Package Holidays: Love Them or Loathe Them?

Most people spend the year looking forward to the time when they can take a well-earned rest from the hard work of the daily grind. Many people envisage a couple of weeks on a sun-soaked

Most people spend the year looking forward to the time when they can take a well-earned rest from the hard work of the daily grind. Many people envisage a couple of weeks on a sun-soaked beach, with a selection of great bars and restaurants for the least possible price and with the least possible effort. For this reason they turn to an all-inclusive package holiday where the flight, transportation, accommodation and, sometimes, meals are provided for you. You hand over the cash and let somebody else do all the legwork.

Greek Sunset

It is true that I prefer a more hands-on approach to my holidays. I enjoy browsing the internet for cheap flights or checking accommodation recommendations on HostelWorld or TripAdvisor. I like moving from hostel to hostel, meeting new people every time. I even like carrying my backpack and jumping into Tuk-Tuks to get around. But this is hard-work. You are constantly on the lookout for possible scams, it is easy to get lost and you can feel incredibly isolated. Although DIY trips are my preferred choice of holiday I have been on package holidays to Tenerife, Mallorca, Tunisia, and four Greek islands, and I always have a great time. I lie by the pool, I read books, I eat great food and I sign up for excursions. I go on these holidays when I need a break, when I don’t want to deal with the hassle of finding my own way around. But for me, package holidays are a double-edged sword. I am on one now so I thought I would share what I love and loathe about the package holiday.

LOATHE

  • The way that the customers are herded around like sheep, getting on and off tour buses, following a guide around and ‘oooh-ing’ in all the right places.
  • Other people on the bus. The majority of them are perfectly lovely but there is usually somebody who manages to irritate absolutely everybody else and you are trapped with them for the duration of your trip. This person will likely end up at the same hotel as you and plan exactly the same excursions on exactly the same days.
  • The ‘Welcome Meeting’ that you are expected to attend for an hour (usually at prime sunbathing time) of your first day where you have to listen to some highly enthusiastic twenty-something tell you what time the supermarket is open, where you can watch the football and which overpriced booze cruise you absolutely have to go on.
  • Walking down the street whilst having to avoid the constant cat-calls of more highly enthusiastic twenty-somethings trying to lure you into cheap bars with free shots. In general, I just hate being hassled. I am far more likely to enter a bar if I have not had somebody trying to sell it to me every time I walk past. In fact I hate the constant assumption that if you have chosen to spend a week on a Greek Island then you clearly want to be wasted the whole time.
  • Bars that constantly show depressing British soaps or football, both of which are all too common on the package holiday circuit.
  • The likelihood of ending up in a hotel with a large group of teenagers sporting ‘Kavos 2011’ T-shirts that display ‘amusing’ suggestive nicknames such as ‘Beg Daddy’, ‘Ginger Nuts’ and ‘The Stallion’ (all of which I saw yesterday), or rowdy children who are left to their own devices by parents who never bother to look up from their loungers.
  • Lack of flexibility in excursions. I like to read about a place rather than listen to a guide. I like to go at my own pace. And I like to leave when I’ve had enough.
  • The highly competitive race for the best sun loungers around the pool. Why the hotels never put enough loungers out for their guests still amazes me so we are left to face the scary woman who leaves towels out overnight to secure loungers for her entire family.

    Queues at the Airport.

LOVE

  • I don’t have to think. Somebody will meet me at the airport and take me to where I want to go. I don’t have to negotiate with taxi drivers or end up going the longest route to my destination. If I have my ipod with me I can easily drown out the annoying commentary by the rep and the aforementioned irritating person on the bus.
  • The pool. There’s always a pool on a package holiday – a luxury for a backpacker!
  • Leaving the rep to sort everything out. If I need a doctor or a bank, the rep tells me where to find one. They might even make a call if you say you’ll leave nice comments on their performance questionnaire at the end of your holiday.
  • Great food. If I have paid for a package holiday then I am going to relax and enjoy myself so street-food is strictly off the menu. I will sit at a table with a table-cloth, I will have bread with my meal, and I will order dessert if I feel like it.
  • Organised excursions. Admission fees, visas (if necessary), and transportation costs are all dealt with by the guides. No queuing for me, I’ll just sit on the grass eating an ice-cream while they stand in line for the tickets!
  • Other people on the bus. If you can ignore the irritating jerk on the bus then you’ll probably find that there a plenty of people that you can have a laugh with, especially if you all join forces against the irritating jerk.
  • Despite the constant pressure to attend excursions you can always say no, hire a car and do it yourself. Of course the rep will tell you that it’s not advisable but who listens to them anyway?

I think that the all-inclusive package holiday has its place and is a great option for families, large groups, young people going on holiday without their parents for the first time, and people who just want a stress-free couple of weeks in the sun. Personally I much prefer slinging on a backpack and making my own way as I’ll be doing in South America at the end of this month.

What is your experience of package holidays? Let me know if you love them or loathe them by leaving a comment below!

16 thoughts on “Package Holidays: Love Them or Loathe Them?

  1. I’m sure you’re right and package deals have their place, especially, perhaps for single women who are afraid to travel alone. The last time I did one was to Rome, and it worked out very well, probably because of the type of tourist who goes to Rome. We did all our own excursions etc but, as you say, it was great to get from airport to hotel without fuss, and have a proper breakfast before we went out for a long day’s sightseeing. I did a similar trip a few years later with a friend who did all the bookings privately and it ended up costing twice as much for the same thing. Our posh non-touristy hotel was about five minutes walk from the nicer (IMHO) one I’d stayed at before.,

  2. I went on my first all-inclusive this year, and actually it wasnt too bad. In fact considering I was on crutches at the time it was ideal.

    A week was enough, any longer and i would have been colossal due to the food intake. The sales pitches were annoying and the week became routine and a little mundane but it was really cheap, an obvious win in these times of economic decline and slump.

    I wouldnt hurry to book another all-inclusive anytime soon personally, but they must be ideal for families. A real money saver on food and drink.

    1. The place I have just been to was very quiet so we didn’t get hassled too much but I have doubled my size by eating so much over the last week. A fortnight could have been a disaster!

  3. I would say they’re more for the inexperienced travel — and that’s ok! What I think about those people going on package tours is that if that’s the only way they’re leaving their home country and getting out of their comfort zone, then good for them. At least it’s a step in the right direction. A baby step, but a step, nonetheless. I’d imagine that a packaged tour would lead some of these people to eventually break out and start traveling and seeing the world on their own!

  4. I did my first package vacation in May. 5 days in Hawaii. I probably won’t do it again. Even though you can get great rates and there can be substantial savings, I found that I don’t like the commitment factor. Not that I’m commitment phobic, but I like to keep my options open. After being in Hawaii (the big island) being there 1 day we knew we were on the wrong side of the island. Waikoloa isn’t bad if you don’t mind a Macy’s and a Macaroni Grill around the corner. By the 2nd day, we were wishing we could leave the hotel and get a room in Hilo. We could have, but not without losing those nights we’ve already paid for, so we stayed in Waikoloa and drove to Hilo or Kona every single day.

    1. I totally agree, it’s annoying not having any flexibility. At the place we stayed in Greece we could not even request an orange juice instead of tea or coffee in the set breakfast. Of course we could pay extra but I had already to paid for an included breakfast so I don’t want to pay extra!

  5. Having done more DIY breaks/holidays than package deals I would have to say I do prefer the spontaneity of backpacking, not knowing where you’re going to stay from one night to the next is great fun. It is also stressful and not for everybody. There is a danger among the more seasoned travellers of snobbery towards those who are more reserved and cautious and this drives me up the wall. Being a backpacker does not make you anymore fun or interesting than someone who chooses to opt for a sun lounger in Tenerife. I have to admit that without going with a good friend I would not have the guts to go it alone. Inevitably something always goes wrong like being stopped by the Indian police for riding a moped without a license or turning up for an overnight train to be told all trains out of Goa are cancelled due to flooding. Having a companion to laugh about these minor catastrophes and figure out a new plan is always good.
    Unfortunately the desire to travel and the need to work have put a stop to much of my backpacking and I am now like most, stuck with having the standard 20 days of holiday per year. Deciding what to do with those 20 days is a big decison. There is always a happy medium of booking the flights and hotel as one and then doing what you want when you arrive. Guided excursions are not compulsory. On a holiday to Malta a few years ago my friends and I had a great time doing a mix of organised tours and hopping on the local buses and exploring for ourselves. There is a comfort in knowing the chore of getting to the airport and back is taken care of. Again when you work hard all year and get limited time off sometimes being looked after is just what you need.

    1. Ha ha, the moped was fun 🙂 You are right about the snobbery that can occur amongst travellers, it can get annoying when you get a group of travellers together all trying to outdo each other with why they are the best backpacker around. I think package holidays are a great option for people with limited holiday time and funds, and I have to say it was great getting picked up from the airport last week. Thanks for the comment 🙂

      1. Oh and people who come out with the classic line of “I went away to find myself” make me want to shake them, What self indulgent rubbish. Just be honest and admit the fact that going off travelling is a way of escaping reality for a bit. It’s fun while it lasts but finding yourself? really? what rot. I’ve always known exactly where I am at any given moment thanks.

  6. Great post!! As a few have mentioned above, there is a time and place for everything. I personally am not fond of packaged vacations – like you, I enjoy finding my own cheap flights and researching the appropriate accommodation and the like – but I can see how purchasing a travel package might be a good option. I once decided to go to Morocco on a last minute whim, and booked a very cheap tour which took care of everything and my roommate and I made several good friends on the trip. Though next time I go, it will definitely be sans a tour! 🙂

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