75% of Americans report experiencing stress symptoms and we all could use a vacation, but vacation planning can sometimes add more stress to us. Vacation packages are a convenience meant to make planning smoother but that convenience also comes at a price, sometimes costing more and reducing your freedom.
So how do you decide if a vacation package is worth it?
Vacation packages are worth it if you can find a package that meets your needs, is a great value, and provides the right type of activities for your family. To decide if it is worth it, decide what kind of vacation you want to take and where you want to go. Then, consider your budget.
Below, I’ll explain the steps you can take to help you decide if the convenience of a vacation package is worth the cost.
Decide What Kind of Vacation You Want To Take
There is no shortage of options when scheduling your vacation. Only you can decide which kind is going to give you the break you deserve.
Know What Type of Traveler You Are
Before anything, it helps to know yourself and the way you work best. Do you prefer trips that are more flexible or something with a set schedule?
If you’re someone who would rather have the option to stay in one place as long as you like or to make extra stops, a vacation package could feel too smothering.
On the other hand, if you would rather know where you’re staying and what you’re doing ahead of time, a vacation package would be more beneficial.
Decide the Style Trip You Want
There are so many different vacation styles, and one person’s dream vacation may be another person’s nightmare.
If you’re looking for sunshine and relaxation, you might opt for an all-inclusive resort or a tropical cruise. But if you prefer the great outdoors, you may opt for a hiking and camping trip in the woods or a skiing trip in the mountains. Then again, if seeing the world is more your thing, you may want to plan a trip that allows you to see different famous, strange, or historical sights.
Each type requires different accommodations, and some would make more sense to book with a vacation package than others.
Decide Where You Want To Go
Where you decide to go on your vacation will often impact whether or not it’s worthwhile to use a vacation package. Travel packages also come in all shapes and sizes.
If you’re planning to stay at a resort, you typically won’t be booking multiple hotels or needing a tour guide. In that case, all you need is the room and flights booked, and possibly transportation from the airport to the resort if the resort doesn’t provide a shuttle.
It might be worthwhile to check and see if there are any package deals, but booking those on your own isn’t very difficult and could save you money.
For example, if you’re taking a road trip across the United States, a vacation package would likely only hinder you. You don’t need to worry about flights, so all you have to book is lodging and perhaps a car rental.
If you’ve taken a road trip before, you may be aware that they don’t always go according to plan, however.
You could quickly end up ahead or behind schedule, and your planned hotel accommodations might not line up with where you’re at.
Add that to the fact that booking through a travel site can make cancellations much more difficult, and you can end up quickly stressing yourself out.
Travel packages and travel sites may not give you the option for more offbeat lodging options. For a situation like this, it’s better to avoid the package and make the accommodations yourself.
However, a trip around Europe is going to be very different from a trip around the United States. If you’re traveling abroad, you’ll have multiple connecting flights and hotels in different countries.
In this case, it can help to book a package or travel with a tour group, especially if you’re inexperienced.
Depending on what type of package you choose, this can give you access to someone who speaks the local language, knows the local customs and manners, and can help you navigate cross-country travel.
Consider Your Time Frame
Most of us have to plan our vacations far in advance to ensure we have time off work and a sitter for our children, pets, or plants.
If you’re planning ahead, a travel package may not feel necessary.
Planning several months or more ahead of time allows you to research and choose the options that work best for you and fit within your budget.
There are also sites and apps out there that will alert you when flights or hotels are at a good price, so you can snag the best deal without worrying about running out of time.
If your vacation is being planned quickly, a vacation package can work to your advantage.
Flights can often be costly if you purchase them too close to your travel dates, and a travel site may be able to find you a deal. In fact, many travel sites offer deals for last-minute travelers.
Choosing a package or bundle through a travel site can also save you time, freeing you up to finish packing and tie up loose ends at home before you leave.
Consider Your Comfort Level
A well-seasoned traveler may not feel the need to choose a vacation package the way a novice might. Choosing an all-inclusive tour package takes a lot of the confusion and uncertainty out of traveling, especially if you’re traveling to an area with a cultural or language barrier.
Vacation packages like these typically have everything included for one flat fee.
They cover hotel rooms, meals, tourist spaces, transportation once you arrive, and sometimes flights. This can remove a lot of stress from your planning, allowing you to follow the itinerary and know you aren’t going to end up lost or missing your train.
Many people, however, don’t like the lack of freedom groups like this afford. If you want to spend two days touring the Vatican, but your tour only allows for one, you may end up disappointed.
Again, this goes back to your particular travel style. If you’re more comfortable following a schedule, a vacation package can be a great option. But if you feel like you’ll be frustrated by the lack of freedom, you’ll probably instead want to make your own plans.
Another thing to consider is that these tour packages are meant for groups of people, meaning that you’ll spend the entire tour with the same travelers. This can be a great or horrible thing depending on the type of people you end up grouped with.
It could also be stressful for someone more introverted, while an extrovert would thrive.
Your personal comfort level is very important when scheduling your vacation. If you’re constantly uncomfortable, you won’t be able to truly relax and enjoy your time.
What would be worse? Potentially missing your train or adhering to the group’s schedule? Would you be overwhelmed spending day after day with the same people or relieved to have a guide who speaks the language and can help you navigate the country?
Do a Price Comparison of Your Options
Now that you have an idea of where you want to go and what you want to do while you’re there, you can start to look at different options.
Travel sites often advertise themselves as saving you money, but that isn’t always the case. When they do save you money, sometimes it’s at the expense of convenience, so it’s important to always look for yourself.
Here’s how to do some price comparisons:
- Start by pulling up your travel site or sites of choice. Input the date of your trip and location.
- Take a look at the options they present. Find a few hotels you like, and note the price and room type.
- Go to the websites of the hotels you chose and see what those companies are charging for the same room. Sometimes it’s less, sometimes it’s more, and sometimes it’s exactly the same. This also lets you explore the hotel’s website and get a full picture of the amenities they offer and look at different room options.
- Do the same with flights, searching the airlines for the price of the same flight the travel website offered. You can take this time to also look at other flight options that may work better for your schedule. Repeat these steps with anything else the travel website offers, like car rentals.
- Look around for deals. Just searching “[Hotel] deals” may help you find promo codes or tricks to use, such as signing up for their rewards program or using a particular credit card.
Once you add up these options, you can see which makes more sense financially. It’s important to note, too, that booking through a third-party site will not allow you to use any memberships or membership points. That’s an important thing to consider when looking at costs.
And remember, if you’re looking far enough in advance, you have the option of setting up notifications for when a flight or hotel drops in price.
Make a Pros and Cons List
If you’ve made it this far and there’s no clear answer, it’s time to pull out the good ol’ pros and cons list. In general, the pros of using a vacation bundle or package include:
- Potential deals: Travel sites often get deals from hotels to help them book rooms and sometimes offer deals for last-minute travelers. Tour groups may get discounted group rates on tours and meals, which will be built into your vacation package.
- Convenience: You don’t have to go from website to website looking up hotels or flights. It’s one-stop shopping.
- A translator or tour guide: This is especially helpful for newer travelers who are vacationing somewhere abroad.
- The option of a payment plan: Not all sites or tours offer this, but it could be very helpful if you don’t have the funds to pay the full price at the time you need to book.
- Travel insurance: This is often an add-on to your package, and you can purchase this separately. Again, travel sites offer the convenience of simply choosing the option before you finish your booking.
The cons of using a travel package or bundle tend to include:
- The price may not be better. This is why we did the price check. Sometimes the deals are there, but sometimes, they aren’t.
- No membership: If you’re part of a hotel rewards program or get frequent flier miles, you can’t use those when booking. Bookings also won’t go toward building up your points either.
- Less convenient: Travel sites have the ease of a one-stop shop, but sometimes the options are less than ideal. You could end up looking at a hotel 20 minutes from the city you’re visiting or a flight that leaves at 4:00 in the morning.
- Less flexibility: If you book a tour, you have to follow the tour schedule, stay at the hotels they choose, and eat at the restaurants they’ve picked. If you’ve bundled your flight and hotel, you’re stuck with the times they give you and the lodging they give you. Sites like these don’t always show options like hostels or more unique hotels.
- Difficult canceling or rescheduling: If you’ve booked a hotel through a third-party site and can’t make it for your reservation, canceling can be a pain. You can’t call the hotel and cancel or reschedule. You have to do it through the booking site. Likewise, any refunds have to come from them as well.
- Poorer hotel service: Hotels tend to be more accommodating if you book through them directly. Some keep a specific block of rooms for third-party bookings, and those blocks aren’t going to contain their nicest rooms. If a hotel is too full and they have to walk guests, guests who booked through a travel site are often the first to go.
If you know what’s important to you, looking at the pros and cons list should help solidify your decision to book a vacation package or book everything yourself.
Verdict: Are Vacation Packages Worth It?
Several different factors can determine whether or not a vacation package is worth it. These include:
- The type of vacation you want to have.
- The place you’re vacationing to.
- What you want to do on vacation.
These all play a part in determining if you should book everything on your own, if you should bundle your hotel and flight, or if you should go with a complete tourism package. As long as you’re aware of the pros and cons of each option, you can make the choice that will allow you to have a relaxing, memorable vacation.