One barrier to visiting Australia and New Zealand has been the robustness of the currencies, but in the past couple of years they have softened, making a trip Down Under much more affordable. Save money on accommodation and enjoy fun and flexibility on a campervan trip. In Australia you can start in Sydney, then travel to the Blue Mountains, Melbourne, the wine lands of the Barossa Valley and the Mornington Peninsula, and the legendary Great Ocean Road, finishing at the undersung city of Adelaide, all in 21 days. Three weeks’ campervan rental and six nights’ room-only accommodation in the cities is from £3,800pp, including flights into Sydney and out of Adelaide (020 3642 8551, bridgeandwickers.co.uk). Smarter still, take a look at re-location companies, which offer one-way drives of campervans and cars to get them back to their original hire base, for a nominal daily fee and often with a petrol allowance. There is usually a refundable bond, and a mileage/time limit, but it is still an amazing bargain.
Details : Relocation specialists Drive Now (drivenow.com.au) has Cairns-Sydney in a two-berth campervan from £2.20 a day (seven days are allowed for the journey, with a 3,200km limit and £50 free fuel). You will still have to pay insurance, from £145 a week, as well as campground fees. Return flights to the east coast cost from £656 (trailfinders.com)
2. Indian adventure
Half price fare for partner
You can tick off the most romantic of buildings, the Taj Mahal, on this trip with Cox & Kings (020 7873 5000, coxandkings.co.uk). Its Indian experience is a private seven-night trip, which takes in Delhi, Jaipur and Agra for the Taj. Book before the end of March for travel in May, and you can take a partner or a friend for half price. The money you save will almost cover a two-night extension for tiger spotting in the spectacular Ranthambore National Park, about 80 miles from Jaipur.
Details: The Indian Experience costs from £1,575 B&B with flights, transfers and two dinners; the tiger-spotting extension is from £425, full board. A second person booking the Indian Experience pays £787.50
Less than £1,000
Safaris eat cash but you can see the “big five” game and spend less with a company such as African Budget Safaris, which runs trips into South Africa’s Kruger national park from Johannesburg. You get to see lion, leopard and rhino for a modest price, with a choice of camping, hiking or self-drive. Another version of the trip takes in the big five and Victoria Falls.
Details: A five-day Kruger Park Budget Lodge Safari is from £542pp, as part of a group of 12, and includes most meals, sunset game-drive, full-day game viewing, morning bush walk and other activities (00 27 21 790 1056, africanbudgetsafaris.com). Flights to Johannesburg cost extra; Expedia (expedia.co.uk) has return flights via Amsterdam from £385pp. The Victoria Falls option is seven days, travelling through the Kruger, into Botswana and Zimbabwe, from £857pp. It is mostly accommodation-only and uses a mix of camping, chalets and hotels (allow £175 for meals). It starts in Johannesburg and ends in Victoria Falls. Expedia has flights back to South Africa from £165
4. Blossom in Japan
Save 40 per cent
Cherry-blossom time in Japan, especially April in Kyoto, is like Munich in October — crowded and expensive. Head north to cooler Tohoku or Hokkaido and the cherry blooms in May, with fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation. Real insiders travel at the end of February/start of March for the less celebrated, but equally beautiful, ume (plum) blossom. Travel company Inside Japan says that trips during plum-blossom season cost up to 40 per cent less. Flights to see the cherry blossom are also much cheaper in February and May. Book a direct flight now during cherry-blossom season and it will cost more than £1,000; book for May and the fares drop to £750, and are much less if you book ahead and take an indirect flight.
Details: A 14-night “Traditional Japan” tour by rail/bus, including Kyoto and Tokyo at plum-blossom time, costs from £1,710pp, room-only, including domestic transport, but not international flights (0117 3709733, insidejapantours.com). The same company’s Northern Highlights trip can be timed to see the cherry blossom, from £1,830, excluding international flights. Skyscanner (skyscanner.net) has return Gatwick-Tokyo flights via Istanbul from £386
Anse Source d’Argent on the island of La Digue in the Seychelles is one of the most photographed beaches in the world. Paradise doesn’t come cheap, but it can come cheaper. Go with an operator such as Expert Africa, which seeks life beyond the glitzy resorts. It has four nights’ B&B at Les Lauriers Eco Hotel & Restaurant on Praslin, one block from the beach, plus three nights’ B&B at Anse Soleil Beachcomber on Mahé, from £1,586pp, including flights and transfers (020 8232 9777, expertafrica.com). Or DIY it by flying with Trailfinders (020 7368 1200, trailfinders.com), which has Seychelles flights from £610. Then add a B&B/ guesthouse close to the beach, easily available at less than £40 a night
Details: Le Passe guesthouse (la-passe-guesthouse.com) has doubles from £38pp half-board, or the Zanboza (zanbozaguesthouse-seychelles.com) is £34pp B&B, both on La Digue
6. Africa’s gorillas
Less than £1,000
It is David Attenborough’s fault that a close encounter with our nearest relative has become a must-do for so many. It’s never going to be easy, guaranteed or cheap. Even Rainbow Tours’ “Gorilla Express” package in Rwanda, a 2½-hour drive from the gorillas, costs from £2,903pp, including flights, three nights’ full board, transfers, the services of an English-speaking guide and one gorilla trek (020 7666 1250, rainbowtours.co.uk). Extra gorilla permits (needed for a second trek) are £500pp. If you have patience, try the DIY option. It is much cheaper to get permits for Uganda (from $350), and you can stay near the Bwindi Impenetrable national park from $35 (£24) a night. Air fares are lowest from March to May and September to November (it’s the rainy season but rains are generally light). KLM has flights from about £500 return. You’ll need to arrange your own transport, but the hotels can help.
Details: Stay at Bwindi Backpackers Lodge (bwindibackpackerslodge.com) from $35 a night or Bwindi View Bandas (gorilladestination.com) from $70 a night. In Kampala, Hotel City Square (hotelcitysquare.biz) is from $25 a night
7. Route 66
The most iconic American road trip is Route 66, which meanders from Chicago to LA. Save money by doing it backwards. Why? Because you’ll save on drop-off and extra driver charges. Pick up in LA, drop off in Chicago and it costs about £250; vice versa it’s £360. California hire companies don’t charge for an extra driver (essential on a US road trip and worth a tenner a day — £140 over two weeks) and they’ll let you take a convertible out of state (Illinois doesn’t).
Details: 14 nights’ convertible car hire plus 14 nights’ room-only accommodation on or near Route 66, plus three nights in New York and Amtrak train from Chicago to New York (so you’ve done coast-to-coast) is from £2,495pp with flights (0800 316 0194, bon-voyage.co.uk)
8. World cruise
£53 a night
Fred Olsen (fredolsencruises.com) charges a reasonable £90 a night for its 115-night world cruises (ex-Southampton) in 2016, making a total of £10,399pp. But you can cut costs even more on Cruise & Maritime, which has sailings from Tilbury on Astor to Australia and back, but with a three-month gap in the middle. You can either spend that time visiting relatives Down Under, or do the round-the-world cruise as two different trips. A current offer means it costs from just £53pp per night.
Details: Cruise & Maritime (0844 998 3788,cruiseandmaritime.com) has a southbound voyage from Tilbury on October 17, arriving in Fremantle 53 nights later, at £5,649 for two. The northbound voyage departs Fremantle on March 16, arriving back in Tilbury on April 23
9. Dive with sharks
You might think you have to go to South Africa or the Philippines to dive near to the monsters of the deep, but Original Diving points out that the Azores is a lot closer and stuffed to the, er, gills with the species people cross the globe to see. There are manta rays, whale sharks, blue sharks, hammerheads, barracuda, world-class whale watching and volcanic landscapes, and most of it empty of other tourists.
Details: Seven nights at Hotel Caloura — with great diving just offshore — costs from £1,200pp B&B including flights, car hire and PADI open-water course (020 7978 0505, originaldiving.com)
10. Trans-Siberia by rail
84p a mile
There is no such train as the Trans-Siberian. Instead, there are trains of varying degrees of comfort, from the Orient Express-like Golden Eagle (which costs from £9,000) to slow domestic trains, from Moscow to Vladivostok or Beijing. A compromise that will take your bill down to £2,000 is the Rossiya from Moscow to Vladivostok every other day, which covers 5,752 miles in six nights. A comfortable train, it allows encounters with locals, unlike the luxury trains. The Man in Seat 61 (seat61.com) has invaluable advice if you want to DIY.
Details: A 12-day “Moscow to Vladivostok Trans-Siberian Railway” trip with one night in Moscow, a two-night stop in Irkutsk and an excursion to Lake Baikal, costs from £1,625pp room-only (020 76661244, regent-holidays.co.uk). It excludes flights to Moscow and back from Vladivostok, which the company can arrange (allow £550-£600)
11. Private island
£100 per night
Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the Caribbean can be yours for a week for just £359,000 for up to 30 people, although the price only includes flights for two. If you’re happy to share it with strangers during a celebration week, the price drops to £9,999pp, all-inclusive (0844 5732460, vhiphotels.co.uk). But Taprobane Island, just off Sri Lanka, sleeps ten in four doubles and one twin, with an infinity pool, garden and five staff. A week costs from £39,000 for ten, B&B, including return flights and transfers (020 7819 9770,ampersandtravel.com). You can drop the bill at Angel Island in eastern Indonesia on the edge of Komodo national park. It has three white sand beaches and ten villas. Book it for 20 people and it’ll cost about £100pp per night, with meals.
Details: Seven nights’ full board, with flights, soft drinks and transfers, costs from £1,580pp on a basis of 20 people travelling together (01803 866965, reefandrainforest.co.uk)
With World Expeditions, which has been operating in Nepal for 40 years, you can combine value for money, staying in eco lodges and eco tents, with minimal impact (no wood used, helping to stop deforestation) and high standards of hygiene in the camps (not always true in tea houses). There is also a longer itinerary to allow acclimatisation (you don’t want this to be the last entry on your bucket list) and a commitment to porter welfare. All this and the world’s most astonishing views.
Details: An 18-day trip, with a 14-day trek, ex-Katmandu, is from £1,390pp, including most meals plus a trek pack (sleeping bag, fleece jacket, sleep mat), transfers but not international flights (0800 0744135, worldexpeditions.co.uk). Allow £550-£850 for flights
You may feel that you have missed the heyday of Angkor Wat, but another temple complex, not yet in the mass-tourism consciousness, exists in Burma. Bagan holds the remains of more than 10,000 11th to 13th-century Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries. More than 2,000 are left — on 42 hectares — and it’s just as magical as Angkor, but without the crowds. Audley Travel (01993 838105,audleytravel.com) has 14 days’ B&B, with flights, from £4,070pp. Cut costs by using a local ground-handler such as SST Travel to set up the land-only arrangements and you can shave about £900 from the price of a trip.
Details: A 13-day itinerary from Yangon including time at Bagan and treks to hill tribes, all guiding and domestic flights is from £2,630pp room only (00 95 1 255536, sstmyanmar.com). Ebookers (ebookers.com) has return flights to Yangon from London from £505
14. Round the world in luxury
The way to fly around the globe in style is by luxury 90-seat private jet with Captain’s Choice, which has a 22-day itinerary that takes in Mexico, Rio, Tahiti, Easter Island, Iguazu Falls, Sydney, Cambodia, the Taj Mahal and Tanzania. Its trips include the best hotels and all food and wines but cost about £35,000. Shadow that itinerary in business class on commercial airlines. There might be the odd queue, but it will leave you with a chunk of change.
Details: Trailfinders can tailormake a 21-day itinerary, using most of the same hotels (Copacabana in Rio, Raffles in Siem Reap, Four Seasons Safari Lodge in Tanzania) on a mixed-meal basis (some B&B, some full-board) from £17,999pp (020 7368 1400,trailfinders.com). For round-the-world for a snip, Trailfinders can also organise a 21-day itinerary, with hotel stays in LA, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore, from £2,589pp, with flights in economy
Follow in the wake of the Beagle and encounter giant tortoises, penguins, green turtles, land iguanas, fur seals, sea lions, giant frigate birds and blue-footed boobies across half a dozen islands. Opt for one of the more affordable local boats, which usually hold 16 passengers (all boats come with very good naturalists, and do you really need a luxurious cabin when you’ll be exploring for most of the day?). Be aware that choppy seas mean that smaller boats roll more than larger vessels. May, June or October combine the best value with less potential for rough crossings. By taking a cheaper boat in the right month, you can save up to £2,000 on high-season rates, according to Wildlife Worldwide, which points out that the itineraries and activities are the same on all the boats.
Details: A seven-night Galapagos cruise on local boat Beluga is from £4,395pp including two nights’ B&B in Quito, Ecuador, a city tour, seven nights’ full board on board, international flights, transfers, and return flights to the Galapagos (01962 302086,wildlifeworldwide.com)
16. South Pacific
Experience the real South Pacific on board Aranui 3, a freighter/cruise ship that sails from Tahiti to the remote Marquesas islands, delivering goods while showing passengers island life (and coral atolls, volcanoes, deserted beaches, unspoilt reefs, blue lagoons), following Gauguin and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Details: A 14-day cruise from Tahiti on Aranui 3 is from £1,853pp in dorm-style bunk beds, full-board and with a full programme of island activities (00 689 40 83 51 60, etahititravel.com). For over-60s there’s a 10 per cent discount on some departures. Flights to Tahiti cost extra; Expedia (expedia.co.uk) has them from £1,260pp. If you prefer a cabin, it’s cheaper through a tour operator. Turquoise Holidays (01494 678400, turquoiseholidays.co.uk) has cabins from £3,175pp, including flights and transfers
17. Machu Picchu
Knowing the best time to visit Machu Picchu is a process of elimination. Avoid the expensive July and August high season, Christmas, new year, all school holidays, all local holidays, and the rainy season (the Inca trail is closed in January and February). That leaves you with October into November, when the rains are imminent but skies are normally clear and the trail far less crowded. Take a cheaper group trip using the ordinary train, which runs over the same tracks as the more luxurious Hiram Bingham.
Details: A 15-day private “Classic Highlights of Peru” tour to Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, is from £4,317pp B&B (with some other meals), including flights and transfers. But you can save with a “swift” ten-day group version which is from £3,068pp B&B including flights and transfers (020 8600 1881,journeylatinamerica.co.uk)
You can spend many thousands making the journey to follow Scott/Shackleton/Amundsen, leaving from New Zealand and heading for the Ross Sea. If you want penguins, icebergs and majestic landscapes, however, you can access the more westerly Antarctic peninsula via South America. December to January is the peak time, but November is more affordable (by just over £1,100), there are still penguins and you can kayak among fur seals and icebergs and snowshoe over pristine snowfields. On an active Antarctic cruise and you can dispense with a luxury cabin; you won’t spend much time in it.
Details: A 15-night Active Antarctica Cruise is from £6,375pp, including four nights on a B&B basis, internal flights, transfers, a private tour of Buenos Aires, and a ten or 11-night adventure cruise on board Plancius with all meals, guiding, activities, transfers, entrances and excursions and internal flights (01273 676712, pura-aventura.com). Flights to Buenos Aires cost extra; DialAFlight (020 7816 1133, dialaflight.com) has return flights from Heathrow from £695pp
19. Great Wall of China
It will come as no surprise that the Great Wall of China has sections that resemble London Bridge at rush hour. If you pay a fortune to stay at Aman’s Summer Palace in Beijing, they will take you to a part of the wall you can have to yourself. For less cash, take TransIndus’s Walking Ancient China tour of the little-visited sections of the Great Wall, staying in a guest house, then cycling the city walls of Xian before transferring to the mountains of Zhangjiajie to walk, hike, and gingerly traverse the glass corridor (a see-through walkway suspended from a cliff, looking down 4,000ft), and ride the world’s longest cable car. The trip finishes with a walking tour and free time in buzzing Shanghai. Go in October, when prices drop from summer highs but when temperatures are still agreeable.
Details: 12 nights’ B&B plus three other meals costs from £2,900 B&B including all activities, flights and transfers (0844 8793960,transindus.co.uk). Summer prices cost up to £350 more
20. Northern lights
There are a lot of cheap trips to see the northern lights, but you’re not guaranteed a sighting, and many people fail to see them. To prevent this, go with a company that specialises in tracking down the elusive light show. Deepest, darkest Finland gives great chances of seeing the display, but rather than sit and wait for the lights to show up, the trackers at the Aurora Zone take guests on snowshoeing hunts, on a snowmobile safari, a minibus hunt and to an Aurora camp in the wilderness.
Details: Six nights’ full board, with cold-weather clothing, expert local guides and all activities is from £1,775pp from January to March including flights and transfers (01670 785012,theaurorazone.com). Autumn departures (when there is still a good chance of seeing the lights over Lake Inari) are from £1,085