The Easter holidays are expected to be Australia’s busiest for two years, but those booking a last-minute getaway might be surprised by some of the deals still available.
Research from the Australian Retailers Association and Roy Morgan shows that more than four million Australians are planning an Easter trip, spending $7.1 billion on vacation.
Despite a notable increase in accommodation demand in April, overnight rates remain “at the same level” as in previous years, according to Daniel Finch, managing director of booking platform Wotif.
Regional getaways and “city breaks” currently offer the best value for travelers who want to keep vacation spending to a minimum, according to the travel expert.
“By doing your research and embracing some flexibility, you can still find a lot during this busy time,” Finch said.
Simone Scoppa of accommodation rental site Stayz said some destinations on the platform had already been booked for months.
‘Finding last minute accommodation over Easter can be difficult as it’s the first holiday we’ve had in a long time without widespread lockdown,’ she said.
Scoppa’s top destination tip for a last minute Easter vacation rental is Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains of NSW.
“There are currently 16 properties left to book with prices ranging from $350 to $850 a night for multi-bedroom homes,” she said.
“I am personally spending Easter there next week and it is the perfect destination to explore the higher parts of Australia and experience cozy chimneys to kick off the cooler season.”
Data provided by Wotif shows that Brisbane, Sydney and Hobart still have plenty of availability during busy school holidays.
Finch said Townsville and Mackay in Queensland, the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia and Albury-Wodonga on the NSW-Victoria border stood out for their good value, with nightly rates under $200.
Those after a Queensland getaway can still find deals, including discounted stays at Rydges Southbank Townsville from $163 a night (15% off standard rate) and Mackay Resort Motel from $132. $ per night (20% cheaper).
Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, an hour-and-a-half drive from Melbourne, are among the country’s top destinations heading into the Easter weekend. Interest in hotels and other stays jumped more than 40% in the region, compared to the same period last year.
Travelers looking to the NSW North Coast for Easter will find plenty more there, with the region becoming the country’s second most popular destination, led by Byron Bay.
However, those looking to secure a last-minute stay in the Byron Bay area may be out of luck, with hotels and other accommodation during the peak Easter period booking up months and in some cases as far as two years in advance, according to information from the NSW Department of Justice. The department has been scrambling to relocate many northern river flood victims ahead of the deluge of tourists this season.
NSW north coast tourism hotspots Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Yamba are also filling up fast, although Finch’s advice is for Port Macquarie, which currently has the most availability despite its “strong demand”.
The Gold Coast, the NSW North Coast and the Sunshine Coast are clear favorites for holidaymakers in April, outside of the capital cities.
And it’s not just the east coast that Australians are flocking to, with properties in regional destinations in South Australia also showing a spike in interest compared to the same time last year.
“Interest in the Barossa wine region, Fleurieu Peninsula, Riverland and Kangaroo Island has increased by up to 20%,” Finch said.
Flight and accommodation prices on the Eyre Peninsula tend to be cheaper in March and April, outside of the region’s main holiday seasons.
Visitors to the Barossa can always find availability with top-rated stays including Vine Inn Barossa, from $125 a night, and Discovery Parks Barossa Valley, from $129 a night.
Finch said travelers who are willing to “think outside the box” by trying a new destination or being flexible with their travel dates will be able to find additional savings.
“Not only does traveling to a new destination broaden your horizons, it often means avoiding the crowds and finding yourself plenty,” Finch said.
“If possible, it also helps to have some flexibility around your travel dates. If you have the option of extending your stay, some accommodation providers may offer a better deal for longer stays.”
Australians traveling interstate for the Easter holiday have also been warned by major Australian airports to arrive early and be prepared for long waits as holiday traffic reaches levels not seen since before the pandemic.
Travelers are advised to arrive two hours before their scheduled departure to avoid the rush. Sydney Airport apologized after thousands of passengers were stuck in queues for hours at the start of the school holidays.
The airport blamed a host of factors, including “inexperienced” passengers, for slowing down the security screening process.