Tour Packages a Better Deal -- Really?
Is a tour package a "Better Deal" than buying travel on your own?
Tour packagers sometimes say so -- and they sometimes even "prove" their claim with a comparison of costs. Unfortunately, when I check, most of those comparisons tend to over-inflate the costs of traveling on your own. My take is that tour packages are occasionally cheaper than putting your own trip together, but usually they aren't. Even so, however, they may be better deals, but for the service they provide rather than cost.
Here's a case in point. A tour operator's recent press release touted four-night packages from
Sadly, that comparison doesn't withstand a reality check. The big discrepancy is in the airfare quote of
As to the rest of it, the tour operator's release also overstates two other key costs of independent travel:
-- The "from" price on most packages includes accommodations in "first class" or 3-star hotels. I found quite a few
-- You can book a private car from
All in all, most of the difference disappears: The tour package price and the cost of independent travel are about a wash. And, of course, by going a bit down market, you can cut your costs well below the best package price.
That's about what I've found in similar comparisons. Sure, as the promo blurbs claim, tour operators can get airfares and hotel accommodations at "wholesale" rates. But operators have to cover their own expenses and make a profit. Overall, the operators' markups pretty much offset their buying advantage.
That doesn't mean that the tour package isn't a good deal. Packages offer several important advantages: Beyond selecting dates and your hotel option, you don't have to do anything more in the way of arrangements. And once you arrive, the tour covers the local details that can be a hassle to arrange on your own. About all you have to pay extra is for services you'd have to pay for in either case: meals that aren't included in the tour price, tips, sightseeing beyond what's included, souvenirs, and such.
My conclusion is straightforward.
Buy a package if you like to have someone else make the local arrangements and take care of most details. Package operators are good at that. But buy for those benefits, not because you expect to pay a lot less.
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(c) 2011 Ed Perkins, TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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