When it comes to booking a holiday, most of us are looking for the best deal that promises both quality and value. The more cautious of us will tend to look at a website offering ready-made package holidays, while some of us will don our travel agent hats in an attempt to put together our own itinerary.
But which method is better? What should you – the conscientious traveller – consider before booking your perfect holiday?
How much time do you have?
In a world where time is a commodity and everyone has somewhere to be, those of us looking to book a holiday may naturally opt for the quickest route. Why look into it yourself when hundreds of sites have already done the groundwork for you?
On the other hand, perhaps you enjoy a quieter lifestyle, or organise your time so meticulously you can add an hour or two into the calendar to do some research? Perhaps picking your own flights, hotel/s and extras yourself appeals to you more than conforming to what a package deal dictates?
Whatever it is, there are plenty of tools to help you find your perfect holiday.
What is your budget?
There is no point throwing your money at whatever your search brings up first and hoping for the best. Even the most frivolous of us could do with tightening our belts a little. Quality doesn’t have to mean expensive, which is why setting yourself a budget before you decide on where to go is the first thing to consider.
For example, some places are cheap but further away, meaning your flight might be expensive but you save on living costs when you’re out there, while other places might be cheaper to fly to, but you end up spending a fortune when you take into consideration inflation and the cost of food/experiences.
That’s why it’s always good to check the rate of currency before you travel and what a typical meal might cost you. An all-inclusive package holiday makes this process far easier, but if you’re opting for a DIY job, be sure to create yourself a spreadsheet and add up these few key costs:
Be sure to take into consideration the price of seat reservations and luggage allowance as these are usually added on top of the total price of the flights.
All-inclusive, half board, bed and breakfast and self-catering will all come with different price tags. Do you want to cook while you’re away or be wined and dined for the duration? Make sure you know exactly what you get with each option so you can be sure what you’re paying for.
- Car hire/transfers
Compare the car hire polices for things like your voluntary excess and extra mileage so you’re not caught out with charges at the end of your hire. Not all car hire companies are created equal, so be sure to take photos of the car before and after you hire it.
If you’re opting for a transfer, make sure the company is reputable and you have the contact details of who’s picking you up and dropping you off. The last thing you want is to be stranded at the airport.
The type of insurance you need depends entirely on where you’re going. If you’re going to climb a mountain or take part in extreme sports, you need to make sure your insurance covers potential accidents and holiday stays. If you’re planning on sleeping on a beach for week, your insurance can afford to be a little more modest.
How far does your money go after all the fees are paid? Shopping around for the best rate will save you money in the long run. Be sure to keep an eye on currency forecast websites that will predict fluctuations in exchange rates. These could help you save by giving you a rough idea of when to convert.
- Typical cost of meals and experiences
Each country has an embassy website, which is a good resource for learning more about the culture and economy of where you’re visiting. Websites likes TripAdvisor will also have hundreds of personal accounts for most destinations, with genuine holiday makers who are sharing their knowledge and advise on what a typical meal or particular attraction will cost.
Top money saving tip: The later you book a holiday, the cheaper it is (although your options will be more limited).
Where are you going?
Are you hoping to walk among giant turtles in the Galapagos, swim with pigs in the Bahamas, or soak up the tropics in the Maldives? Perhaps a Greek Island adventure awaits you, or delectable wine tasting in Spain, or even an exploration through the ice caves of Iceland?
Whatever your destination, the ‘where’ is important, because where you go influences whether a package or DIY holiday suits you best. If you want to explore lesser known places, go to multiple destinations and stay in different hotels, then a DIY job might be your best bet if you want to save money.
However, if you’d like to visit popular destinations with tried and tested experiences, a package deal will likely give you the best rates, especially if you’re going for a standard number of 7, 10 or 14 nights.
Top tip: The more popular a destination is, the better the package will be. This is because most holiday companies and agents’ pre-book places in advance and then sell those places at competitive prices.
How good are you at research?
This one speaks for itself. Your ability to do your proper research can be the difference between having an unforgettable holiday and an unforgivable one. If you’re not the kind of person who loves to trawl through various sites, find hidden gems, compare hotels and flights and create the perfect DIY holiday, a package deal is an answer to all your holiday prayers.
They minimise the stress by allowing you to pick your destination, your board, your flights and your transfers with the simple ticking of a box. So, although you may miss out on the opportunity of global discovery, walking the beaten path is tried and tested for a reason: the best bits have already been found.
Top tip: If you have time, try comparing your package holiday with a DIY option to see what works out cheaper. You might be surprised at which one it is!
- Can be booked quickly
- Hotel, flights and transfers usually included
- Groundwork is done for you
- Costs are clear from the outset
- Legally protected by ATOL
- Limited options
- Can be more expensive unless booking for standard 7, 10 or 14-day breaks
- Less flexibility
- Complete flexibility i.e. multi destinations
- Can work out cheaper
- The wider range of options
- Total control over your holiday
- Takes longer to research and book
- Organisational skills required
- Still constrained by seasonal costs
- Not legally protected
Whatever you choose, be sure to remember that all-inclusive deals change from day to day, so your DIY research should act as a pricing benchmark that compares all other packages. This will ensure you find the best rate. If you do decide to go with your DIY option, then a top tip is to book your flights and hotel with the same company at the same time, which lets you enjoy the ATOL protection given to package deals.
So, there you have it. May you find your best value holiday and enjoy your well-deserved break!
‘To Travel is to Live’ – Hans Christian Andersen