Package tours vs DIY travel

We’re all familiar with “DIY travel”: planning a trip from scratch, from the basic necessities to the bells and whistles that take a trip from good to great. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to put together the various components of a holiday yourself such as flights, accommodation, travel insurance, transfers and activities.

But as easy as it might be, is it really worth it? As a student, DIY travel was how I did things. I travelled a fair amount and figured it was cheaper to plan a trip myself. All of those trips have taught me a few valuable lessons about why DIY travel could end up costing you more in the long run than, for instance, booking a tour package with a credible provider.

That said, I thought I’d share some key factors that influenced my decision to switch from Do It Yourself to Don’t Do It Yourself.

Transportation, and knowledgeable tour directors

In my opinion, people are a big part of what make for a great experience. I recently went on a trip with Insight Vacations where coach travel was the order of the day. Not only was it a convenient way to travel (Wi-Fi on board, business class legroom, being chauffeured door to door by the driver), but the coach driver and tour director were locals from the places we were exploring. These are people who don’t just know the places, they know the places. They grew up in those cities and have expert knowledge on where best to visit, at what time, and which places to avoid and why. They help you unearth incredible hidden gems you’d never have thought to look for had you taken the journey yourself. Think of them as your personal concierge.

Signature experiences

When it comes to signature experiences to add to your list while travelling, we really are spoilt for choice. And sure, it’s easy to book them yourself – but that comes at a higher cost.

A company that offers coach travel takes thousands of people on trips around the globe each year. They’ve built up credibility with suppliers and, as a result, have bulk buying power. They also ensure their guests have VIP/priority access to the best signature experiences. There are also some experiences you won’t be able to book yourself on your DIY mission, such an exclusive dinner in the Vatican City, or joining a cooking demonstration in Tuscany. These are options you won’t find just anywhere. This is another bonus of booking a package tour with a credible provider.

Accommodation

When “doing it yourself”, it’s easy to opt for cheaper accommodation because you can justify it with the thinking: “We’ll literally be in the room to sleep and

shower – we don’t need to spend a lot.” Sure, but remember, you get what you pay for. And more often than not, the cheaper option is costly – but not necessarily financially. Much of the time, cheaper accommodation means matchbox-sized rooms or is located far from the heart of a destination. So while you may be saving money, the inconvenience and time it takes out of your agenda is in fact costly. The time it takes to wait for public transport (to then sit in traffic) to get from your accommodation to an interesting destination could have been spent exploring the city. Centrally located properties are pricier but the convenience factor that comes with them is well worth it. Companies such as Insight Vacations and Contiki have clout to get better rates for the best accommodation in a city.

The stress factor

The biggest thing that put me off DIY travel is the admin and worry in the lead-up to a holiday, such as stressing about the possibility of the rand taking a dive before you land, which will make your pre-booked and unpaid accommodation even more expensive. Then there are the possible flight delays and how those could cause you to miss your transfer to get to location A in time to leave for tour B that you’ve booked – it’s a series of stressful possibilities that land up costing you money and time. Usually with DIY travel, you pre-book a whole bunch of things (from accommodation to activities), and often the activity elements have deadlines. Miss a deadline and you lose time and money. Tour operators work on a schedule (with lots of free time in between), and have been doing this for decades so are able to act swiftly in the event of unexpected circumstances to ensure you don’t lose time or money. With package holidays, all the thinking (and things you’ve never thought to think of!) are covered.

I know you’re probably thinking that package travel comes at a price. And it does, financially speaking. But DIY travel can cost you travel time and valuable experiences, and you can still end up paying more.

When next planning a trip, ask yourself whether saving money or time is of more value to you. If you want both, a package trip is your best bet – with the added value of peace of mind.

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