Package holidays: do you really save money?

It's an age old argument - can agents negotiate the best deals or is the flexibility to sleuth out a bargain far more valuable?

Purchasing power

The theory is that the collective buying power of package holidays is stronger than that of individuals, and enables tour companies to negotiate discounts with carriers and hotels.

This works very well in busy tourist destinations. A study of last summer's deals published in The Daily Mail found that all-inclusive deals saved travellers around £54 on seven-night trips to Mallorca and Corfu, and £6.69 in the Costa Del Sol.

But in some areas, all-inclusive trips proved very costly. The same study found that taking similar trips to the Algarve and Cyprus with a B&B instead of an all-inclusive resort would have saved a couple £648 and £144 respectively: leaving plenty of slack in the budget to eat out. So it pays to do your research.

The power of flexibility

The reason organising your holiday yourself can save money is your ability to make the most of off-peak prices. That means flying at non-standard times, booking in blocks that aren't multiples of seven; not to mention the ability to marry deals from numerous different providers.

Of course, time is money, and booking a holiday yourself can be a big drain. A recent survey found that information overload means Brits spend an average of 13 hours researching accommodation for their trip, and another 11 hours planning flights and transport.

Booking a package trip would effectively cut the travel arrangements from the equations, and assuming you earn the average UK wage of £12.65/hour, that would equate to savings of £139.15.

As well as this expensive chunk of time, bargain hunting can also leave holidaymakers with a stress hangover which, the study suggests, takes up the first two days of a holiday. Something that warrants serious consideration when weighing up the pros and cons.

Flexible packages

t's also worth highlighting package tourism's reward for its own flexible clientele: last minute deals.

A necessity for filling up their holiday spaces, these bargain trips are a way for adventurous souls who are willing to decide their destination on a whim to really maximise savings; with sites like Travelzoo and providing tantalising offers for those daring enough to risk them.

Added extras

Aside from the direct monetary comparisons, there are some things which the two planning approaches can't compete on. And if these are of paramount value for you, it may be worth sacrificing a few extra pennies for the holiday you deserve.

Package holidays:

  • ATOL Protection
  • Dedicated reps on-site
  • Easier to budget in advance

Self booking:

  • Easier to tailor your trip
  • Flexibility on dates and travel times
  • Unconventional options like Airbnb

The importance of budgeting

Because of the number of variables that can affect the value of each approach, it's important to begin the decision-making process by knowing how much you can spend.

Use money management software to get an overview of your finances, and assess how much you can afford to spend. Then draw up a budget to compare that against your aims and expectations. Or just splurge the lot on an all-inclusive trip to avoid all the hassle: the decision is ultimately yours.


Posted by Marc Murphy


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