Wish we were there

Destinations of desire

The US, New Zealand and England are the most popular overseas holiday destinations for Australians in the next two years, according to the latest Roy Morgan Research.

Roy Morgan's annual Holiday Tracking Survey found the proportion of Australians who'd like to head to the Land of the Free has grown from 10.4 per cent in December 2007 to 14.1 per cent in December 2012.

New Zealand's previous No.1 ranking, from a high of 15.1 per cent before the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011, now sits at 12.7 per cent, the same level as five years ago.

England, with 12.3 per cent of Australians currently keen to visit, is down from 12.6 per cent before the riots of August 2011.

The international director of tourism, travel and leisure at Roy Morgan, Jane Ianniello, says the strong Australian dollar and cheaper airfares make the US a more appealing and affordable destination. The US and England were also the darling destinations (No.1 and No.2) in 2001 before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Preference for England also fell after 9-11, as the threat of terrorism was not limited to US," Ianniello says. "For many young Australians under 30 years of age, 9/11 is a distant memory ... Over the past decade our culture has been strongly influenced by the US, and many Australians are interested in taking a holiday [there]."

Headline events for the US in 2013 include the America's Cup in San Francisco in October and a string of anniversary events: 50 years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the centenary of Grand Central Terminal in New York, and 150 years since the Battle of Gettysburg.

New flights to fancy

Looking skywards, Etihad Airways has started its new schedule of daily flights between Brisbane and Abu Dhabi via Singapore. The airline flies the A330-200 on a two-class flight of 22 seats in business class and 240 seats in economy.

In the meantime, after an almost two-year hiatus, Tiger Airways will resume Melbourne to Sunshine Coast flights before Easter.

Starting on March 27, four weekly flights - on a Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday - will operate, with plans for a daily service by June. Starting April 9, Tiger also will operate flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Alice Springs four times a week - on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The power of 10

It's cherry-picking at its best. One continent and multiple bucket-list destinations including Iguazu Falls, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands has seen the Captain's Choice tour of South America by private jet enter its 10th year. The 20-day trip by a Qantas privately chartered 747 packs in the countries of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Panama and Cuba, more than half of the 12 sovereign states on the vast continent. The flight is under the command of the head of the Qantas Boeing 747 fleet, Captain Ossie Miller, who is accompanied by two senior captains.

A new class, deluxe economy, in which every passenger has a spare seat beside them, has been added to business, premium economy and economy. The trip departs Sydney on April 26 and costs from $25,990 a person in deluxe economy to $46,990 in first class.

See captainschoice.com.au.

Racegoers get into the Spirit

The Carnival Spirit will be in port for the Melbourne Cup for the first time in 2014. The round trip, leaving Sydney on November 2, will arrive in Melbourne on November 4 in time for the race, and return on November 9. The journey includes a ticket to Flemington Racecourse and transport to and from the venue. It costs from $1799 a person, quad share.

For those wanting to take a look at the country's newest and largest home-ported cruise ship, it will be at the Port Melbourne dock on February 16 before sailing to New Zealand that evening. Spirit will then sail three trips from Melbourne - two to New Zealand and one to Tasmania.

See carnival.com.au.

Metered punishment

Taxi fare rip-offs are universal. Now in Seoul, there's a cash reward of 500,000 won ($450) to anyone reporting them to authorities. It has been reported that city officials introduced the reward in a bid to curb the "still rampant" practice.

A government official says foreigners can claim the reward by phoning an English-language hotline and reporting the driver. Seoul has about 400 "international taxis" equipped with interpretation services and whose drivers speak English and Japanese. There are also avenues of complaint for travellers who believe they have been overcharged by a shop, restaurant or street vendor.

See visitseoul.net.

Talented to the Max

Adelaide Hills-based writer Max Anderson has scored two gongs at the North American Travel Journalists Association Awards for a story published in Traveller in September 2012. Anderson's motorhome journey with his family from LA to Las Vegas via San Francisco won silver in the intergenerational and family travel category and bronze in general travel articles.

See natja.org.

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