A friend of ours from Canada was saying that one of the problems with North Americans is that we are all CERTAIN that for everything there is the "obvious" (wrong) way to do things and the "secret insider" (right) way to do things. We all have a penetrating fear that we're getting duped or ripped off or laughed at because we don't have the secret insider knowledge that lets us do things more cheaply or more enjoyably. And we're certain that everyone other than us knows these secrets. I think it's driven by the overwhelming number of pointless choices available to consumers in America (the cereal aisle, my god, the cereal aisle). Her observation was that here in Australia there's just one way to do most things, there's rarely a way to game the system, and no one really tries to do so. You never feel like you're being ripped off and you never feel like if you knew some secret lingo that you could get a real steal. Basically if there's a choice it is between the obviously shoddy cheap option and the obviously quality expensive option and there's no haggling.
But, North American that I am, I've spent the last day desperately trying to find the "trick" to getting my friends to Australia for cheaper than $2000 round trip and I've figured out what the shoddy way to do it is! You can visit us (from LA) for under $1100 round trip!!!
Remember, once you get here you've got free lodging from us in our luxurious guest room and we'll cook for you occasionally too (and right down the street is a place where you can get a delicious healthy Moroccan meal for AU$5, and another place that has delicious fresh raw salmon sushi rolls for AU$2.40)!
Because you all live all over the US, I'm basing these prices on departure from Los Angeles. Round trip tickets to Los Angeles from Chicago are around $280 (tax included) from Northwest. They're between $200 and $300 from most places in the US. The prices I'm quoting include taxes and fees and stuff and are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.
The dollar is going up right now so it's a great time to come spend money in Australia!
The Normal (Expensive/Convenient) Way
To fly here the most convenient way costs about $2100 round trip per person. That's taking a non-stop from LAX to Melbourne via Qantas. Qantas has excellent in-flight entertainment and services. It's a comfy flight on a good airline and it goes right to Melbourne without the hassle of changing flights and juggling your baggage and all that stuff.
The Adventurous (Cheap!) Ways
The general rule is that if you take a lot of shorter hops the total cost is cheaper because all your hops are on cheaper-to-operate flights (they don't have to carry as much fuel). Two great ways to shorten the flight is to go through Honolulu or through Fiji. Most such flights only go to Sydney so you'll then have to connect to Melbourne via an AU domestic airline. These flights will be on seriously budget airlines with cramped seats and lousy in flight entertainment. You may have to work a little harder to arranging your connections. But with a little sense of travel adventure you can turn this into an excuse to spend a little time in Fiji or Hawaii and Sydney. And in the end, you will have suffered a little in your journey in order to end up in Australia to visit us!
You save a lot by making the connections yourself (booking them all separately). The benefit is saving hundreds of dollars. The anti-benefit is that you have to think more carefully about how to make the connections, you have less protection if your flights are delayed or your luggage is lost, you'll have to transfer your luggage as you go. But...you save up to $1000 per person so if it is those dollars that are preventing you from visiting us, then this is your way to come over on the cheap!
Because these methods use a mix of domestic and international flights you won't be able to bring as much checked luggage. You'll have to check the luggage limits for each leg of the trip. But if you're just coming for vacation (instead of moving here like we did) you really should have no problem packing light. Especially if you visit us in our summer time (your winter time). Heck, we'll give you the clothes off our back if it helps get you here!
Los Angeles -> Honolulu -> Sydney -> Melbourne$1080
Use Kayak.com to find the cheapest domestic flight to Honolulu. Northwest Airlines has LAX->HNL flights for $530 (or if you're in Chicago ORD->HNL for $750). Then use JetStar to get from Honolulu to Sydney for $490. Then you can also use JetStar to go from Sydney to Melbourne for AU$50-AU$80. Oddly, if you book a JetStar flight from Honolulu to Melbourne, which goes through Sydney anyway, you pay a lot more. I think what you're paying for is the convenience of a good connection and the right to bring heavier checked luggage. As long as you don't mind the adventure and pack light, save money by booking separate fares!
Los Angeles -> Fiji -> Sydney -> Melbourne$1350
This is through Air Pacific. It's about $1300 to go from Los Angeles to Sydney. They're the national airline of Fiji. ke_jia used them when he visited me in 2007. He said that although they are cheap the only in flight entertainment is propaganda about how great it is to vacation in Fiji. You do get to touch down in Fiji briefly.
The Slow Boat - Los Angeles -> Sydney -> Melbourne$6230
If you're anything like me, you're dying to stop ever having to fly and you'd rather take the slow boat and then a train. More leg room, fewer tourists, and no TSA! You can take a Passenger Freighter for a 22 day sea voyage from Los Angeles to Sydney for $3000. Now that's a good way to get offline for a while. The boat ride is about $3040 each way and then it's a $150 round trip train ride from Sydney to Melbourne. You could take the boat directly to Melbourne but it'll cost you an extra 2 days on the boat which is more expensive than the train.