Image: Great Barrier Reef
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A Qantas discounted air pass allows you to visit Cairns—the gateway to the reef—and your choice of Australian hotspots like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast.
updated 10/24/2008 10:06:27 AM ET 2008-10-24T14:06:27

The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare to Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney, a one-way flight to Cairns, your choice of two other one-way stops within Australia, and admission to the Australia Zoo, from $1,199 per person—plus estimated taxes of $140 to $150.

When: Nov. 1–27, 2008; May 1–31, 2009; seasonal surcharges may apply for other travel dates through Aug. 31.

Gateways: Honolulu, L.A., San Francisco; add $288 for Chicago; $300 for New York City; $360 for Miami; $415 for D.C.; additional gateways are available.

The fine print: Round-trip airfare to Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney and a one-way flight to Cairns are included, along with two additional one-way flights to two of the following: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Maroochydore, Melbourne, Sydney, or Townsville. Fuel surcharges of $289 per person and tickets to the Australia Zoo are also included. Airport taxes and fees are an additional $140 to $150 per person. The pass requires a minimum stay of seven days and a maximum of 21 days; add $500 per person for a three-month maximum stay. Aside from the three included stops, an unlimited number of stopovers in Australia is allowed for an additional $100 per person per stop. Based on double occupancy; single travelers pay the same rate but don't get the zoo pass. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: Oct. 31, 2008.

Contact: Qantas Vacations, 800/442-9957, qantasvacations.com.

Why it's a deal: Beginning in November, the cost of the air pass will go up at least $100 per person, and it will not include the Australia Zoo tickets, valued at $50 each. In other words, by booking by October 31, you'll save at least $150 apiece. Do some comparison pricing with your desired destinations before purchasing the air pass. For instance, according to a Kayak search for travel in mid-November, the lowest round-trip fare from L.A. to Brisbane starts at $874 (Qantas). Add to that the cost of a one-way flight from Brisbane to Cairns, which is $107 (Virgin Blue), and the $226 it costs to fly from Cairns to, say, Launceston (Virgin Blue), and then $188 to fly from Launceston back to Brisbane (Virgin Blue), and you'd be spending a total of $1,395, including taxes. The air pass, including taxes, would save you at least $46 per person in this instance—and provide two tickets to the Australia Zoo and the flexibility of choosing among multiple destinations. BT Tip: If you do go the DIY route, you'll likely have better luck buying a U.S.-Australia round-trip fare and each of the intra-Australia flights individually (as we priced out above) rather than buying one multicity fare. For the example itinerary above, the multicity fare was a whopping $2,019 on Qantas.

Trip details: The No Barrier to the Great Barrier Reef Airpass includes round-trip airfare to Brisbane, Melbourne, or Sydney, a flight to Cairns—known as the gateway to the reef—and two additional stops within Australia. You can choose from Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Hobart, Launceston, Maroochydore, Melbourne, Sydney, or Townsville.

Spanning more than 1,429 miles along the northeast coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's richest and most diverse ecosystems. It stretches from the tip of Cape York, Queensland, to Bundaberg, with about 2,900 individual reefs and 600 islands. It's so enormous that it's visible from space.

Slideshow: Awesome Australia The reef is brimming with wildlife: dugong, green turtles, dolphins, whales, more than 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 types of mollusks, and more than 200 bird species.

The Australian government recommends studying the zoning map prior to your trip, in order to familiarize yourself with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and available activities.

While the Great Barrier Reef area experiences an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, this discounted offer falls within the rainy off-season, which lasts from November through May. Coincidence? We think not.

Qantas Vacations offers several land packages to accompany your air pass, starting from $599 for the four-night Tropical Hot Spots package, which includes two nights at Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island and two nights at Novotel in Brisbane.

For tips on what to do in the area, visit the official Web sites for Australian tourism and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

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