Ouch. That's the word many travellers have probably been uttering recently as they watch the Aussie dollar dive, as travel becomes more and more expensive, as those dream journeys seem to drift further and further out of reach. Ouch.
The US dollar is strengthening, as are the British pound and the Euro, which means overseas travel has become a pricier proposition for Australians. Suddenly, holiday plans are being downgraded. Big trips are being postponed. Dreams are being revised.
But the truth is that the falling dollar doesn't have to spell the end to your travel plans for 2016. Not even close. It just means we all have to be a bit smarter. It means looking out for bargains, making the most of special deals, and learning to scrimp and save wherever it's possible.
The following is a list of ways for travellers to do just that, from our pick of some of the best deals currently being offered, to failsafe ways to cut back on costs whenever and wherever you travel. From skiing to cruising, dining to hiking, these are the secrets to getting those holiday plans back on track.
ADIOSO, PARTNER The website Adioso is great for travellers with flexible itineraries. You can plug in travel plans as vague as "somewhere in South-East Asia" and "next year" – set the price you want to pay, and the website will alert you to any matching deal that comes up. See adioso.com.
DIRECT ACTION Aggregation sites such as Skyscanner, Kayak and Momondo are great tools for finding the cheapest flight options. However, once you've found which airline has the best deal, it's often worth booking with them direct to allow the most flexibility. See skyscanner.com; kayak.com; momondo.com.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK Nihiwatu Resort in Indonesia is offering a great deal for those miserable about the strong US dollar – Australian travellers can pay the USD price in AUD. That means a $US950 stay will cost you $950. Bookings must be made before the end of the year. See nihi.com.
WILD ABOUT THE PRICE It's not usually a budget destination, but Chimu Adventures is offering six-day packages to see the Galapagos from $1140 per person. That price includes accommodation, transfers, some meals, and daily wildlife tours with a guide. See chimuadventures.com.
FLAT-OUT SAVINGS Not only do you get more space than a traditional hotel room if you rent an apartment with a website such as Airbnb when you travel, but you'll also have use of a kitchen to save money by cooking your own food, and a laundry, which helps avoid gouging by hotels. See airbnb.com.
COMPLIMENTS OF THE SEASONS Most airlines, hotels and even attractions offer heavy discounts to those prepared to travel out of peak season. You'll also avoid the bulk of the crowds. Just make sure you pack the right clothes.
MAKING CAPITAL According to hotels.com's "hotel price index", the city in which Australians pay the least for hotel rooms is Phnom Penh, with an average stay of $71 per night. Next cheapest is Chiang Mai at $73 per night, and Hanoi at $76. On the other end of the scale, Australians have been paying an average $332 a night to stay in New York City. See hotels.com.
GOING PUBLIC There's plenty of money to be saved while travelling if you can avoid taxis and private transfers. Simply do as the locals do – take the metro or subway, or public buses. Or better still, walk.
BARGAIN FOR A BARGAIN This is not a skill that comes easily to a lot of Western travellers, but it's a valuable one nonetheless. In many Asian countries, almost every price is negotiable, from souvenir trinkets at market stalls to fancy hotel rooms.
ALONE AGAIN, NATURALLY Single supplements are the bane of many an independent traveller's existence, which makes it great news that Abercrombie & Kent is waiving the single supplement charge on its 12-day "Iceland and Greenland: In the Wake of the Vikings" cruise next year. That's a saving of up to $US8754. See abercrombiekent.com.au.
PROGRAMMED TO SAVE Sign up for frequent flier cards, join hotel loyalty programs, link up your credit card – most of these incentives won't cost you a cent, but could end up paying dividends in the long term.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES Rather than buy an entire hard-copy guidebook, a digital option will allow you to purchase chapters for only the specific areas you'll be visiting. This also helps save on baggage weight, bringing costs down further.
NIGHT MOVES If you have a long distance to travel between destinations, it's best to do it at night, whether that's going by air, or on buses or trains. Not only will you get from A to B, but you'll save on a night's accommodation, plus leave your days free for exploring.
BACKYARD BLITZ For a seriously cheap holiday without much travel time, simple jump on a ferry from Sydney's Circular Quay to Cockatoo Island, where beds with harbour views cost $45 each. Sure, you're sleeping in a tent, but that's part of the experience. See cockatooisland.gov.au.
RIGHT CARRY-ON With so many airlines now charging passengers to check luggage, you can save plenty by only travelling with carry-on. Just make sure you pack some laundry powder and a portable washing line – those clothes are going to need wash.
PRIVACY, PLEASE You might think you have to be a rock star to take a private cruise in the Maldives, but with World Expeditions you can do it for just $1550 per person. That price includes five nights on a traditional dhoni boat, plus meals and transfers. It isn't technically a private cruise, but with a maximum of four passengers on board, it's easy to get a group together and book the whole thing out. See worldexpeditions.com/au/.
HOUSE RULES Make use of websites such as HomeExchange, or Trusted Housesitters, or Couchsurfing, to secure accommodation that's the cheapest possible. All of these sites offer variations on a model of free accommodation for travellers. See homeexchange.com; trustedhousesitters.com; couchsurfing.com.
BE A CARD SHARP Plenty of destinations offer discount cards aimed at travellers. In New York, there's the "New York Pass", offering entry into 80 attractions; in Ireland the "Heritage Card" allows entry into all of the country's heritage sites; a "JR Card" in Japan will secure you unlimited travel across much of the country's transport network. See newyorkpass.com; heritageireland.ie; japanrailpass.com.au.
THE ENDTH DEGREE Frequent travellers looking to avoid the currency conversion fees and international transaction fees on purchases should get their hands on a 28 Degrees MasterCard, which waives those costs, plus provides a complimentary worldwide concierge service. See 28degreescard.com.au.
SIMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA Rather than run up a huge phone bill overseas, make use of free Wifi and phone apps such as Skype and Whatsapp to keep in touch with home for free. If you really need your phone 24/7, a local SIM card will help keep costs down.
RENTAL AS ANYTHING As long as you're prepared to travel between Middlebury, Indiana and the West Coast of the USA, El Monte is offering RV rentals for an amazing $2 a day. These are new vehicles that need relocating, and must be picked up in March or April 2016. See compasscarrental.com.au.
ICCHU PERFECT Chimu Adventures is offering a saving of $1590 p7 a person on its five-star "Grand Peru" tour. The 10-day trip includes visits to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, as well as accommodation in five-star hotels across four cities, all for $3702 per person. See chimuadventures.com.au/tour/grand-peru.
SO LAST YEAR On Foot Holidays is going back to the future in 2016, offering a five per cent discount on its old 2015 prices for self-guided walking tours of the Mount Blanc area in the coming year. With accommodation and some meals included, the seven-night itinerary costs $1642 per person. See onfootholidays.co.uk.
LAWS OF ATTRACTIONS Many attractions, both in Australia and overseas, offer travellers great discounts if they book online in advance. This will not only save you money, but will allow you to skip the queues at the ticket booth. It's also worth taking note of free-entry days that some museums and art galleries offer – say, on Sundays, or at the beginning or end of each month. Do your research.
TRULY ASIA, TRULY CHEAP Malaysia is one of many South-East Asian countries that offers great bang for the Aussie buck. With mid-priced hotel stays going for about $30 per night, meals from hawker stands priced at about $5, or restaurant visits at about $10, this is one very affordable country to travel through. See tourism.gov.my
TWO'S COMPANY Book two people on a fully inclusive Antarctic package with Aurora Expeditions and the company is offering to fly one of those passengers to South America for free. That's a saving of up to $2675. Bookings have to be made before the end of January. See auroraexpeditions.com.au
TANGO A-GO-GO With Air New Zealand opening direct flights from Auckland to Buenos Aires in December, there's never been a more affordable time to fly to Argentina. And the good news is that once you're on the ground this is far from an expensive destination, particularly if you're making use of the "blue dollar" exchange rate with US cash. See airnewzealand.com.au; argentina.travel.
PUTIN ON THE RITZ Traditionally one of the most expensive destinations in the world in terms of accommodation, Moscow's average hotel prices have actually fallen in the last year by a colossal 41 per cent to just $149 per night. According to hotels.com, the next best was Istanbul, where average hotel prices fell 10 per cent. See hotels.com.
GAME ON Sports fanatics: if you want to go to that big game while you're overseas but don't want to part with too much money, check out StubHub, where fans on-sell unwanted tickets, often at discounted prices. They also do concert and event tickets. This works best in North America. See stubhub.com
DO-IT-YOURSELF It takes a little more work, but one sure way to save money when it comes to booking travel is to do it yourself. Research flights, find hotels, book transfers and arrange sightseeing all from your laptop (or phone).