Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: Ideas please for a trans-world meet-up
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 20 February 2013
Q. We want some destination ideas for three girlfriends to meet this year. Two of us are London-based and the third lives in Auckland. We're keen to find somewhere which offers a fairly even flight time (and investment) to get to, whilst still being budget conscious. Our previous holidays together have been European city breaks, but the beach also appeals. We're considering July, or October-December as options.
Catherine Webber, Surbiton
A. First, delete July from your range of choices; it is high season everywhere in the northern hemisphere, meaning flights are much more expensive than at the ideal time to travel: during November and early December.
“Halfway” covers a multitude of possibilities; at that time of year, the options range from obvious Asian stopover locations - Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong - to possibilities in the Americas, such as Los Angeles or San Francisco. All of these can be reached from both London and Auckland with a non-stop flight.
Next, bear in mind that because of the distorted nature of global air fares, it will cost you much less to get halfway than your New Zealand friend will have to pay; London is generally the cheapest gateway to the world, and fares from Auckland are disproportionately high (partly because of the strength of the Kiwi dollar).
Furthermore, at that time of year the southern hemisphere will be spring-like and lovely, compared with the grim north.
My first strong recommendation is Western Australia - a vast, dramatic and isolated state that will feel very different to the green and pleasant land where your NZ pal lives. She can fly easily and cheaply to Perth, and you will get plenty of choice at around the £800 mark. Living costs will, however, be high.
If you are all prepared to invest more in the upfront cost, then South America is the place to be. The perfect trip would involve meeting in Buenos Aires, heading to the lakeside dream town of Bariloche, crossing the Andes, going north to Santiago and then flying across to Easter Island - from where your friend can head home to Auckland via Tahiti, while you return via Chile. The air fares alone will total £1,500 or so, but living costs will be low and the experience amazing.
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