The Kleores family has ditched Noosa and is heading overseas (left to right: Paul, Madeline, Mandi and Stephanie). Photo: Craig Sillitoe. Digitally altered image.
FOR the past 12 years, Mandi Kleores has taken her family to Noosa for their annual holiday. It has been easy, affordable, and the beaches are safe and clean.
But this year she is dumping the Australian coast for Hawaii. With the strong Australian dollar, this Christmas more Australians are holidaying in Hawaii, New York, Los Angeles and London.
Ms Kleores and her partner, Paul, who live in the northern suburbs, have chosen Hawaii for their two daughters' first trip overseas with the accommodation, food and entertainment the same price, if not cheaper, than in Noosa.
The strong Australian dollar has many Australians bouncing overseas for their summer holidays.
They have booked a two-bedroom apartment close to the beach in Honolulu for $250 a night for two weeks in January, less than the $320 a night they usually pay in Noosa. Friends have said it will also cost less to feed the family, between $80 and $100 a day in Hawaii compared with $140 on the Sunshine Coast.
Their daughters, Madeline, 12, and Stephanie, 14, plan on taking surfing lessons and Paul, an avid cyclist, is looking forward to riding every day. Ms Kleores' stepdaughter, Eleni, 24, plans to join them, which would make it the first trip they have spent all together.
''Money is definitely a big driving factor,'' Ms Kleores says. ''When you're travelling with a family, the dollar makes a huge difference. It's not such a big deal for one person, but it's a significant saving for a family of four.''
Illustration: Matt Golding
According to travel agents, many other families agree. Webjet managing director John Guscic said a growth in overseas travel meant the company was experiencing its strongest Christmas trading period.
''Los Angeles and London are two markets where we are seeing significant increases,'' he said.
''We are also seeing a lot more trips into China - not just to Beijing and Shanghai but to more eclectic parts of the country.''
Travel agency Flight Centre reported bookings for flights to New York and Los Angeles over the coming summer are up by 20 to 25 per cent compared with last year.
New York was Flight Centre's second-largest growth area for travel this year, moving up from 12th to eighth place. Phuket and Kuta remained the first and second-most popular overseas holiday destinations.
''We've seen a much greater interest in the US than [in holiday periods] in other years,'' said marketing general manager Colin Bowman.
Student travel group STA Travel has recorded a 46 per cent increase in flights to New York in the December-January period compared with the same period last year. The number of flights to Los Angeles and Hawaii booked through the company has also risen by 25 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the number of people leaving Australia on short trips increased more than 8 per cent from 605,300 in October 2010 to 656,200 in October 2011.
Despite the overseas departures, travel website Wotif.com said domestic tourism was strong. ''Even with the strong Aussie dollar, we've noticed an increase in people staying home and travelling within Australia,'' Wotif's Megan Magill said. One Australian dollar bought more than $US1 at the start of August and has remained above US94¢ since October.