Staying on budget Ė package vs. independent travel
When you have to travel on a budget, one of the biggest questions is whether it is best to plan each part of your trip independently, making separate airfare and hotel reservations, or to opt for a package deal where everything is included for one price. Unfortunately, there isnít one east answer to this dilemma, because it depends on where you want to go, and what deals are available at the time. For example, traveling to many to European cities is often less costly to arrange yourself, especially in the off-season, when airlines are running specials on flights to Europe. On the other hand, if you want to travel to an exotic place, like Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, or Asia, it is often less expensive and easier when arrange by a package company or travel agent. This is due in part to travel agencies having special deals with the national airlines and resorts of these countries, and they are able to provide substantial discounts in exchange for a steady flow of business. For example, last year I traveled solo to Egypt from New York for a grand total of $1,100, including airfare, an excellent hotel, daily breakfast, airport transfers, and daily sightseeing tours, including guided tours of the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx.
This is a far better deal than I could have arranged on my own, since airfare alone would have cost over $700. The secret of this great deal was the relationship of the tour operator with Egyptair and the hotel at which we stayed. There are similarly great deals for many Asian locations, particularly India, China and Taiwan. Make sure to research the availability of these types of package deals when looking to travel abroad on a budget. Solo travelers often have trouble getting the great deals on travel packages, since the required single increase can often make the deal not worth it.
Donít despair; there are great deals out there if package deals are too expensive or arenít your thing, and it is often a better option, especially if you are traveling alone. One important tip is to find out exactly what is and isnít included in any package deal that you are considering. Most travel packages include optional excursions, which can add considerable expense, and blow your budget. Try to get a detailed daily schedule to make sure you wonít be on your own if you donít buy into the options. Itís also a good idea to ask for a list of the optional outings available, including descriptions and costs, so that you can compare what the price would be to what you could arrange on your own. If you are traveling alone, make sure you start planning ahead, especially when it comes to airfare arrangements. The important thing to remember is that there are only a certain number of first come, first serve seats the advertised low fares, and if you wait too long you wonít get the lower rate. It is important to reserve your airfare and your lodging as early as possible to make sure you get the best available prices. In the end, the decision whether to choose a package deal or independent travel an individual decision based on the travelerís situation. Make sure to carefully compare package prices with those for independently arranging travel to the same destination.
And donít forget to take your own personal travel style into account. Some people are more cut out for a packaged tour, particularly to an new destination, while others prefer the freedom from itineraries that independent travel offers.
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