTURES

BRITAIN
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The Independent Travel
There are now just 100 travelling days left to Christmas, and aircraft and hotels are filling up fast. Flights to the southern hemisphere are particularly busy in the two weeks before Christmas, but if you can travel before 12 December or in the lull between Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, much lower fares are available.

A price war has broken out on UK-Australia routes, with some leading airlines offering big savings on flights between 1 November and 9 December. Faced with the low fares offered by Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Qantas have cut pounds 100 from their joint World Offers fares. From London you can fly to Perth for pounds 649 or to Sydney or Melbourne for pounds 799. Tickets can be booked through agents or direct from BA (0345 222111). If you can spend all December in Australia, the round-the-world offer from Bridge the World (0171-911 0900) is good value at pounds 770.

Cruises are traditionally heavily booked at Christmas, but there are still some places available for travellers who want to find out whether Santa does funnels as well as chimneys. From Southampton the Black Prince sets out on 20 December (through Fred Olsen: 01473 292222) and the Oriana on 22 December (P&O: 0171-800 2222), eventually taking you to a New Year's Eve firework display in Madeira.

Finlandia (0171-409 7334) makes an early claim to be the home of Father Christmas, with one-night breaks to Lapland for pounds 489. If you want to lodge a post-Christmas complaint with Santa, a three-night New Year holiday there is pounds 699.

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