Off-peak hol­i­day deals will warm the heart

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Europe In Winter - MERRY KIRK­WOOD

EACH year large num­bers of Aus­tralians forgo long sum­mer hol­i­days at home for snow-dusted Euro­pean so­journs and pic­ture-book Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions.

Test­ing ski­ing and board­ing skills in the French, Aus­trian or Swiss alps; wan­der­ing through museums and gal­leries free from high-sea­son crowds; vis­it­ing Christ­mas mar­kets or stock­ing up dur­ing new-year sales are all draw­cards for vis­i­tors to Europe in win­ter, as are cul­tural events such as Vi­enna’s ex­trav­a­gant balls in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, or Italy’s Carnevale, cel­e­brated in the lead-up to Easter.

But these are not the only lures for Aus­tralians want­ing to make the hol­i­day bud­get stretch fur­ther over­seas.

Cut-rate flights and cheaper ac­com­mo­da­tion dur­ing off-peak months add value to the hol­i­day ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘Air­fares to Europe tend to be cheaper in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber, with a small rise in De­cem­ber,’’ says Flight Cen­tre’s Haydn Long.

And canny Aus­tralian tour com­pa­nies are cash­ing in by broad­en­ing their range of tour pack­ages to com­bine a va­ri­ety of op­tions, of­ten in­clud­ing river cruis­ing, in the re­gion.

Europe is still our most pop­u­lar hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, with the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics re­veal­ing that 17 per cent of all over­seas de­par­tures last year were to Bri­tain or con­ti­nen­tal Europe.

And ac­cord­ing to Ex­pe­dia, the Czech Repub­lic, Hun­gary and Latvia are par­tic­u­lar hot spots for Aus­tralians this year.

While the north­ern sum­mer re­mains our favourite time to ven­ture to Bri­tain, the cooler months of­fer great value to those who wish to spend ex­tended time with rel­a­tives in Europe, and to stu­dents who want to take longer hol­i­day breaks.

But do your re­search be­fore mak­ing book­ings, to avoid dis­ap­point­ment. Smaller at­trac­tions (in­clud­ing, say, stately homes and gar­dens) may not be open dur­ing the off-peak sea­son.

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