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Flights to Australia/New Zealand

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We are planning our first vacation to Australia for this coming December/January (2012) and are feeling a bit overwhelmed with the options.

We are from Canada so can either fly from Toronto - Vancouver-Australia or from Toronto - LA-Australia. Since we have never been to California we were thinking of flying Toronto-LA on Air Canada, then Booking a flight 2 days later from LA-Brisbane from V.Australia.

While on this vacation we want to see Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand (and Brisbane of course), but we dont know the best order. Ideally, we could get a 1 or 2 day stopover in Sydney before flying to Brisbane but I am not sure if its possible.

Here are my questions:
1) What is the best airline to book with in terms of price, service and comfort
2) Can anyone recommend a good travel agent that specializes in Australian vacations
3) What are the must-do's and the nice to do's in Australia/new Zealand
4) Can anyone recommend an itinerary.
5) If we select Vaustralia, is it worth it to pay double (or more) for a premium economy ticket or is economy ok?

We are looking to travel total 20-25 days (including flying time) and are doing so on a tight budget (I guess Fiji is out of the question :-( )

All the help is much appreciated.

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