Deal or No Deal: What You Really Get with Steeply Discounted Vacation Packages
There are so many options right at our fingertips to book a vacation. There are travel agents, hotel comparison sites, and then, there are vacation packages that bundle all aspects of your trip into one.
Vacation packages from discount sites give you the power to be your own travel agent. However, sometimes the convenience doesn’t justify the confusion. People love discounted vacation packages because they save themselves the time and effort of planning. But, do they truly know what they’re getting when they put down their credit cards? To make sure you’re getting everything you pay for, here are a few tips.
Add up the Amenities
Before running away with your discounted vacation package, make sure you do your homework. Planning the trip of a lifetime can become time-consuming, fast. Especially when you have to combine all the aspects of your trip such as flight, hotel, and activities. The “discounted vacation deal” starts to look more and more desirable as it combines everything for you, essentially saving you time and (hopefully) money.
Stop the breaks on that plane! Before takeoff, it is a good idea to:
- Compare the prices of the package to the actual hotel and flight on their respective sites.
- Make sure that the flight and hotel add up to more than the total of the package. Sites don’t expect the customer to do any further research on the deals as they’re appealing to a demographic that loves instant gratification.
Don’t fall for free
“Only three hours left!” “Wait! We’ll also throw in this completely random item if you book right now!”
Websites like to sweeten the deal, sometimes quite literally. They will add free chocolates or wine when you book the discounted package within a certain time frame. More often than not, these gifts are cheap or smaller than advertised. The hotel is spending virtually nothing on these “incentives” whereas by not booking the discounted package you could buy actual items that you want.
Research before reserving
Research the accommodation offered in the package. The hotel included with the booking might be the cheapest for a reason. Sometimes in these deals, the accommodations are lacking in stars and may not be as lovely as the descriptions are advising they are. It’s important to do some research on the hotel’s website and look at reviews that others have left about the hotels.
Don’t forget to read the small print!
- Some deals require you to fly out on a specific date, for a particular amount of days and typically don’t include your airport transfers.
- If the resort oversells, guess who gets bumped first? The deal ticket holders. It's not unheard of for deal holders to go to their resort only to be moved.
Hide & Seek
With budget deals, you get a great price, only to find out there are mountains of hidden fees. The airplane, hotel and transportation bundles pricing often do not reflect the hidden costs that suddenly arise after purchase. These services may find the cheapest flight-- but then there are resort fees, baggage fees, airport fees, taxes and more that are not outlined in the original ‘deal’ pricing. Additionally, you may be hopping on a flight that’s cheap for a reason. Incredibly early mornings, long layovers and more.
Plan for the unplannable
These package deals will also cost you in flexibility. Despite your best intentions, efforts, and planning, sometimes circumstances arise that make you change your plans. The cancellation policies on package deals often don’t allow for refunds or will only refund a certain amount. Therefore, the savings are ultimately lost if an emergency comes up. Be sure to read their refund or cancellation policy before hitting “BUY!”.
Scope the location
The most problematic part of booking a package deal might hit the shopping cart in the final seconds of purchase. You’re all set on booking the deal, and suddenly you realize the departure airport is wrong.
No problem! Easy fix, right?
So, you select the correct airport and BAM! A $500 increase on the package. This is often the most disturbing aspect of booking a package deal. If one of the airports available isn’t nearby, there will be substantial connecting flight costs.
Tiny little elements of these packages may sneak up on you if you don’t know exactly what to look for. Some vacation packages offer great deals, however, be sure to be diligent in your search.
The idea behind deeply discounted vacation packages is the time and energy you save that would be spent researching the vacations yourself. Sometimes these packages require more research than hiring a travel agent or doing it yourself. Furthermore, getting the package deal might mean sacrificing the hotel and accommodations you really want. The saying may be:“time is money,” but if you don’t spend the time, you might be losing both.