8 Times Booking Your Own Travel Is Cheaper Than a Package Deal


A vacation is one of the biggest single expenditures of the year for many people, so it's important to try to get the best deal possible. There are plenty of ways to save money on your vacation, but one misguided notion that some people have is that it's always cheaper to book a package vacation. Though package deals are in fact sometimes the lowest priced option, there are many instances when it works out cheaper to book each segment of your travel separately. (See also: How to Book an Amazing Cheap Vacation Package)

Before we dive into the times when it's cheaper to book each element of a trip yourself, we need to answer two key questions.

What is a package vacation?

Many people think of a package vacation as an all-inclusive deal where flights, transfers, and hotels, as well as food and drinks at the resort are all covered. While that is one type of package vacation (usually called an all-inclusive vacation), the term is also applicable to the increasingly popular bundled deals. These are where you get a combination of flights, hotel, and potentially car rental for a fixed price, but not the catering that you'd expect with an all-inclusive.

What is an independent booking?

This is where you book each element of your vacation separately on a DIY basis. You will make these bookings directly with the providers rather than through tour operators or brokers.

Here are eight times booking independently is cheaper than booking a package vacation.

1. When you have time to search and compare

One of the main benefits of package vacations is that it takes all of the hard work and effort out of planning your trip. While for some people the planning is a large part of fun in itself, for others it's the cause of a great deal of stress and simply not something they have time to do. If, however, you do have the time to scour the internet for deals, then you will more than likely be able to shave dollars off each element of your trip. (See also: The 6 Best Vacation Deal Websites)

2. When you don't stay in a hotel

Package deals invariably include the cost of your hotel in the price, which is fine if this is specifically the type of accommodation you're looking for. But there are so many different options for accommodation now, that a hotel often won't be the cheapest one. For those willing to explore other possibilities there are huge savings to be had. Where you stay usually accounts for the biggest percentage of your travel budget, but by keeping your options open, you can considerably shrink this cost. (See also: 10 Vacation Rental Alternatives to Airbnb)

3. When you travel at off-peak times

Though you will find some cheap packages available during off-peak season, your choices are greatly reduced because many package operators simply shut down for the quiet months. It's actually cheaper for them to do that than to run with minimal bookings. Off-peak and shoulder season are, however, fantastic times to travel independently because prices fall on every aspect of travel. Flights, hotels, restaurants, and even costs for activities and attractions get drastically slashed. (See also: Why Timing Is Everything When Saving Money on Travel)

4. When you are traveling for a longer or irregular period of time

Vacation packages traditionally come in standard time frames that reflect the regular lengths of time people tend to go away for. For example, the most popular tend to be seven-, 10- or 14-day bundles. Though there's definitely an increasing amount of flexibility available, if you're planning on going away for, say, 13 days, you may struggle to find a suitable package. Likewise, if you're traveling for a few weeks or longer, then you're likely going to be able to significantly reduce your costs. (See also: Savor Your Trip and Save Big With These 5 Slow Travel Tips)

5. When you plan on getting out of the resort

Package vacations, and in particular all-inclusive deals, are ideal for when you're not planning to do a great deal more than what's actually included in your package. It's when you begin to look at the "activities" or add-ons advertised that it may not seem like such a great deal. Booking independently gives you far more flexibility over how, when, and where you spend your budget. This may mean that you opt for cheaper accommodation and food and spend what you save on a few expensive activities.

6. When you want to get off the beaten path

Because package operators save money primarily through working with extremely high volumes rather than on big margins, package deals typically go to the most popular destinations. It is possible these days to find boutique packages to more unusual locations, but you'll also need to fork over extra for these. If you want to get off the beaten path and head to somewhere that's even less visited, then the cheapest way to do this is to book independently. (See also: Live Like a Local: How to Tap Into the Local Scene While Traveling)

7. When there are hidden extras

The real beauty of a package vacation is that the prices are supposed to be completely transparent. You can budget extremely effectively in advance because you know exactly how much it's going to cost before you've even set foot on the plane. But unless you're careful and thoroughly check the small print on your deal, unexpected extras such as resort fees, car rental insurance fees, or port charges on cruises could soon derail your budget. Booking independently, you'll make no assumptions on costs like these and be able to objectively choose the cheapest option.

8. When the exchange rate changes in your favor

Imagine booking an all-inclusive package deal and eagerly anticipating your vacation, only to see the currency of the country you're heading to plummet in the run up . You're already locked into your package and it probably doesn't look like as good of a value as it did when you originally booked it.

If you book independently, a large portion of your costs only materialize when you actually arrive, like your food, your drink, and potentially your accommodation. In this instance, a favorable exchange rate could increase your budget by a significant amount and mean you're able to splash out on things it wouldn't have otherwise been possible to afford. (See also: Are All-Inclusive Vacations and Cruises Worth the Money?)

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