December Overseas Travel: What You Need to Know

Co-author: William Jolly 

The most popular December overseas destinations for Aussies and what you should know about travelling in December.

December is the busiest month of the year for Australians travelling overseas. In fact, statistics show December has the highest number of residents departing on short-term overseas trips than any other month for every year since 2000 (ABS, 2017).

The exception? In 1999, there were actually more Australians departing on short-term trips in September than December. Perhaps more people wanted to be in their home country for the turn of the millennium.

If you’re one of the many Australians thinking of travelling this December, here are some interesting facts and tips you might want to know.

Where we go in December

So where do Australians travel to most during this peak month?

In December 2016, these were the top 20 countries Australians travelled to most:

Here’s a snapshot of travel money card products on Canstar’s database with links to providers’ websites, sorted by Star Rating (highest – lowest) for persons travelling to New Zealand .To compare other travel money card policies, click here.

Compare this to 10 years ago in December 2006, when the top 20 countries Australians travelled to were:

Overall, not much has changed over time besides the number of aussies travelling – more than 1.1 million of us went overseas last christmas compared to 568,000 10 years prior. Indonesia has been the biggest beneficiary of this increased travel, rising from 6th spot to 3rd in 2016.

Most of this can be attributed to the rise in popularity of Bali as an Aussie travel hotspot and Schoolies destination. A trip to Bali has almost become a bit of a rite of passage for many young Australians these days, and if you keep an eye-out then you can definitely snap up some good deals on flights.

Other newly popular destinations include Japan (14th to 7th), and India (11th to 5th) – India’s fast-paced economic growth has made it much more accessible to travellers, while cheaper airfares have similarly boosted Japan’s popularity. On the other hand, countries like Thailand (4th to 7th), Malaysia (9th to 12th) and Hong Kong (7th to 15th) all fell down the pecking order. New Zealand remained the most popular destination with nearly 185,000 visitors.

Reasons we travel overseas in December

As you’d expect, the majority of Australians travelling overseas in December are holiday-makers, making up 59% of December resident departures in 2016. Additional motives behind our travels include:

  • 23.8%visiting friends relatives
  • 8.6% on business

Other less common reasons for December travel included business, conventions or conferences, employment, or education.

Length of travel in December

The most popular length of stay overseas in December 2016 was 14.5 days, which is just under three working weeks. This has decreased by about 1.5 days from 2006. 11% of Aussie December travellers spent 1-2 months overseas, and 1-2 weeks was the intended length of stay for another 26%. Impressively, 3% of travellers managed to spend over six months in another country. Good job saving up that Christmas leave!

Overall, Aussie travellers last Christmas spent a combined 971,800 days overseas – that’s 2662 years!

December is the most expensive time of the year to travel

You should be aware however that December is also the most expensive time of year to fly overseas. According to Skyscanner, December airfares (both international and domestic) are 20% more expensive than the average prices throughout the rest of the year.

Interestingly, November is the cheapest month to travel, with flights that are 12% cheaper than the year-long average. So perhaps you could save money by taking your Christmas holiday early!

But if you must travel overseas in December, you can still do as much as possible to reduce your travel costs. Here are some tips:

  • Look out for deals and special offers: Airlines and travel organisations constantly offer great deals for the savvy travellers that look to snap them up. Some airlines might even run a ‘return for free’ sprint sale which can save you some serious dosh. The best way to hear about these deals is by signing up for email newsletters from airlines and hotel chains. Following these companies on social media can also help.
  • Be flexible with dates and times: Particular days of the week and times of the day can have much more expensive airfares than others. If you’re flexible with your dates and times, you can simply pick the cheapest flight.
  • Book ahead of time: If you’re reading this in November, it’s probably too late, but for future reference, flights are typically much cheaper when you book months in advance. For example, according to Skyscanner, you can save 23% off your airfare to the US by booking 28 weeks in advance. Sometimes, however, a carrier might offer a cheap deal at the last minute to fill up a flight, but this can be rare in December.
  • Pick a good value destination: If you haven’t decided which country you want to spend your December holiday in, look for destinations that offer good value for your money. Consider places where you have a higher purchasing power (especially Asian countries such as Nepal, Vietnam, India, Thailand, etc.) or countries the Australian dollar has risen against (the UK, South Africa, China, and more).

Domestic holiday destinations for December

Of course, there’s still plenty to see and do in Australia! Why rush off to explore another country if you haven’t properly explored your own?

We’re blessed in Australia with beautiful beaches, rainforests, hinterland regions, snowy mountains, tropical islands, large metropolitan cities and charming country ranges.

According to a survey by, these are the top 10 bucket list destinations in Australia for Australians:

  1. Uluru, Northern Territory
  2. Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
  3. The Kimberley, Western Australia
  4. The Whitsundays, Queensland
  5. Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
  6. Margaret River Region, Western Australia
  7. Lord Howe Island, NSW
  8. Wineglass Bay, Tasmania
  9. Great Ocean Road, Victoria
  10. Kangaroo Island, South Australia

If you haven’t seen all of these places yet, perhaps you shouldn’t be in such a rush to jump on an international flight this December.

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