Best travel trends 2009
Author: kendall hill
Photography: william meppem
Fixed-price fun, minimum fuss, maximum ease: it's no wonder more Australians than ever are running away to sea. Australian cruise passenger numbers grew by 14 per cent in 2007 and similar double-digit growth is expected when the International Cruise Council Australasia releases its 2008 figures. A boom in cruise ships visiting our shores is helping to drive the popularity, as is the variety of vessels and experiences they offer, but, from a cruiser's perspective, the biggest attraction is often the all-inclusive pricing. The fact you pay once and don't have to fork out further for food, entertainment, tips and some excursions makes life onboard a smart choice in the current climate.
Holidaying at home may lack the glamour of a week in Paris but it does have advantages - not least the chance to discover and enjoy your own backyard. The "staycation" trend that was ignited by rising fuel prices and fuelled by the global downturn is a great example of making the most of what you've got. Save money on accommodation and flights by launching excursions from home and discovering what lies just beyond your doorstep. The logistics are a cinch compared with navigating a foreign city, and preparation can be as easy or as detailed as you wish. All you really need is an open mind and a sense of discovery.
The big growth area in air travel is premium economy, the newish cabin class priced midway between business and economy that offers flyers extra comfort and perks. High-end leisure travellers are being lured to these seats by the prospect of increased legroom and reclining space and, often, priority check-in and generous baggage allowances. Virgin Atlantic pioneered premium economy about 17 years ago and it's now the airline's most profitable class, hence the headlong rush by its competitors to reconfigure cabins and upgrade comforts. Keep an eye on last-minute deals for occasional deep discounting of premium economy seats.
More and more travellers are feeling the urge to do, to help, to give something back - hence the popularity of what's been dubbed "voluntourism" where holidaymakers pay for the chance to help out the needy. It's about injecting a bit of realism into our travel experiences, developing a deeper understanding of the cultures we visit and, yes, sometimes it also helps to assuage the guilt of First World travellers rubbernecking in Third World countries. Voluntourism benefits both parties, providing skills and services for struggling societies while giving visitors a sense of purpose in, and connection with, a foreign culture.
Distress sales by airlines, resorts and even countries throw up regular bargains, and the internet is indispensable for tracking them down. New multi-site searchers like kayak.com trawl hundreds of websites to deliver the best prices, saving you hours of research and sometimes hundreds of dollars. You can also sign up to your favourite sites' newsletters to keep abreast of their latest promotions. If you're flexible about where you visit and when, and have time to spend hunting discounts, you don't have to give up your holidays just yet.