Travel Comment
Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

A leap across the ditch will do

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Kiwis like to travel on the cheap, prefer backpacker accommodation and stay fairly close to home. At any rate that's the impression you'd get from those who use to search for travel information.

Google this week released details of the most popular travel-related queries entered into its New Zealand search engine during 2008 and clearly bargain hunting has been
the object of the exercise.

The most common words used in searches for accommodation, for instance, were "cheap", "backpackers", "budget" and "last minute" (although, to be fair, the next most popular search term was "luxury").

Similarly, the expression most frequently used by people looking for flights was "cheap flights".

The specific airline most often looked for was Air New Zealand, confirming that our national carrier is still the first port of call for most Kiwis.

But, interestingly, the second most frequently sought airline was the relative newcomer Pacific Blue, whose budget flights have pushed Qantas into third place, with other budget names like Virgin, Jetstar and the now defunct Freedom Air also featuring prominently.

Unsurprisingly, Australia is the top destination we look for information on, and if that isn't sufficient evidence of how much we like nipping across the Tasman, the Gold Coast is the second most popular place we want to know about, Brisbane is fifth and Melbourne sixth (whatever happened to Sydney .

. . or do we already know all we need to?).

The other destinations people turn to Google to find out about are Fiji and Rarotonga, which is what you'd expect, since Australia, Fiji and the Cook Islands are where nearly all of us go for our overseas holidays.

But, surprisingly, Canada is next on the list - possibly reflecting Air NZ's new direct service to Vancouver - though the latest travel figures from Statistics NZ indicate that numbers heading there have dropped in recent months.

The other destinations to appear in Google's top-10 list are Samoa, Thailand - that would be before the latest upheavals, of course - and Bali - which is making a bit of a comeback after the turnoff of the 2002 bombings.

Closer to home, the New Zealand destination most Kiwis want to know more about is, wait for it - Auckland.

Yes, the rest of the country may love to hate the City of Sails - or whatever it's called now - but they're also keen to enjoy the lattes, brunches and other good things on tap here.

As you'd expect, Christchurch, Wellington - well, maybe you wouldn't expect that - Rotorua, Taupo and Queenstown feature prominently among the list of destinations we've been seeking information about.

Given the difficult economic times New Zealand faces, chances are that budget holidays and destinations close to home will feature even more prominently in next year's list of information Kiwis have looked for on the internet.

With that in mind, this week's issue of Travel features one of the best ways to get to see New Zealand, a family holiday in a motorhome.

But, that said, we mustn't forget just how much the wider world has to offer, so this week's Travel issue also includes a story about one of the most delightful experiences I've had in my travels, being the first white person to stay in a Xhosa B&B in South Africa's Eastern Cape Province.

Travel will be back on January 13 with some great stories about cruising through Europe by barge, gorging on fabulous French cuisine, having a foot massage in China, travelling the Silk Road and a whole lot more.

In the meantime, have a happy Christmas, and let's hope your new year is prosperous enough to allow you to visit all the places you want to see.

- Jim Eagles

Pictured above: Sydney seems to be out of favour with New Zealand holiday makers, at least when it comes to our Google searches on Australian cities. Photo / Supplied

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