Most fresh-faced travellers find themselves with a very difficult question: should I book a package tour or not? Even seasoned travellers have to ask themselves this from time to time. Is it better if someone else is responsible for your trip? It really comes down to personal taste and your preferred style of travel. Package tours definitely come with plenty of benefits, however, there are just as many negatives. So let’s analyze some of them, shall we?
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What is a Package Tour?
Many tour agencies across the world offer all-inclusive tours through various destinations across a country for a set number of days. Every step of your adventure is arranged beforehand, including every form of transport, every hotel/hostel and even a few of the best activities and outings.
These packages can range anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of months and can cover the entire spectrum of travel! From leisurely trips in luxury hotels to camping in the wilderness with nomadic tribes, there’s so much to choose from!
Packages tours can be incredibly advantageous, particularly if you’re new to travelling. They’re also perfect for those who want little to worry about or just aren’t comfortable with arranging everything for themselves. Even for seasoned travellers, this can be a relief from time to time.
Don’t Have to Plan Anything
Without a doubt, the most stressful aspect of travelling is arranging everything. Booking tickets, finding hostels, picking out the right tours, it can be quite a daunting task. With package tours, every single step of your trip is arranged for you before you’ve even arrived. You don’t have to figure out how to buy tickets or stress out trying to pick the right accommodation. You don’t have to do anything!
Tour companies have a wide selection of packages which vary in the destinations they pass through and the length of time. You just need to find the right package for you, and they do the rest. Many companies might even alter their packages slightly to suit your needs.
Going on from the last point, the beauty of package tours is the ease of it. You’re simply given an itinerary detailing everywhere you’re going and everything you’ll do. All you have to do is turn up where they tell you to! For new or less-confident travellers, this is such a relief and makes travelling accessible to anyone! There’s a reason they’re also popular with the older generation.
There to Support You
As everything is arranged by a tour agency, you have someone to fall back on if a problem occurs. It could be an issue with the hostel or a cancelled bus, you’ll have someone to help find a solution. If you were travelling independently, you could be left stranded. As part of a package tour, it’s the agency’s obligation to sort things out. After all, the lifeblood of tour agencies is its reviews, and they can’t afford a bad one.
Meeting Fellow Travellers
Package tours are also the perfect choice for the social bugs amongst you! The same group of people might travel together for the whole trip or you could just end up running into the same people that travel along the same routes. along the way. Either way, it’s a great way of meeting new people along the road, and an opportunity to share your experience with like-minded people! Unless you’re unlucky enough to be stuck with a group of assholes…which is a possibility.
Hitting all the Highlights
Some people don’t want to explore the obscure corners of a country, some people just want to see all the highlights. Obviously, tour agencies base their tours on what most people want to see and experience. Most are focused on hitting the iconic sites, particularly if time is short. For longer tours, there are plenty of extra treats thrown in along the way. If you have a bucket list of thing’s you want to see when in the country, this kind of tour is the most efficient way of doing it.
Good for a Tight Schedule
We can’t all live our life on the road, most people have too many responsibilities. Thus, most people have very strict time-limits. Luckily, package tours operate on a tightly followed schedule. You just need to find tours that fit your timeframe. There are plenty to choose from as tours can range from a day or two up to a few months! Not only that but you know exactly where you’ll be and when.
Exploring the Unknown
If you wanted to travel through Australia, Japan or Western Europe, it would pretty easy to arrange everything for yourself. However, if you wanted to explore Central Mongolia or the Amazon rainforest, not so much. For some places, package tours are almost a necessity. Even seasoned travellers would struggle with trying to arrange these things for themselves, and often times you’d need the help of a local to achieve it. With these types of tours not only do you have someone that can help you arrange it but also there every step of the way to be your guide as you explore.
Most seasoned travellers find plenty of disadvantages to this sort of travelling. Backpackers will especially stay away from these tours as they tend to be incredibly limiting, constraining and not worth blowing an entire years travel budget on.
Package tours are ridiculously overpriced! They cost so much more than arranging the trip yourself. Even if you booked the exact same things, the tour agencies need to make money somehow, so they add a little extra on top. You’re only paying for some practicality.
The differences in price can be extraordinary. Where you could be sending a couple of hundreds you end up spending a couple of thousand! Some of the hostels or activities the agencies pick probably won’t be the cheapest option out there, so you’ll spend more than you actually need to.
Take this example. A month-long package tour across Japan can cost almost £6,000, where I spent around £1,200 over 3 months. This is one of the biggest reasons long-term backpackers avoid these tours.
You Don’t Get to Choose
As an independent traveller, you can choose exactly where you want to go, how to get there and how long for. You lose this luxury with package tours. You might be able to edit some of the details of your trip, but overall it’s the tour agency that chooses the venues. There are just some things on the itinerary you won’t be able to change, or if you can, you might have to pay for it. This is one way the cost is affected, as they might pick a more expensive option.
This is an enormous problem for many travellers. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re stuck with it. You may be able to adjust a few minor details of your trip while you’re on it, but generally, Your plans and schedule are already set, and they can’t be changed. You can’t suddenly go somewhere you hadn’t planned for! What happens if you meet a group of awesome people that are heading somewhere you’re not, tough, you can’t join them.
Not to mention you’d have to go through with the tour until the end, or you would have wasted all your money. You might find a couple of days into your journey that you made a big mistake, but tough titties, you’ve got no choice now.
Doing Everything as a Group
If you’re hoping for a unique independent adventure, this isn’t the option for you. Unless you’re willing to pay many thousands, every step of your journey is going to be shared with a group of people that you don’t know. Every transport, every tour and even every room if you’re staying in hostels, you’ll be sharing the experience with someone. Maybe that’s what you prefer, but sometimes you wish you could have a bit of alone time.
No Stepping Outside the Box
This isn’t true for every package, as there are plenty of adventure tours out there, though they are seriously outnumbered! Generally speaking, package tours are more focused on the basic and comfortable aspects of travel. Tours typically cater to all age groups and offer the safer vanilla option that everyone would be happy with. Grandad rather stay in a cosy hotel than having to spend the night in a tent on the edge of a mountain.
It really is a hard choice that all travellers have to make, and there’s no right or wrong answer. It generally boils down to the type of traveller that you are. Backpackers prefer independence, lack of restrictions and the cheaper option. Thus, package tours just aren’t for them. For less-confident or newer travellers, families, or those that want nothing to worry about their journey, package tours are worth considering!
A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible.
My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.