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Old Oct 29, 08, 11:42 pm   #1
 
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Sydney to Cairns - fly or drive?

The onedog family is heading to Australia for about 17 days in June. We are flying into SYD from LAX. One of the things we'd like to do is visit the Cairns area to scuba dive the GBR and tour around the area. From researching here on FT, it appears that there is a lot to see and do in the general Cairns area.

Since there will be 5 of us, would it be better for us (cost wise, time wise and missing any sights)to rent a car and drive from Sydney to Cairns, take a train or should we fly? I'm leaning towards flying except that airline tix are pretty pricey. It appears to be a pretty long distance (approximately 3.5 hours by air). I checked and it appears that r/t flights run around $450 pp.

We arrive into Sydney in the early a.m. Should we try to fly that morning directly to Cairns or spend a few days in Sydney to get situated and recuperate from the long flight. If we are going to fly to Cairns, it just seems more time efficient to transfer directly to a Cairns flight rather than to spend time and money to do the whole airport shlep (get bags, transfers into town, transfers back to the airport, check bags, etc.). Travel days always seem to eat up a whole day, regardless of how short the flight is.

Thanks,

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Old Oct 30, 08, 12:05 am   #2
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I certainly would not drive from Sydney to Cairns. It is a looong distance, some 1700 miles by road and 30+ hours driving time. For comparison, it is roughly similar distance to Los Angeles to Chicago (but on worse roads).
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Old Oct 30, 08, 12:13 am   #3
 
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Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
I certainly would not drive from Sydney to Cairns. It is a looong distance, some 1700 miles by road and 30+ hours driving time. For comparison, it is roughly similar distance to Los Angeles to Chicago (but on worse roads).
30+ hours! Looks like we are flying.

I just did some Australia LCC research and it seems that the rt SYD - CNS - SYD is around A$350 during June. Is this a pretty decent price? Should I keep looking and wait for a more reasonable fare to show up or should I burn 20k AA miles pp on a Qantas intra-Australia tix?

Just to compare, it was only around A$250 r/t SYD -New Zealand-SYD. I would think that an international fare would be higher?

Should we spend a few days in SYD before heading to CNS or go directly to CNS?

Thanks,

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Old Oct 30, 08, 12:25 am   #4
 
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AUD 350 is about right. Competition across the Tasman is much greater than to CNS. I would not burn my AA miles as the AUD is in the toilet and 350 converts pretty well.

If you fly QF don't forget that you get lounge access in CNS though I think you may be pushing it for you and four guests. That said, I'd give it a go.

About AUD200 each way on QF is about right. Specials seem to crop up every few months so just check the QF site periodically.

If you have never been to Sydney before then it is worth spending the day but I would do this on the way home. If you have already traveled 20 hours then a few more up to CNS won't matter. If you are coming across on QF then transfers are easy but still a pain in SYD. If flying UA then the pain and time is greater.
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Old Oct 30, 08, 12:34 am   #5
 
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AUD 350 is about right. Competion across the Tasman is much greater than to CNS. I would not burn my AA miles as the AUD is in the toilet and 350 converts pretty well.

If you fly QF don't forget that you get lounge access in CNS though I think you may be pushing it for you and four guests. That said, I'd give it a go.

About AUD200 each way on QF is about right. Specials seem to crop up every few months to just check the QF site peridically.
The Mrs. and I are both AA Platinum but if we are flying QF do we get QF lounge access on intra-Australia flights? Here in the USA we only get lounge access on international intineraries.

Since Australia is geographically such a large country with lots of empty space in between populated areas, we are pretty much resigned to visiting only the eastern/northernish portion and saving the western/southern portion for a later trip. From what I can tell, June/July is not the best time to visit Tasmania? As airfare across the Tasman is so competitive (cheaper than flying intra-Australia), would you recommend a quick trip of a couple of days or so to visit New Zealand?

Thanks,

Onedog
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Old Oct 30, 08, 1:05 am   #6
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I just paid roughly $100 (US) each way including a checked bag on DJ (Virgin Blue) between SYD and CNS. Wait until the Go Fares pop up and I'm sure you can do the same.
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Old Oct 30, 08, 1:16 am   #7
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I've done Sydney-Cairns twice by bus and it was 42 hours the last trip (had a bus pass that allowed me to overnight at a couple places along the way). Unless you have a couple weeks, though, you really don't want to do this, let alone drive it, and it looks like you've already made that decision.

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The Mrs. and I are both AA Platinum but if we are flying QF do we get QF lounge access on intra-Australia flights?
Yes, you do. Even Admirals Club members have access under a reciprocal agreement. I have photos of the SYD domestic lounge below from my visit in May on the way to Brisbane.

I think I'd stick to the east coast and maybe add on Brisbane. That gives you access to the Sunshine Coast (beaches, Australia Zoo, aquariums). I have photos of that area below, too.

One site you'll want to use for research is the Trip Planner part of Weather Underground that tracks historical temperatures so you can get an idea of what to expect. Sydney, for instance, has an average temperature of 63 degrees the last week of June, while Brisbane jumps to 68, and Cairns to 77.
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Old Oct 30, 08, 1:20 am   #8
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I just paid roughly $100 (US) each way including a checked bag on DJ (Virgin Blue) between SYD and CNS. Wait until the Go Fares pop up and I'm sure you can do the same.
Also watch for the Red e-Deals on the Qantas site. I've booked a couple of those before, but you do have to check regularly to see what is on offer. You'll need to change the U.S. site to the Australia site (.com.au) to get those fares.
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Old Oct 30, 08, 1:37 am   #9
 
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Yes, you do. Even Admirals Club members have access under a reciprocal agreement. I have photos of the SYD domestic lounge below from my visit in May on the way to Brisbane.
Definite +1 for trying to book flights on QF.

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One site you'll want to use for research is the Trip Planner part of Weather Underground that tracks historical temperatures so you can get an idea of what to expect. Sydney, for instance, has an average temperature of 63 degrees the last week of June, while Brisbane jumps to 68, and Cairns to 77.
Thanks, I'll have to check out the Weather Underground. Based on the Sydney & Cairns average temps during June, we're figuring June/July down under is similar to Los Angeles weather during the beginning of our winter. Are we correct that the weather could be chilly, most likely light sweater/light jacket temps in the evenings, shorts & light pants? Do we need to pack umbrellas?
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Last edited by onedog; Oct 30, 08 at 9:46 am.
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Old Oct 31, 08, 2:54 pm   #10
 
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A word of caution if you decide to book an AA award ticket. If you happen to get a Qantas codeshare flight on Jetstar, AA doesn't have the ability to issue an e-ticket. At the same time, the agent issuing your ticket might not notice that.

Jetstar's reservations system is simplistic and doesn't recognise whether or not a passenger needs a paper ticket (they just bill Qantas for the codeshare), but the Qantas system does (if you happen to have another flight on Qantas metal).

As I said, your lovely AAgent may not realise you need a paper ticket and you might even get an e-ticket confirmation sent to you. You could show up at the airport and find yourself having a choice between buying a new ticket at a walk-up fare or not flying. BTW, middle of the day in Australia is middle of the night back in North America. That means AA don't answer the phones and calls get routed to India and they're beyond useless. I ended up buying the ticket.

The series of events that resulted in me giving this word of caution can't be common, but it happened and I was none too happy. Buyer beware. There are two things to be learned from this:

1. If you've got a codeshare on Jetstar, make sure you're issued a paper ticket.
2. If you don't get a paper ticket, make bloody sure you have a print out of your e-ticket confirmation with the ticket number. In fact, you'd do yourself some help by also asking AA to give you the Qantas record locator for your reservation since it's not the same as the AA one.

Last edited by CXYYZ; Oct 31, 08 at 2:59 pm.
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Old Nov 1, 08, 8:56 pm   #11
 
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You won't earn AA ff points, but Virgin Blue www.virginblue.com.au has flights between Sydney and Cairns today on their "Happy Hour" for AU$91.00 each way. Although you must travel between March 14 and April 14th 2009 on this particular special, they often have cheap flights Sydney Cairns on other days so it just means you have to work out 1pm Sydney time from where you are, and click on. The happy hour is indicated on the site from 12MD to 1pm, but as Sydney is now in Daylight Saving time it can be seen from 1pm to 2pm Sydney time, and is worth checking out. Qantas as usually a lot more expensive.
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Old Nov 1, 08, 9:47 pm   #12
 
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Hi onedog, what we talk about all the time.....Weather.
Sydney will be on the mild to chilly side, moist but not cold.
Cairns will be warm dry and pleasant.
Don't worry about an umbrella, if you feel you need one, department stores sell them cheaply.
Pack a sweater for Sydney and shorts for Cairns
New Zealand is beautiful and their dollar and ours is down at the moment so you couldn't pick a better time to BUY your tickets and a wad of the Australian currency. My advice is to pre pay as much as you can and remember that fuel taxes are being lifted and $250 Australian equates to $160 US, very good buying. The dollar will start to rise in February and should be healthy again by this time next year. Enjoy the trip, if you enjoy train travel, the BNE to CNS run is superb, and Brissie is a warm friendly spot to stay a day or two, regards bkkrop
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Old Nov 2, 08, 11:08 pm   #13
 
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Originally Posted by BKKROP View Post
Hi onedog, what we talk about all the time.....Weather.
Sydney will be on the mild to chilly side, moist but not cold.
Cairns will be warm dry and pleasant.
Don't worry about an umbrella, if you feel you need one, department stores sell them cheaply.
Pack a sweater for Sydney and shorts for Cairns
New Zealand is beautiful and their dollar and ours is down at the moment so you couldn't pick a better time to BUY your tickets and a wad of the Australian currency. My advice is to pre pay as much as you can and remember that fuel taxes are being lifted and $250 Australian equates to $160 US, very good buying. The dollar will start to rise in February and should be healthy again by this time next year. Enjoy the trip, if you enjoy train travel, the BNE to CNS run is superb, and Brissie is a warm friendly spot to stay a day or two, regards bkkrop
Will the weather on the south island of New Zealand be more like Sydney or Cairns.

Why do you say that the A$ will start to rise in February? Is the currency fluctuation a seasonal occurrance?

Thanks,

Onedog
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Old Nov 2, 08, 11:22 pm   #14
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You're kidding right? June in South Island of NZ is early winter = cold and damp, snow in the mountains (although most likely not on the roads or towns yet).

As for the currency, BKKROP is AFAIK just speculating. A$ and NZ$ are strongly correlated with commodity prices - minerals for Australia and agriculture for New Zealand.
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Old Nov 3, 08, 3:45 am   #15
 
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Originally Posted by onedog View Post
Will the weather on the south island of New Zealand be more like Sydney or Cairns.

Why do you say that the A$ will start to rise in February? Is the currency fluctuation a seasonal occurrance?

Thanks,

Onedog
Weather in NZ will be nothing like Cairns. Queenstown on the south island is at a higher latitude than New York is.

As for the currency, my own speculation is unless you are planning on spending large amounts I would not be particularly worried about it's movements. It's post float average is around 70 US cents it was overvalued it has corrected. The $NZ just follows whatever the AUD does.
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