Something to Declare

The column that gives the global picture


Warning of the week: fully booked planes Down Under

Warning of the week: fully booked planes Down Under

Last year, there was a sudden spate of cheap deals on flights to Australia and New Zealand, as "Millennium fever" failed to take a grip and airlines were obliged to offload seats at fares well below usual levels. But this year, it appears that everyone who decided not to go in December 1999 wants to celebrate this Christmas and New Year in Australasia instead.

For departures in the 10 days or so before Christmas, availability is so scarce that one leading discount agent is recommending travellers upgrade to business class for the outbound leg.

"The fare for business out and economy home is around £1,600 - not much more than an economy return just before Christmas" says Peter Grimes of Quest Travel (020 8547 3322). He is selling flights to Sydney or Melbourne on Emirates for £1,599 return. This deal applies from Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, and the new departure point, Birmingham, where flights begin on 18 December.

Malaysia Airlines offers a wider range of destinations in Australia and New Zealand from Heathrow or Manchester. Travelling out in business and home in economy, the fare is £1,630.

The week between Christmas Day and New Year normally heralds something of a lull, with lower fares and higher availability, but economy tickets are selling for £1,000 or more. If you travel from Manchester between Christmas and New Year, though, the business out/ economy home fare on Malaysia Airlines is £1,525.

One more problem: having experienced business class outbound, it may be especially uncomfortable returning in economy - especially as the flying time back is significantly longer.

Rail bargain of the week: a day out in Paris, Lille or Brussels for £50 or less

A short-break specialist this week was offering "A day trip to Lille travelling by Eurostar throughout December for just £65" - but buying direct from the Channel Tunnel train company on 08705 186 186 or www.eurostar.com can cut the cost to Lille to £45.

Eurostar's now traditional holiday price cuts are designed to fill trains that would otherwise run fairly empty because business travellers are taking time off. Day returns from London Waterloo to Paris and Brussels are £50; upgrades to First Class cost £40 more to all destinations.

To qualify for these fares, you must book at least one day in advance. The offer applies on any day until 7 January, except 25 December, when Eurostar takes the day off. The offer also applies on Saturdays and Sundays in January and until 11 February.

Ferry bargain of the week: France for the afternoon

Until the end of the year, a car and five people can travel on the SeaCat from Dover to Calais any time after 2pm, returning on the 8pm sailing, for £35. Hoverspeed (0870 240 8070, www.hoverspeed.co.uk) is offering the deal until the end of the year - but you must remember to quote the booking reference LP-ADT. The deal must be booked at least 24 hours in advance, and a Saturday supplement applies.

For those who prefer to travel without a car, a Dover-Ostend day trip for a family of four foot passengers costs just £19 if you travel from Monday to Thursday, book 24 hours in advance and quote booking reference LP-OSF.

Skiing bargain of the week: free travel on the Heathrow Express - westbound only

Every time I've looked, the check-in area at Paddington station has been as wide open as a slushy piste in late April. To try to boost the number of people checking in at the London terminus for flights from Britain's busiest airport, the Heathrow Express is offering free travel to winter sports enthusiasts.

Between now and 1 February, anyone checking in skis or snowboard (or a set of golf clubs) for a Heathrow flight at Paddington will be given a voucher. You exchange this at the Heathrow Express ticket office for a free ride to the airport.

Two catches: Swissair has abandoned its check-in facility at Paddington, though Austrian Airlines opens up on New Year's Day; and the deal only works travelling from Paddington to Heathrow, not in the other direction.

The Heathrow Express is running right through Christmas, but only on a reduced schedule on 25 December: twice an hour between 5.10am and 7.10pm.

For more details, call 0845 600 15 15 (don't be surprised if someone answers saying "BAA Holiday Parking" - it's the same call centre) or check www.heathrowexpress.co.uk

Air bargain of the week: book by next Thursday for cut-price America in 2001

Key West, Tallahassee and West Palm Beach are now on the discount flights map, along with a dozen other Florida destinations, including Miami, Orlando and Tampa. US Airways is selling them off cheap for departures 5 January to 15 March, for travel from Gatwick via Philadelphia, Pittsburgh or Charlotte.

Among discount agents offering the deal, the best fare I have found is £225 to all destinations, through Trailfinders (020 7937 5400). The same price applies to the West Coast: San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. The offer ends on Thursday, 14 December.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
football
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
News
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
News
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
Voices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?