The West

Early warning on earlybirds
Bag a bargain with earlybird travel deals to Europe. Picture: Michele Piacquadio/Getty Images/iStockphoto

The earlybird catches the worm and for readers thinking about Europe next year, it's time to get a wriggle on with planning.

More Europe:

"Earlybird Europe" is the name given to deals designed to entice travellers into considering and then booking early for a European holiday in the high season of the next northern summer.

And this is the time of year when Earlybird Europe deals start to emerge - a trend that the travel industry thought, in the recent past, would fade as booking patterns changed, but is prevalent again this year.

Ever-increasing flights and airlines flying from Perth, the Australian dollar's favourable exchange rate and the scorched earth of the European economy have forced the first flush of them to poke up their heads. There will be more over coming weeks, ripe for the plucking.

Travel agents around WA are receiving a steady flow of information on Earlybird Europe deals.

And what is defined for the traveller as "Europe" is a rather changed place. A decade or so ago, I might have been thinking mostly about the golden triangle of London, Paris and Rome, but the New Europe seems a bigger place and we are more experienced in it. Our interest in Spain has extended into Portugal. Our interest in Vienna has extended to Budapest. From Venice to Tallin. From Berlin to Stockholm, Copenhagen and Helsinki.

Emirates airline, for example, has 33 European destinations included in its earlybird prices.

This is what happens. Airlines drive the Earlybird Europe period by putting their best foot forward with competitive prices, traditionally for the northern summer, ending somewhere in August. But this year the "start date" for travel at these prices already varies between February and May.

Touring companies then build packages and enticements around these.

Many deals need to be booked by late December.

Over coming weeks you will see advertisements in these pages for Earlybird Europe deals and we will, of course, continue to bring you the earlybird news as it happens. We will publish our Earlybird Europe Guide when the full ambit is available. It is as important to wait and compare as it is to act quickly.

Travellers need not panic: this is just an early warning. But stick with us and you will see it all here, in one place.

Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Singapore Airlines have led the way this year.

Emirates has flights from Perth from $1596 to those 33 cities on many dates between February 1 and August 13. Booking on the deals ends on November 30 and they include 30kg of baggage.

You can find Singapore Airlines prices from $1629 from Perth to 13 cities between May 1 and August 31. The airline has 13 destinations in Europe and has matched Emirates' 30kg baggage allowance.

Malaysia Airlines has earlybird specials to five cities between March and August from $1599. There's a 20kg baggage allowance.

Cathay Pacific's Earlybird Europe fares are from $1929 from Perth to a choice of seven cities for flights between April 1 and August 13, including a $300 land credit.

But be aware of that word "from" - and for some airlines in some periods within these dates, prices are still more than $2300. Lowest prices are generally for periods with lower demand, but can give significant savings on fares booked closer to the day of travel.

There will also be free side trips and cheap hotel deals thrown in.

Touring companies are starting to line up behind the airline deals, with Insight Vacations among the first. In Perth recently, the president and chief executive of the Insight Travel Group, John Boulding, said increased competition on the Europe route had already made airfares cheaper than in previous years.

Airlines are keen to lock in early bookings and Insight is keen to look after clients who book early, which underpins the touring company's extensive program.

In the Insight Vacations Europe and Britain brochure, there are savings of up to $1776 a couple for those who book and pay in full before December 27.

Mr Boulding particularly points this out - it used to be that travellers had to pay 12 months in advance to get a 10 per cent discount.

However, Insight has changed this to December for departures from March onwards.

River cruising packages will again come to the fore for Earlybird Europe value.

Scenic Tours is offering free flights to Europe for many packages as part of its earlybird push. These include its 15-day Jewels of Europe river cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest, along with its 15-day cruise between Zurich and Amsterdam on the Rhine and Moselle rivers and 21 days between Paris and Prague, for example.

Avalon Waterways' earlybird specials for European river cruises are a little different in that they have to be booked by tomorrow and may include cabin upgrades or, for example, a saving of up to $750 per couple on standard prices when booking a 2013 European river cruise combined with an Emirates or Singapore Airlines airfare.

At this stage, though, it's still early days for earlybird. Be alert but not alarmed.

The West Australian

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