By Emma Lunn
Ten years ago, consumers had little choice when it came to holidays with most of us buying a package deal from a travel agent. But now it’s become easy to put together the separate components of a holiday yourself such as flights, accommodation, travel insurance, car hire and activities.
So are you better off booking a package holiday or doing it yourself?
A package holiday is essentially where you pay one price for flights, airport transfers, and accommodation. Some package deals include food, drink and sporting activities too. Package holidays are generally widely available for popular tourist destinations and tend to be for seven, 10 or 14 nights.
So, if that’s what you want – a week or two in a tourist resort – then a package holiday will normally be the best deal.
You can often pick up a bargain package holiday if you book late. Travel agents will aim to sell off capacity they purchased in advance, right up until the day before the holiday begins. It’s a bit of a gamble though – the later you leave it the less choice of destinations and hotels you’ll have.
Package holidays and all-inclusive deals tend to be aimed at couples and families, so if you’re travelling alone, you could be charged a single supplement while also finding you have a lot less choice about where you stay. You may also find you’re likely to find you’re surrounded by twosomes and family groups which might not be ideal.
Not all package holidays charge single people more though. Mark Warner, which offers all-inclusive sports holidays, offers to pair up single travellers with someone of the same sex for no extra charge. This keeps costs down but will mean sharing your room with a stranger - which could be great fun or, potentially, a massive disaster.
Doing it yourself
Generally if you’re travelling alone, going down the DIY route can be best. This gives you the opportunity to seek out hotels which offer cheap single rooms rather than paying extra for an empty bed.
Other circumstances where the DIY option can be best is if you're going away for a non-standard trip length, to a less popular destination or are travelling around and staying in different places.
If any of these factors apply to you, then compare holidays to help keep costs down. Websites such as skyscanner.net or kayak.co.uk also compare flights. Generally the earlier you book flights the better and they’ll be cheaper if you don’t travel in peak season.
DIY is best if you’re touring around too, especially in less popular destinations. Hotel comparison websites such as Tripadvisor offer travellers’ reviews of hotels as well as comparing rates. Alternatively, consider hostels if you want to keep costs down even more.
Many backpacking hostels have long since shed their image of dirty dangerous places and can offer decent accommodation at a bargain price. Hostel communal areas can also be the perfect place to meet other holidaymakers. And unless you’re on a particularly tight budget, you don’t necessarily have to share a dormitory, as most hostels offer single and double rooms too.
In short, whether a package deal or DIY holiday is best depends on when and where you want to go, the size of your party and the type of holiday you’re after. Once you’ve booked, remember to book your travel insurance right away so your trip is covered. The longer you leave to take out travel insurance, means the longer your trip is uninsured and you risk losing money paid down if something unexpected happens. (Read our guide: 10 ways to protect your holiday booking.)