Is A Vacation Package Really Worth It?

Are you overpaying for those chocolate strawberries delivered to your room?

Is A Vacation Package Really Worth It?

The “packaging” concept has gone into overdrive in recent years. Everyone is bundling things from a spa that sells “A Day of Pampering” to life coaches who promote a certain number of sessions for a set fee. In some cases you may get a deal because the vendor, take for example the life coach, knows you have committed to a set number of sessions and is willing to give you a discount because he knows he has guaranteed future business — and if you don't use all of the sessions, he still makes out anyway. But when it comes to a vacation, is a “package” really in your best interest?

Hotels can be wild cards and it depends upon how they manage their revenue. The key here is to ask yourself a few things before you book that package:

- Are the inclusions in the package things I really want and need or am I buying the package because the name sounds sexy and appealing or the reservationist tried to sell me on it?

- Is the package really a deal? If I purchased the room and breakfast on my own, would it cost me more, less, or the same?

There are certain times of the year when hotels need more business than others. In the off-peak season, they may not have that many bookings and are more apt to offer a value-added package which might include breakfast or a spa treatment, and it really is a savings off of what the regular rack rate for the room might cost. But you need to take the time to do your due diligence and see if it really is a bargain. Hotels can be cagey in that respect. Sometimes they will take the average cost of breakfast, dinner, parking, and those chocolate strawberries delivered to your room, and add it into the room rate and call it a “Weekend Getaway Package”. And people fall for it because they didn’t do their research and they just think it is all included at a lower price. And sometimes it is, but you need to figure that out for yourself.

When it comes to vacation packages to Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, etc., you do have a much better chance of getting a good deal if you work with a tour operator who has a lot of traffic to the particular destination you want to visit. There are certain tour operators who negotiate volume buying deals with the hotels and the airlines and if you itemize the package inclusions and see how much each item would cost if you had purchased it individually, you might just find that you are getting quite the bargain and could never match the total cost if you grouped those individual elements on your own. In many cases, a reputable tour operator has also vetted those hotels and other package inclusions so you know someone has been there and checked it out for you, which is much better than combing through hotel listings on Expedia and attempting to pick out something you might like. When buying a vacation package that includes a hotel, airfare, rental car, etc., you may also want to cross-check and see what kind of reviews that included hotel receives on TripAdvisor to make sure it really is a good choice.

If you are visiting a hotel or resort with a spa and you see a day of pampering or half-day of spa, you want to make sure that the treatments included in the spa are exactly what you really want. Sometimes you might find the massage is appealing, but they packaged it together with two other treatments you would have never selected on your own. This is when you need to see if the savings outweighs the lack of choice. For some people, they might just want to experience a day at the spa, so no matter what treatments they get, they are happy. But if you are a more particular individual and you really want a massage, a facial, and a pedicure, and those three items are not packaged together, then you might be best to skip the packages available and book the treatments you desire individually.

The bottom line here is not to believe that a package is in your best interest. Be a savvy consumer and price out the elements to see if what they are offering gives you something value-added.

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