When an Online Travel Package May Not be the Best Deal

by Kai - Date: 2007-05-21 - Word Count: 741 Share This!

Frequently travel websites large and small advertise something that sounds like this "buy together and save." What they are trying to do is to convince or entice you that if you buy individual travel components (airfare & hotel or airfare & rental car or all of them) at the same you can save some money.

While this can definitely be the case it does not necessarily apply to all travel situations or destinations. In general, if you are traveling to a major destination such as Orlando, Los Angeles, the Caribbean or the like then buying as a package may make a lot of sense. But as always shop around to make sure that buying individually is not cheaper. Don't forget to also account for any service charges and taxes.

If on the other hand you are traveling to destination without a major airport nearby you should look at buying a package with a healthy dose of skepticism. Here is an example: Let's say you intend on a vacation at Palm Cast, FL (beautiful stretch of beach approx 90 minutes south of Jacksonville and 35 Minutes north of Daytona Beach). If you are shopping for a package 9 times out of 10 the system will package the air in and out of Daytona Beach Airport. Daytona Beach is a small airport with little competition. The net result is on average higher airfares. Jacksonville on the other hand has more competition and offers service by several low cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines.

So, why am I telling you this? Because the last time I checked for a family of five it was significantly more expensive going with the package. Buying roundtrip airfare to Jacksonville, renting a minivan and booking the hotel accommodation all separately saved over $750 when compared to a package from Travelocity, Orbitz or Expedia.

Packages also often work really well for a family of four (2 adults and 2 children). Packages often let kids stay for free (if staying in the same room with the parents) or offer other freebies. If on the other hand you are a single parent or have more than 2 children a package may or may not be a good deal. Another weakness of many of the "package trip" booking engines is their inadequacy when incorporating requests for condo style (2+ bedroom, kitchen, etc.) accommodation. Frequently they do not find the places you are looking for or they present choices that do not apply or match your request.

Here is one good way to see whether or not a travel package will save you money:

1. Check all individual travel components separately (keeping alternate airports in mind). In addition if you have credit card miles or frequent flier miles check to see if you can use them (even if only for 1 or 2 in the party). If flights are blocked out or not available see if you can use them for car rental. Many credit card companies offer vouchers for car rentals. Applying those to a week or 10 days for a Minivan can save you $400 - $600 depending on where you are headed.

2. Once you have the total for all individual components open a new browser and see whether or not you can buy it cheaper as a package. Make sure to check several sites.

Travel packages can be a great way to get a bargain but don't assume that it is always the case. Do your homework, read the fine print and keep in mind that sellers always make more money selling you a package rather than the individual components.

About the Author:
Kai Vorpahl has over 15 year travel industry experience of which the last 10 years have been in the online travel industry. He has worked in leadership positions for companies such as e-Travel (now part of Amadeus Global Travel Distribution), StudentUniverse (an online travel company focused on student travel) and CheapFlights (an online airfare directory displaying offers from their advertising partners) just to name a few. Kai has an undergraduate degree in Travel &Tourism Management and a Masters in International Business. He has researched and studied the online travel industry for the past 10 years. He has traveled extensively within the United States as well as internationally. He has recently published a Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Best Airfare on the Internet describing insider tricks and tips on where and how to find the best airfare deals. He operates http://www.bluemarblescout.com where you can find destination information & travel deals.

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