When Is a Package Vacation Better Than Planning It Yourself?

It’s an age old question – you sit down to start researching your next vacation and the first big hurdle…are we going to book a package deal or go it alone? Here are 3 steps to consider helping make that decision of how to get to your end destination!

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1. Figure out how much time you have to book the vacation

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A coastal path with views of the Mediterranean sea. Photo: Hazel Bradley

Each type of vacation has its own merits; the package deal, you pick a date and a destination and away you go! You’ll likely have a handful of hotels to choose from (often decided by a few images and a quick check on Tripadvisor) and if it all works correctly when you arrive at the airport that your name is on the boarding list, the transfers at the other end have been booked and the hotel reception have got a record of your booking! This is by far the least time consuming option.

If you decide to DIY then things will likely take a little longer and definitely involve more than one booking reservation number. Even if you choose the same destination, you then have to break out the “vacation flowchart” – helping to decide hotel versus villa, hire car versus transfers, budget versus premium airlines. There’s definitely more leg work involved and these can all take hours each to decide and settle on.

2. Decide on your budget

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Walking round the local marine in the evening. Photo: Hazel Bradley

The old debate of which method truly is more cost effective? With a package deal that includes a meal option you arguable know what your fixed costs are, with maybe a little extra spending money for ice creams and day trips. It can be harder to keep track of the DIY costs and whilst the best constructed spreadsheet can keep track of flight/ villa/ hire car reservation numbers and associated costs, it can be a little trickier to keep all of your supermarket and fuel receipts whilst on vacation to truly understand comparable costs. Arguably if you DIY, you can chose the most cost effective flight for you as you can be more flexible and fly on quieter days, perhaps travel on Tuesdays instead of Saturdays and you will undoubtedly be guaranteed more personal square footage in private accommodation than you are in a hotel. However the luxury of having someone cook for you for a week many of us consider a vacation in itself, as well as someone else making the beds, changing the towels and remembering to take out the trash…some things you just can’t put a price on!

3. Decide what kind of vacation it is you actually want

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The hotel pool at sunrise – sun loungers all lined up ready for a busy day ahead. Photo: Hazel Bradley

The final point I want to touch on is the experiences each type of vacation can offer.
We have recently taken both types of vacation. The first as it was our first family vacation and we were traveling with a 4 month old baby, we decided to book a package deal. The thought of booking separate travel components was all a little too overwhelming and we wanted to be sure that we’d have everything we needed within walking distance. We chose to spend 5 days on the small island of Menorca off the south-east coast of Spain in a very family friendly hotel. As we were traveling during “term time” all the older children were still at school and most days we were only sharing the pool with a handful of a few very young families.

We had a wonderful time, but the vacation really was just that – a “package” vacation. We took some wonderful coastal walks and spent hours relaxing by the pool, but pre-baby we’d have rented a car or scooters and explored the islands and the beach coves and a little part of me did feel a little guilty for not venturing more than 1km from our hotel because we had everything on our doorstep.

A month later we travelled to Sicily off the south coast of Italy, nestled between the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian Sea. As we were traveling with my wider family (myself, fiancé, son, my parents and sister) we ended up going down the DIY route as we were flying in from different airports at slightly different times. We of course, spent hours trying to filter down and find the perfect family villa, and boy did it pay off…

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View over the mountains and Tyrrhenian Sea from our private pool. Photo: Hazel Bradley
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Our private courtyard gardens. Photo: Hazel Bradley

What this also offered was the chance to really live the Sicilian life for a week, the entire time we were there we did not hear anyone else speak English, we shopped at the Sicilian supermarkets, navigated the (quite frankly slightly terrifying!) Sicilian roads, and shared our evening meals out with the locals…who all could not get enough of my 5 month bambino!

About Hazel Bradley

hazel bradleyHazel currently resides in a gorgeous area of England called the Cotswolds. She is mum to Henry (born January 2017) and soon to be wife to Tom. She has spent her twenties traveling for both work and pleasure…everything from long weekends in Paris, Valencia and Budapest - to road trips through the East Coast of Australia and the West Coast of the USA; which ended with a proposal on Santa Barbara’s beautiful east beach! Follow Hazel on her blog and on Instagram.

Click here to read Hazel's articles

When you start researching your next trip you have to make a decision. Are package vacations the way to go? Or should you plan everything yourself?

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