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What's the best way to get deals on flights to Australia? Is there a cheaper season or route? Add to ...

The Question: What's the best way to get deals on flights to Australia? Is there a cheaper season or cheaper route? I've done the online thing and feel overwhelmed with all the websites.

When you're about to jet half-way across the world, it's a good idea to plan ahead. "Booking a flight at least four to six weeks in advance gives you time to spot a deal and grab it," says Lauren Sullivan, the site editor for Cheapflights.ca.

Sullivan says the best times for bargains are the fall and spring shoulder seasons. September is one of the least expensive months, she says, and then fares start to climb slowly to the peak travel season from December through to February (summer time Down Under), after which they start to ease. "Of course, these are general trends. There can be sales, especially in March and April, if flights look to be undersold."

As for routes, investigate your options. Air Canada offers a direct (almost 16-hour) flight from Vancouver to Sydney, other connecting cities include Los Angeles, as well as Dallas en route to Brisbane.

"It used to be that going via Asia was often cheaper, especially in peak season for travel to Australia, but that's not necessarily the case now," says Allison Wallace, communications manager for Flight Centre Canada. "The most popular routes are direct to Sydney on Air Canada, or direct to Auckland with Air New Zealand with good connections from there to Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and so on."

After a recent search, Wallace says the Air Canada direct flight in February was cheaper than connecting through LAX due to increased U.S. fuel surcharges and security fees. But prices can fluctuate even hourly depending on booking class, availability and the season, she notes.

Whenever you go, narrowing down what to do in Australia may be a more daunting task. The Great Barrier Reef? Sydney's famous harbour? Kangaroo Island? In its current "There's Nothing Like Australia" campaign, the tourism folks have collected 29,000 ways their big island is unique and they throw it all at you (Dolphins! Koalas! Fireworks!) in a cross-country sing-along: nothinglikeaustralia.com.

E-mail your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.

Karan Smith is a former editor of Globe Travel. Special to The Globe and Mail

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