This guest post was contributed by Peak Transfer
When planning a holiday, one of the first decisions is always whether to choose a package or to organise things such as flights, accommodation and the itinerary yourself. The debate over which is the better experience continues and it really does depend on what you want out of your break. Independent travel is certainly flexible but this can mean less security if things go wrong. Packages can be reassuring and cheap but may feel restrictive. So it’s best to weigh up the pros and cons before you travel and work out which is right for you.
The All-Inclusive Deal
Package trips today have come a long way from the classic British holidays to the Mediterranean. If you’re planning a visit to a far-flung location such as Thailand or Mexico but don’t have more than a couple of weeks to explore, an all-inclusive tour may be a good choice. The cost of long-haul flights and excursions, plus food and drink, can easily add up. With a package you don’t have to worry about paying for most things when you get to your destination. You can save money by paying for everything in advance and you also have the advantage of help and guidance in an unfamiliar land.
Some last-minute packages are also worth considering. If all you want is a quick blast of winter sun or a long weekend of skiing in the Alps, opting for an all-inclusive deal can be a good decision. These kinds of packages are perfect for short breaks when you want to get away from the stress of work and just need to relax. For some people, one of the main highlights of a package break is the licence to do nothing. You can sit by the pool and enjoy the often unlimited cocktails, snacks and meals that are included in the price you pay.
However, obviously this is not always the best way to see a different country. You don’t really get a feel for the culture, local people or even much of the landscape when you’re confined within the bubble of a resort. Some packages do include trips out but if you want the freedom to choose your own itinerary then you will have to pay extra. In the case of entertainment, what’s provided in your package might not be very good and this can be more of a problem if you’re travelling with kids.
For years, tourists have been playing at being explorers. They travel for months at a time, make spontaneous trips to see the sights that others might miss, stay wherever there’s room and move on whenever they want. The freedom and flexibility of this type of travel is clear and for some this is the only way to do it.
While a two-week holiday doesn’t have the scope of longer-term travel, you can still enjoy some aspects of it if you go independently. The cost of package holidays is often low but you may be able to find better deals on flights separately, make your way around a country using public transport instead of being driven and eat where you like. Since you make your own choices about accommodation and food, you can sample the local cuisine, which is often a lot cheaper than hotel food anyway.
Without the restriction of a fixed schedule or the need to stay within the complex at all times, you can really immerse yourself in a place, whether it’s finding a tapas bar in Grenada or trekking through the mountain forests of Peru. Spending your money on local services and products instead of feeding the coffers of international travel companies is much more in keeping with current concerns about eco-tourism and how you leave your mark on a place.
However, there are always disadvantages and your decision about how to travel depends on how much you value your freedom. Tour companies often provide you with the kind of comprehensive insurance and security that you will not find with independent travel. And there is also the issue of your personal comforts. Having an en-suite bathroom and room service might not be important to you, but if the alternative is sharing a hostel dormitory because hotels are too expensive then you may start day-dreaming about the package deal you could have chosen. Doing it all yourself also means a lot of planning and potential stress while you’re away.
Having looked at the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of travel, many people are inclined to choose the easier option of a package deal. However, many tour operators these days are learning from the independent-travel sector and giving customers more flexibility in terms of flights, pick-up times and add-on extras. So it is possible, to some extent, to have the best of both worlds. In the end, your decision will probably come down to the time and budget you have available and, most importantly, your past experience.