Australian families looking to take advantage of the first undisrupted summer school holidays in four years with a getaway to places like the Gold Coast, Bali and Fiji can expect to pay almost double what they would have pre-pandemic.
Holiday costs including car hire, hotel stays and airfares have been increasing since April, but will peak over December and January, blowing out the average cost of a family holiday by as much as 111 per cent, according to travel comparison website Kayak.
Geelong mother-of-three Sophie Wright, 44, thought she’d found a great value school holiday deal – an all-inclusive package at The Naviti Resort Fiji for $999 a person. However, the five-day getaway has turned out to be one of the family’s most expensive.
“When I got to the quote stage and they added in the airfares, I realised that’s more than I thought I was going to pay,” says Wright. “There’s five of us, so that immediately shoots you into two rooms at most resorts.”
On top of the $13,000 holiday – $7000 of which was airfares – the family was slugged about $1500 in passport fees.
“Everyone’s passports had expired. Plus we had to pay for the priority processing. It’s about $150 extra for each child – and we still had to chase one of them, for our 13-year-old,” Wright says of the nail-biting experience.
This will be the last time she will pay this much for a family trip, as interest rates, groceries and fuel continue to take a toll.
“Family holidays are going to be really different in the next 12 months to two years, there will be a lot of people who will have to cut back because everything is going up,” says Wright.
Fiji isn’t the only destination costing Australian families dearly this December. Exclusive flight and accommodation data from Kayak.com.au reveals the route with the biggest fare increase during the school holidays is Gold Coast-Melbourne, with economy fares for a family of four surging 111 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.
This is followed by return services to Bali from Melbourne and Sydney, up 67 and 64 per cent respectively, and Sydney to Fiji, up 62 per cent.
Mike Arnot, from aviation analytics firm Cirium, says it’s not just Australians driving up demand and flight costs, as international tourism rebounds.
“Compared to 2019, there are less domestic flights and less seats — down about 3 per cent. So you’ve got a scenario with strong demand and slightly constrained supply,” says Arnot.
But the introduction of new ultra-low-cost carrier Bonza in Australia may bring some relief to travellers, Arnot says.
“Ultra-low cost carriers can have an immediate impact on routes, cutting fares in half or more. Examples abound, including the US, Canada and Europe,” he says.
It’s not just high fares putting a strain on families. Matthew Burke, regional director for global hotel market data provider STR, says average accommodation rates are up 20-30 per cent in capital cities, and 30-40 per cent in regional areas, compared to 2019/2020.
Industry staffing shortages are partly to blame for driving up hotel rates, although the situation is improving, according to Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive Michael Johnson.
“Two weeks ago we had 4875 working holiday makers arrive into the country in one week. We haven’t seen numbers like that since pre-pandemic,” says Johnson.
Also helping with the labour shortage is a new government reform that came into effect this week, allowing mature-age Australians to increase their annual earnings for the next 12 months without impacting their pension, he says.
Kayak brand director Nicola Carmichael notes consumers can still luck onto great deals.
“We recommend planning far in advance and being flexible with your dates,” Carmichael says. Setting up sale alerts can also save families hundreds. “Price alerts will also notify you when a flight or hotel price goes down for your travel period, saving you from having to search manually – and, of course, helping you save money.”
FAMILY HOLIDAY HIKE
Percentage increase from December 2019 and January 2020
- Sydney to Bali average fare $6208, up 55 per cent
- Melbourne to Bali average fare $5688, up 43 per cent
- Sydney to Fiji average fare $4011, up 33 per cent
- Sydney to Gold Coast average fare $1119, up 20 per cent
- Melbourne to Gold Coast average fare $1388, up 25 per cent
- Bali average accommodation rate $365, up 35 per cent
- Gold Coast average accommodation rate $505, up 53 per cent
Based on Kayak data airfare/accommodation increase for 2 adults, 2 kids (December 21, 2022 – January 29, 2023 travel) since same period in 2019/2020.