With independent travel becoming easier and more accessible, you would expect the days of going to the travel agent to book that package holiday were long gone – but apparently they aren’t.
According to the Association for British Travel Agents (ABTA) the number of people booking package holidays has increased from 37% in 2010 to 48% in 2012. This steady rise could see over half of holidaymakers this year booking package deals – but why?
While it’s convenient to have everything organised, does the endless food and drink provided on all-inclusive packages limit the exploration and support of local shops and restaurants?
Do you prefer the easy, stress-free option of the package holiday, with flights, transfers and accommodation included, or would you rather customise your break, travel independently and seek out breakfast, lunch and dinner on your own?
Tell us what you think!
As a solo traveller since 1997 and 11 countries and 9 trips to south east Asia just booking a flight has always worked for me. It’s cheaper, convenient and I have the freedom of choosing accommodation etc. I would never consider a package holiday. Buying great guide books like rough guide books I can swat up on the destinations I want to travel to. I’ve always had great experiences in independent travel.
While on one hand package deals do have their place, they are not the be all and end all of holidays as many people seem to think.
For example, there is certainly nothing wrong with relaxing for a week in a hotel by the pool if you just need to recharge your batteries after a grueling time at work, an illness, a stressful period or whatever, but let’s be realistic and call it what it is. It’s a break. It isn’t travel, you haven’t ‘done’ a particular country just because you sat in a resort there for a week. You haven’t ‘seen’ a place if you sat by the pool and went on an organised excursion.
When you factor in the excessive commission you are paying to the travel agents, the overpricing of the hotel complexes, the poor value of the ‘all inclusive buffet lunch’ etc, it really is not a good option.
Many people still choose to travel this way for many reasons. The first is a lack of ambition/scope/education call it what you will, but many people have been socially conditioned for so long into thinking that paying a travel agent is the ONLY way to travel, that they really can’t see outside of that box, they really can’t see that there are alternative ways to travel. The second is fear. People are afraid of the new, the unknown. They want to stick with what they know. By doing something different, they are opening themselves up to new experiences, new ways of doing and seeing things, a new them. And many people are afraid of that, so they stick with the familiar and go with a travel agent and package holiday. Thirdly, it’s easier just to let someone else sort it all out for you, isn’t it? And a lot of people will take the path of least resistance and take the easy option every single time. They are lazy. They don’t want to do what they view as hard work, partly because they don’t realise how easy it is to travel independently. There is also the media to consider, with endless reports of volcanoes shutting down airspace, airlines going bankrupt and holidaymakers being left stranded, pirates, kidnappings, terrorism, alien invasions (okay the last one wasn’t true but you get my drift), people are pushed back into their safe comfort zones, they go back to doing what they know, paying the travel agent with the assurances that their holiday is ABTA protected, don’t you know! That partly explains the rise in package deals in recent years. There are of course many more reasons.
But the thing is, all of these reasons are based on a false premise. They are all just excuses for people to stay in their comfort zones.
Package tourism is NOT in any way travelling, you don’t get to see or experience all that a country and culture has to offer, you don’t get to have those magical moments of discovery, of adventure. You don’t get to grow as a person or as an individual or reap the countless benefits that true independent travel has to offer.
In over a decade of travel I have backpacked and flashpacked my way around the world. I have seen and done things most people on package holidays will never even dream of, I have stayed in beach huts and castles, in hostels and luxury heritage spa hotels, I have trekked through jungles and deserts, climbed mountains and dived into the seas, I have met countless new people, had countless experiences. I have lived!
But there is nothing special about me. ANYONE can do this. Backpacking and independent travel is cheaper, it is easier (once you know how), you have far more freedom of choice in what to do, where to stay, where to go and when, and it is better in every conceivable way you can imagine. People just have to step outside of their comfort zones!
For the uninitiated, and perhaps alone, a package can serve as an initial orientation and a confidence booster. But you soon learn you can easily do it yourself for less than half the price without compromising much on standards if at all. With today’s guides and online resources and reviews, it has never been easier or safer. I’ve been on the road for 5 months just using such resources and I would say its costing 30% of what I would pay for similar package. And I don’t stay in dorms.
There are tons of DIY and solo travellers Just do it!
A bit of both!
I love independent travel and have travelled independently in many parts of the world. It often allows you to find places and learn things that you would not have done if you had been on a package holiday where everything is arranged for you. However, you may also miss out on places that people with local knowledge may have been able to tell you about. It can also be a time-consuming process to research all the places you might want to visit or to stay – if you don’t have lots of time or don’t enjoy holiday planning, it can be a bit of a pain.
There is now an increasing number of companies (like mine!) that arrange tailor-made, independent travel packages for customers. This means that customers can have a holiday itinerary planned around their own interests, make the most of someone else’s local knowledge of interesting sights, activities and places to stay and avoid having to spend hours and hours trawling the internet to plan every element themselves. They also retain the benefit of being able to travel independently, at their own pace, and to discover new places for themselves – often a highlight of any holiday.
Many of these companies focus on arranging trips only to the country in which they are based (for example, we only plan trips to Great Britain), which means customers get the benefit of real local knowledge from people who have an in-depth knowledge of the country they are visiting.
This sort of option can be a great happy medium for people who don’t have loads of time but don’t want to be stuck on a tour bus!
Depends on the location and who you’re travelling with.
Me personally – travelled around SEA no problem did everything independently and I think was the better for it.
BUT I am going to South America this Autumn and frankly being a single girl travelling around wasn’t something that I was willing to do, so I found a boutique travel agency that arranges group tours with everything included but lol not a 5 star hotel resort in sight. I think it’s a bit narrow-minded to judge on just those two categories, as travel is a lot more nuanced than that.
If you’re a family and want to cut costs – of course you’re going to do a package holiday – if anything I think we should be happy that as the world gets smaller people do have these options and everyone (if they want) can ‘travel’, however they define that word.