Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - TRENDS - LISA MAYOH

Aus­tralians are pack­ing their bags for a Christ­mas abroad, with De­cem­ber de­par­tures al­most dou­bling for des­ti­na­tions in­clud­ing Africa and the Mid­dle East. New fig­ures from Hel­loworld show De­cem­ber trips booked to the Mid­dle East are up 60 per cent on last year, hol­i­days to Africa have jumped 43.3 per cent, and the Amer­i­cas are up by one third com­pared to the same time last year.

Hel­loworld Travel head of air trad­ing Chris Malina says travel for Christ­mas is more pop­u­lar than ever, with hol­i­day­go­ers tak­ing ad­van­tage of cheap flights and get­away deals.

“Peo­ple also re­ally want to do some­thing dif­fer­ent,” Chris says. “There is that ‘fear of miss­ing out’ men­tal­ity – they may have done the whole Aus­tralia thing and think why not get away for Christ­mas – you also cap­i­talise on pub­lic hol­i­days and have to take min­i­mal days of an­nual leave.”

He says the US and Eu­rope are still pop­u­lar choices, with peo­ple crav­ing a white Christ­mas. “Get­ting away from the sum­mer for a white Christ­mas to places like New York is ap­peal­ing, and it’s big in ski sea­son as well. Also places like South Africa, where the weather is great and it’s a sim­i­lar cli­mate to Aus­tralia. Ja­pan is al­ways a hot des­ti­na­tion – Tokyo num­bers are re­ally strong too.”

In­trepid Travel has al­most dou­bled its fam­ily trips de­part­ing over the Christ­mas pe­riod, with 40 Christ­mas hol­i­days leav­ing af­ter De­cem­ber 20, up from 16 last year and just four in 2016. In a real break from tra­di­tion, hol­i­day­mak­ers are choos­ing the steamy des­ti­na­tions of In­dia, Cam­bo­dia and Cen­tral Amer­ica, as well as a white Christ­mas. Viet­nam is the “it” des­ti­na­tion so far.

“There are so many rea­sons to es­cape the Christ­mas mad­ness and join an over­seas ad­ven­ture in­stead,” In­trepid Group CEO James Thorn­ton says. For fam­i­lies, it means the kids will ex­pe­ri­ence truly amaz­ing things like learn­ing to cook with ex­otic in­gre­di­ents, chat­ting to lo­cals, sleep­ing on a train in bunk beds, and prac­tis­ing how to say hello and thank you in other lan­guages ... ex­pe­ri­ences far more en­rich­ing than giv­ing toys and clothes at Christ­mas.

“For solo trav­ellers, hav­ing the op­por­tu­nity to break from tra­di­tion and travel with other like-minded peo­ple can leave them feel­ing recharged for the New Year.”

New re­search from fin­ also shows 46 per cent of Aussies plan to take a hol­i­day this De­cem­ber or Jan­uary, and many have al­ready booked their stay. Of those go­ing away, 28 per cent have booked, with 2.5 mil­lion hol­i­day­mak­ers hav­ing booked their hol­i­day by July – six months in ad­vance.

Syd­ney mother of three Mon­ica Hux­ley said she loved tak­ing time away with her young fam­ily at the end of the year – the per­fect time to un­wind and re­con­nect af­ter a busy fes­tive sea­son.

“Nor­mally we go up to Queens­land, but this year we are tak­ing a bit longer and go­ing over­seas to Hawaii and New York – we just can’t wait,” she says. “By De­cem­ber the kids are tired af­ter a big year of school and my hus­band and I are ready to es­cape Syd­ney – so it’s some­thing we all look for­ward to.”

Car­ni­val Cruise Lines has seen an in­crease in fam­i­lies en­joy­ing a wel­come al­ter­na­tive.

“Christ­mas is so much fun; we have snow fall­ing in the atrium, Santa and a shipload of fes­tive ac­tiv­i­ties,” Car­ni­val vice-pres­i­dent Jen­nifer Van­dekreeke says.

“But the best part is mums and dads can spend time with their kids with­out hav­ing to lift a fin­ger in the cook­ing or clean­ing depart­ment.”

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