Q. I hope to travel to Australia, with a side trip to New Zealand, early in 2015. Will it be cheaper to book all flights from a travel agent in the UK or fly to Australia and book flights to NZ from there? Alan Kelly, Poole
A. Book everything from here – or risk spending hundreds of pounds more than necessary.
Fares between the UK and Australia are extremely competitive and "add-ons" across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand can be had at a modest premium. The exact fares will naturally depend on where you want to go and when you are travelling. But for a straightforward London-Sydney-Auckland-Sydney-London itinerary, leaving in mid-January for a month, you can expect to pay a fare of around £1,200 – compared with £1,050 just to Sydney and back.
The cheapest Sydney-Auckland fare is currently around £250 return, but nearer the time prices are likely to rise significantly. Sydney and Auckland benefit from the strongest competition; trans-Tasman flights between alternative locations are likely to be a lot more expensive.
For the widest range of options within a single airline grouping, consider Qantas/Emirates. They fly to a wide range of cities from their hub in Dubai besides Sydney and also offer trans-Tasman connections to New Zealand. You could fly from Gatwick or Heathrow with a change of planes in Dubai to reach Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane or Melbourne – then take a short hop, perhaps on the Qantas no-frills offshoot, Jetstar, across the Tasman to Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington.
"Open jaw" options, where, for example, you fly into Auckland then travel by surface to Christchurch, are also available.
A good travel agent will construct the best itinerary for you – and also suggest alternative strategies. They may, for example, highlight the merits of continuing eastwards around the world from NZ rather than returning via Australia, considerably expanding the range of possible stopovers.