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.
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.
- 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.
- 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!