Package holidays have a long and mostly successful history in the UK. Mr Thomas Cook organised his first tour way back in 1841 but it wasn’t until after the Second World War and a boom in Brits travelling abroad that the package holiday really took off. For clarity, a package holiday is when you book your flight, hotel and transfer with a travel agent as part of one inclusive package. Having struggled to compete with do it yourself trips booked online in the early 2000s, package holidays have recently been making a bit of a comeback.
In the past year we have booked two package holidays with TUI to Mexico and the Dominican Republic. We have really enjoyed both of these holidays and think that package holidays have unfairly garnered a bad reputation amongst younger travellers. In this post we look at the pros and cons of booking a package holiday and in the end we ask…are package holidays worth it?
LOOKED AFTER IN COMFORT AND STYLE
One of the biggest selling points of a package holiday is that everything is organised and taken care of for you. We both have very busy full-time jobs and have had a lot going on in the past year. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to invest in planning your next trip away. Package holidays take some of that stress out of your next holiday. The travel agent will book your flight, hotel and transfer – all you need to worry about is getting to the airport at the right time. We personally loved the continuity of service we received with TUI. For example, once we had dropped our bags off at the airport we barely saw them until we arrived in our hotel room. At the hotel we were able to arrange upgrades or special requests for our flights and there was an on site TUI team ready to help if we had any issues.
On both of our package holidays we have been fortunate to stay at fantastic hotels. When we were booking both holidays we were blown away by the number of high quality hotels now being sold by travel agents such as TUI and First Choice. In Mexico we stayed at the 5-star Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun and in the Dominican Republic, the 4-star TUI Sensatori Punta Cana. These hotels are luxurious, comfortable and beautiful and are a world away from our previous misconceptions of what a package holiday hotel would offer.
Want to know more about our stay at the TUI Sensatori Punta Cana? Check out our review.
MAKING EXOTIC TRAVEL EASIER
Before these holidays, we had never visited either Mexico or the Dominican Republic. We are experienced travellers but we both commented that a package holiday would be a great way for nervous travellers to experience these exotic, far-flung destinations. Everything is organised for you and your safety is of paramount importance to the travel agent. The hotels themselves are very safe and any excursions that you go on during your visit are usually organised by your travel agent.
If you are looking to travel with kids these resorts are also a fantastic option for a family holiday. Even if you love to travel, sometimes you just need a rest and some time to relax by the pool. Package holidays can make this easier for you. At both of the hotels we have stayed in there were Nickelodeon themed kids clubs, allowing parents a couple hours of peace and quiet with a book and a cocktail – ideal.
Both of our package holidays were all-inclusive. This means that your breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks are included in the price of your holiday. This is a great perk as it means that once you arrive at your destination you do not need to pay for anything. We usually take a small amount of currency for tips and to book any trips but other than that there is nothing else to pay for. On top of this, package holidays are protected by ABTA in case anything goes wrong which includes getting a full refund if your trip is cancelled or your travel agent goes bust.
CHEAP AND CHEERFUL?
However, not all package holidays are made equal. In fact, there are some terrible package holidays for sale and part of the challenge is knowing where to book. Last year, we spent a lot of time looking for the best hotels once we knew where we wanted to go. Initially we wanted to travel to the Canary Islands but the hotels within our budget were a little bit cheap and cheerful. It is important to remember that different people will look for different things in a holiday. As a young couple, we are looking for a nice hotel with a little bit of luxury. Some of the more reasonable hotels we saw in the Canary Islands had dated rooms, small pools that were overlooked by other hotels and were dominated by entertainment for kids. These might be great for a family holiday but not so good for a young couple like us.
In addition, if you book a package holiday you do not always get the best price for your holiday. Package holidays work out cheapest when you are flexible on your destination and are willing to book early or late. If you want to go to a specific resort then it may work out cheaper to book your flight, hotel and transfer separately using price comparison websites such as Skyscanner and booking.com. In peak season during the school summer holidays prices for a package holiday can rise immeasurably and are usually extortionate.
A BUFFET OF BRITS ABROAD
One of the biggest criticisms levied at package holidays is that you don’t get to experience the culture of the country you travel to and we have to admit that this has some truth to it. On most package holidays you spend much of your time in the hotel and the hotel’s restaurant and entertainment are geared up to its customers. Usually the hotel will endeavour to offer guests a taste of the local cuisine. However on both of our package holidays these efforts did not really make a positive impression. In fact the Mexican restaurant at the Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun was terrible and our least favourite in the resort!
The best way to sample the local culture on your package holiday is to book an excursion. Both of the hotels that we stayed at had an excellent selection of excursions that could be booked on site with your travel agent. In Mexico we went on the TUI Collection tour of Chichen Itza and had an incredible time. The downside is that these tours do cost extra and at over $100 per person they are not cheap!
Something we will be covering in more depth is the food on offer on package holidays. Depending on which hotel you book you might find that there is only one buffet restaurant in the resort and that is where you will have to eat most if not all of your meals for the duration of your trip. There is usually very little variety in these restaurants and for those with restrictive diets it can be a nightmare. We have always picked hotels with a number of restaurants that you can eat at throughout your stay but these are the exception rather than the rule. As always – it’s worth reading up on.
ARE PACKAGE HOLIDAYS WORTH IT?
In conclusion, we think that package holidays unfairly have a bad reputation, particularly among younger travellers and travel bloggers. Granted, your package holiday is unlikely to be as culturally inspiring as other holidays but if you are looking for a relaxing week in the sun by the beach where everything is taken care of for you – then it could be for you.
Have you been on a package holiday? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.