Airfares seem to be increasing so should I buy now for a trip to New York in October or wait?
- L. Henderson, Chifley ACT
There are several fluctuating factors in play now such as the price of oil and the availability of seats on your route that make it difficult to predict which way airfares are going to move. As a rule the best time to buy tickets for overseas destinations is around three months in advance. What you could do in the meantime is sign up for price alerts at an online travel site such as Skyscanner [skyscanner.com.au].
We're taking a Mediterranean cruise, is there a good alternative to the pricey shore excursions offered by cruise operators?
- B. Reynolds, Wollongong NSW
Venture Ashore [ventureashore.com] is one possibility. They have excursions in all the Mediterranean ports and they guarantee to get you back to your vessel on time. You can even cancel your booking up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund. Shore Excursions Group [shoreexcursionsgroup.com] is another. Private Shore Trips [privateshoretrips.com] is a boutique operation and that might work well for a family or small group but their tours are expensive if it's just a couple.
Make sure the operator will pick you up at the quay where the ship docks, you want to make the most of your shore time.
Our son is getting married in Waikiki in October and my husband and I would like to spend a few days exploring a quiet part of Oahu, keeping the budget in check and self-catering while still being able to explore and take walking trails.
- M. Howland, Concord NSW
The north shore could be what you're looking for. A one-hour drive from Waikiki, this is the chilled side of Oahu, popular with surfers and visitors looking for a less frantic version of Hawaii. The main town is Haleiwa, home to funky galleries, surf shops and Matsumoto's Hawaiian Shave Ice Shop, a local institution, as the queue at the front tells you.
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Just north of Haleiwa, the Waimea Valley is a lush botanical garden with a 5km hiking trail that wanders through tropical greenery and archaeological and cultural sites. One of the highlights of the trail is Waimea Falls, where you can swim in the waterhole at the base of the falls, provided conditions allow. Waimea Bay Beach Park has gentle surf conditions where you can snorkel as well as swim.
A little further north, the Banzai Pipeline is a legendary surf break where the waves form long tunnels as they break across a sharp reef. Home of the Pipeline Masters event, this is probably the world's most famous surf break, renown for its big winter surf from October to March. North again, Sunset Beach is slightly less wild but take great care if you head in for a dip. Don't miss the yellow Sunrise Shack, Instagram-famous for its fruity combos, smoothies and bullet coffee.
There's a good choice of Airbnb [Airbnb.com] properties in this area. Look for a "Superhost", and one with generous cancellation terms. Stayz [stayz.com.au] is another option.
My husband and I want to visit Granada, Seville and Cordoba over about 10 days, basing ourselves in one city and making day trips to the others. If that's possible, which city would be best and how do we purchase train tickets?
- P. Cosley, Eltham VIC
The most practical base is Cordoba. By train from there to Seville takes about 44 minutes while Cordoba to Granada is around one hour 35 minutes. The big attraction in Granada is the Alhambra, the fortified palace that was once the seat of Moorish power in Andalucia, and you can do it in a day trip. The three-hour guided tour is going to be your best bet, you need to buy a ticket online which will give you a timed entry [alhambra-granada-tickets.com]. You probably won't need to spend more than a day in Granada, but Seville is a different matter. You have quite a bit of time and what you might do is spend four nights in Cordoba, with one day devoted to Granada, and the rest of the time in Seville. There is much to enjoy in the home of flamenco, the city of Don Juan and Bizet's Carmen, site of the amazing Alcazar, Seville's Cathedral and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. If time allows, make a day trip to Carmona, where Moorish palaces are crammed alongside renaissance churches and mansions.
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Travel advice is general; readers should consider their personal circumstances.