Having spent a few months here in the UK, I am amazed at how popular all-inclusive vacation packages are. While this isn’t really our travel style, I can see the appeal for it, especially since holiday planning can be a pain. Tom’s mum is a big fan of vacation packages so we looked into the ins and outs of how to make the most out of these deals.
When everything is included in the price, it’s easier to budget, and depending on what’s included, you could get access to special experiences or perks that aren’t available to those who purchase everything separately.
Still, before you click “buy” on that amazing all-inclusive deal that claims to be saving you thousands of dollars on your trip, it’s important to do a little homework to make sure you really are getting the best deal.
Even the most affordable vacation package is not a bargain if it has all sorts of hidden stipulations and fees. As you plan your next trip, keep these tips in mind to help you make the most out of vacation packages.
Price Out Components Separately
When you’re looking at a package deal, take a few moments to run the numbers by pricing out the components separately. Consider everything that is included in the package: airfare, hotel, meals, ground transportation, activities, etc.
In many cases, you’ll find savings by booking your airfare and hotel (and if necessary, rental car) as a package, but that’s not always the case.
Be sure to price out the add-ons as well. For example, if you are considering an all-inclusive resort, compare the cost of that package to a flight and hotel package at a resort that isn’t all-inclusive.
You might find that it’s a better bargain to skip the all-inclusive and eat meals on your own. If the package includes activities, transportation or other add-ons, try to add up the costs of those items as well, so you have an accurate picture of what you’re really going to spend.
Watch Out for Hidden Fees
Many hotels charge additional fees that aren’t included in a package price. Resort fees, parking charges and gratuities, for example, can potentially add hundreds of dollars to your final bill.
While these fees are usually non-negotiable, do your homework beforehand, so you aren’t surprised when you check out. Read the fine print to see what’s included and what isn’t before you book, and factor those fees into the package cost and your vacation budget.
Evaluate the Add-Ons
Some travel providers will throw in “extras” to entice vacationers to book a package. These might include everything from meal vouchers to discounted or free attraction tickets to a welcome bottle of wine and snacks.
For example, at the Niagara Falls package at the Sheraton on the Falls, you can get anything from admission to the nearby indoor waterpark to couple’s massages to winery tastings, depending on the package you select.
When evaluating a vacation package, look at the add-ons that are included and consider whether they interest you and if you will actually use them. If you are planning a romantic weekend, a package that includes spa treatments, wine and romantic dinners is likely to be appealing.
However, if you aren’t interested in the package add-ons, you could end up spending too much on your vacation. Again, price out the components separately. In some cases, just booking a room without a package is a better option.
Read the Fine Print
If you don’t read the fine print, you could be in for some nasty surprises when booking your trip. For example, some major travel sites give package prices as a per-person rate – meaning that if you are traveling with a family of four, you’ll need to quadruple that price to get your final bill.
You also need to be aware of the location of your hotel when booking a package. When booking near a popular destination, you might find package prices that look like great deals, but upon further inspection, the hotels are located miles away from where you want to be — or miles away from the closest airport, meaning that you’ll probably have to shell out for ground transportation.
Make sure you read the fine print on the terms and conditions as well. Understand cancellation policies, restrictions and the rules surrounding any add-ons that you receive.
Some attraction tickets might be limited to certain days and times, for example, or you might need to make reservations to take advantage of them. These aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, but if you don’t follow the rules, you could lose out on the perks you paid for, negating the value of the package.
Finally, understand that in most cases, if you book a package through a travel site, not a hotel or airline directly, you are most likely going to lose out on any miles or points that you would have been entitled to otherwise. And if you have enough miles or points to score a freebie, you probably won’t be able to use it on a package.
Again, if you know how much the components are, you might find that cashing in your credit card points or airline miles will save you more money than the package.
Vacation packages can be a great deal, but only if you know how to evaluate them and get the most for your money. It might take a little extra legwork, but the time you spend researching and calculating the best deal ensures you will be able to kick back and relax on your trip.