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Australian travellers ditch European summer for Asia

Our love affair with the European summer may be over, according to new data from Webjet. Their latest figures show that flights to Europe are down 18 per cent from 2023. Asian destinations, on the other hand, have risen by 23 per cent for that same period.

Asia now accounts for 19 per cent of all flights booked this winter, way ahead of the 12 per cent bound for Europe. 

In taking a closer look at the numbers, what’s interesting is that it’s more ‘mature’ Australian travellers driving this change, with the 46-55 age bracket booking 24 per cent of all those Asia flights.

So, why is this happening? 

Well, firstly, Asia’s amazing. It’s massive and diverse and full of surprises, old and new. 

Secondly, it’s entirely possible that the older we get, the less appealing it is to put ourselves wherever the kids are flocking on TikTok. Pay good money to surround myself with Australians in Mykonos? No, thanks. 

Mykonos

Mykonos – popular with Australians. Photo: Getty

But thirdly – and this is the big one – Europe is suddenly too far. 

Now clearly, London, Paris and Rome are no further away than they were when I was 20. But they certainly feel like they are. Because while being pretzeled into an economy class seat for hours on end has never been enjoyable, back then, it was bearable. As I’ve got older, the impact lasts much longer. 

Example: On a flight to the UK last year, I fell asleep in the ‘wrong’ position and damaged my tailbone. The pain lasted the full two weeks of the holiday, during which I had to avoid all ‘sitting’ activities in our itinerary. That’s not easy, on a trip that involves driving up and down the country in a hire car, visiting family. And I very quickly discovered that people don’t love it when someone stands next to them at the dinner table, instead of taking a seat.

I have no plans to give up on long-haul travel, but I do need to approach it differently these days. I’m definitely keen to try Air New Zealand’s Skynest, when it launches next year, allowing passengers to purchase a four-hour stint in a lie-flat bunk bed. 

Until then, when time and budget are on my side – which is almost never – my preference is to stop off for a couple of days halfway. 

Last Christmas was spent in Toronto with my husband and son, and on our way back to Sydney, we spent four nights in LA. There was Disneyland, shopping, lots of ribs and burgers, and it worked a treat. As with scuba driving, where it’s necessary to resurface gradually or risk imploding (pretty sure that’s the science), this was a far more gentle method of moving back towards our home climate and time zone.

It worked in re-acclimatising the body to warmer temperatures, reducing jet lag, and un-crunching all those bones and muscles. 

Given that this is generally not an option, I’m pleased to say I’ve come up with an excellent alternative. 

When flying long-haul, I now look for connecting flights with a layover of at least four hours, no longer seeing that as a waste of valuable holiday time. Then, before I travel, I research the airport and find somewhere to exercise. It can be fiddly to figure out – airport websites are, on the whole, not very user-friendly – but honestly, it’s been a game changer. 

Swimming pool

Don’t just get there; get there with body and mind intact. Photo: Getty

Travelling in April, I stopped in Doha and navigated to the Vitality Wellbeing and Fitness Centre at the Oryx Airport Hotel. After swimming a kilometre up and down the pool, my body had worked out all the knots of the 16-hour first leg, and I was (almost) as good as new. There was a charge, of course, but it’s less than you’d spend wandering the airport shops, and nowhere near the cost of a hotel for the night. 

Sometimes, it’s even possible find an option that doesn’t cost a cent. At San Francisco Airport, there’s a yoga studio passengers can access for free, with no booking required. I downloaded a routine ahead of my flight, headed straight there when I landed, and stretched myself back into a normal shape. 

I suppose what I’m saying to fellow passengers in their forties and beyond, is this: It’s absolutely fine to ditch Europe. It’s crowded and expensive, and those are entirely robust reasons for giving it a miss. 

But don’t forego it because it’s too far. Just rethink how you get there, instead. 

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