Having just returned from Europe and experiencing the travel impact of those jaw-dropping exchange rates firsthand, this article from Michael Gebicki at Traveller is one it would have been helpful to read earlier ;)
How to beat the falling Australian dollar travel tips: 10 ways to get the most value back on the dollar
WAP YOUR HOUSE
You can put yourself into a villa in Tuscany, an apartment in London or a condo in Aspen at minimal cost if you're prepared to exchange your home for another's, and the internet makes it happen. House Swap is Australia's largest house exchange holiday club with properties around the globe, and the sign-up fee is low.
Cruise ships with empty berths close to sailing time offer big discounts to travellers prepared to join them at short notice. You can often put yourself on board for as little as $100 per person per day on some of the finest names in the cruising world. Check Cruise Express, Cruiseco or check the last-minute deals available from cruise lines own websites.
See www.cruiseexpress.com.au; www.cruising.com.au
BOOK AIR TRAVEL NOW, PAY LATER
With a non-refundable deposit of $300, you can take advantage of STA Travel's Airfare Deposit Program. You get to lock in the price of your air ticket with the freedom to pay the balance just seven days before flight time. Qantas has a similar deal, Book Now, Pay Later. Pay a $25 holding deposit and your seat is secured, but the deal does not apply to all seats on all flights, and the final price may change if taxes, fees and Qantas' charges rise.
Look for where the locals are eating, and stay away from tourist hot spots at meal times. If the restaurant has a sign outside that says "English menu", find somewhere else. If you have your main meal in the middle of the day rather than in the evening you'll save. Most restaurants charge more for dinner than for lunch, even when they serve the same dish. Make do with a light dinner.
LOCK IN VALUE
I'm not normally a big fan of travel money cards but when the Aussie dollar is tumbling with no bottom in sight they offer a way to lock in your dollars against foreign currencies at today's rate. Available from post offices, banks and other financial institutions, these cash passports offer the convenience of ATM withdrawals and the ability to pay for goods and services overseas just as you would with any other debit card.
LOOK FOR VALUE
Although the Aussie dollar has tumbled against the major world currencies, there are a few places where it has held its value. Our dollar is now worth slightly more Turkish lira than it was a year ago. Against the New Zealand dollar our own dollar is almost exactly where it was a year ago, but the standout bargain is Russia. Sanctions imposed by Europe and America have taken a big bite out of the Russian currency and the Aussie dollar now buys almost 30 per cent more roubles than it did this time last year.
BOOK AN APARTMENT
Not only are they generally cheaper than a hotel room of similar quality, apartments in big cities give you the opportunity to save on meals and sundry charges such as laundry. Travel with a family or small group and the savings are magnified. Websites such as Airbnb make it easy to find suitable accommodation but check the reviews from past guests and make sure your home-away-from-home is in a good location with easy access to transport.
LAST MINUTE BARGAINS
Hotels with empty rooms often have late-breaking deals with big discounts. Check for special prices on Lastminute, while both Priceline and SkyAuction allow you to haggle with a hotel by naming your price – and the closer to check-in time, the sharper the price.
Seewww.lastminute.com.au; www.priceline.com; www.skyauction.com
Whether you're staying in a hotel or an apartment, you'll frequently get a better price per night for a longer stay, particularly in off-peak season. When they're quiet, many hotels and resorts offer a free extra night if you book in for as few as three nights, and an apartment rented via Airbnb often comes at a discount if you take it for a whole week.
The Aussie dollar still buys you a dollar's worth of food, accommodation, air, road and rail travel right here in Australia, and fuel prices are low right now. This could be the time to set the wheels spinning and explore a special part of the place we call home, just as many thousands of travellers from overseas are doing right now. You don't need a passport or visa, there's no long-haul flight, no worries about where to access your cash and you can use data services with your regular telco without fear.