Category Archives: Seasonal sonnets

High Season Blues

For many people travel is restricted to high season simply because they work or have children in school at other times.  This means that flights and often accommodation are at premium prices  and that makes it harder to get away at a reasonable price.

There are ways around the worst of this if you are clever.

First – book early.  You can book 11 months and 11 days out from from your date of return so if you know your dates, book as soon as you are able and you should be able to get the best available fare.  The closer to departure date you leave it, the more seats will be sold and the higher the prices will be.

Second – try airlines that go through different places.  If time is not at issue, having an airline that takes you through two different transfer points will often be cheaper than the direct lights with just one change.  And you will be able to take advantage of different stopovers if you wish.

Third – frequent flyer seats are the cheapest if you have sufficient points because you just pay for the taxes.  Getting in as soon as the flights are available is the only way to go at peak times because seats are limited and WILL sell out.

Travelling on Christmas Day is often cheaper than at any other time in December since almost no-one wants to fly on Christmas Day.  That means there will be more seats and prices will be lower.  If you are travelling to the USA, Canada, South or central America you will actually arrive on the same day as you leave so you get two Christmas Days.  It can save you significant amounts of money.shortbread-002

A bit of pre-planning can make the difference between having a great trip without breaking the bank, or even travelling at all.

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Baking Christmas

December 22nd and the final lot of (not gluten free) shortbread is baked and ready to be packed as gifts for family.  It is a tradition which began in 1982 more by accident than design.

In 1982 I took a year off and travelled to Europe for eight months, scratching an itch that has never gone away.  I spent almost three months in the mainland UK over two periods, two weeks in Ireland and the rest of the time in again two stretches in Europe.  Suffice to say that is where the love affair with Europe began and was cemented for me.

Because I knew I was going to be away for such an extended period I made sure of three things.  One – I would write to mum and dad every week – actually I don’t think Mum would have let me go if I hadn’t promised her would. Two I would write down the photos I took so I knew where I had been and what I had taken – I still do – it really helps!  And three – any souvenirs I bought would have to be light, preferably indestructible and able to be posted home, and I would get one decent thing from each country, not lots of things of little value.  Those decisions stood me in fairly good stead (with the exception of the delicate glass Irish harp that was smashed into smithereens courtesy of the mail).

My souvenir from Scotland was a wooden shortbread mould with a Scotch thistle pattern.  It came with a recipe for shortbread and when I returned to Australia and went through the parcels that had been sent home ahead of me, I found it and decided to try out the mould and the recipe for Christmas that year.  It took a couple of attempts before I abandoned the Scottish version and found the Australian Women’s Weekly recipe which is by far better and much easier to work.  I have been making the shortbread ever since.  In some households now Christmas is not Christmas without it.

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Over the years I have added to the mould with biscuit shapes – angels, Christmas trees, stars, snowmen, doves, Christmas canes and stockings, and then my travels added a couple of other shapes.  In Alaska I found a tiny and a large moose or reindeer biscuit cutter and while the slender legs are a bit of a challenge, they have added to the Christmas experience a little piece of Canada and Alaska.

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Travel enriches us so much.  What we take away from it is not just experience and memory, photos and people who become friends; we also collect things that become family traditions.  It was because of the people I met overseas and stayed with, and also because I was away for eight months that the same year I began my annual Christmas letter so everyone would know what I had been up to.

Whatever your Christmas tradition, in cold northern climes, or in a blazing Australian summer, have a wonderful Christmas and I will be back next year with an A to Z of destinations.