Kiwis who lost their summer holiday to the rain are being tempted to look abroad for another break with hundreds of dollars being slashed off the price of flights.

The airline sale season has begun in earnest with Air New Zealand offering 25 per cent off the cost of North American flights and other carriers dropping fares by hundreds of dollars.

Travel expos being held this week will offer further discounts, with more than $1000 being dropped from some economy-class fares.

New Zealanders spend more on travel during February and March than at any other time of the year, according to David Coombes, general manager of product for Flight Centre.


"We are coming into that real peak season for bookings, so [the airlines] are manoeuvring to make sure they're getting that share of the revenue.

"Everybody wants share, and there are some amazing prices out there at the moment ... I would say the price points are near enough to as good value as we've seen in the market."

House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said airlines were responding to a market buoyed by a strong New Zealand dollar - and a mediocre Kiwi summer.

"Let's be honest, the summer this year outside of Central Otago has been pretty rubbish across New Zealand.

"People are saying, 'Hell, I need a holiday - I didn't really feel like I got a good summer holiday.' So places like the Cook Islands and Fiji are definitely starting to be booked up."

Despite a still-sluggish economy, the numbers of New Zealanders travelling overseas remain strong.

December was a record month for short-term departures.

Traditional holiday destinations such as Australia and the United States remained popular, but Asia experienced a surge in New Zealand tourists.

Mr Thomas said that was driven in part by budget carriers such as Jetstar and Air Asia X. Air Asia X flights from Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur can be bought for as little as $330 one-way.

"Those fares have brought some really competitive pricing ... People can enjoy a holiday [in Asia] for not too dissimilar prices to what they used to pay to go for a holiday in Australia."

Flight Centre will hold its Travel Expo at the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane this weekend, and Harvey World Travel will stage its expo in stores on Saturday.

Mr Coombes said, "We've got savings of up to $1000 on economy airfares, which is an amazing saving."

Air New Zealand: Auckland to LA, Mar-Dec. Flights usually about $2240. Now $1720.

Qantas: Auckland to Bangkok, Mar-Aug. Flights usually about $1220. Now $1099.

China Southern Airlines: Auckland to Amsterdam, business class. Flights usually around $5655. Now $4155.