Thursday, March 8, 2012

#DestinationFridays: Booking a package vacation

This week on #DestinationFridays we'll discuss the pros and cons of booking that fabulous, hard earned #workinggirl vacation as part of a package versus booking the components individually.  

Booking a package vacation can often have many benefits, especially as to the price.  Depending on your preference, you could go with a destination specialist such as Apple Vacations for the Caribbean or Pleasant Holidays for Hawaii. Or you could book with one of the larger online travel agencies such as Expedia or Orbitz, which have a huge number of destination choices. 

Let's Get Booking

Money. Money. Money.  The main benefit of booking a package vacation is the travel company you book through will negotiate preferred rates for all components of the vacation.  Also, they are able to combine these pieces together and offer them to you for a lower price than you would have been able to get yourself if you booked each component individually.  You can often save anywhere between 10% to 30% or more depending on when you book your vacation.

This is not what I paid for.  Another benefit to booking a package vacation is protection.  I recently booked a vacation through Travelocity and when we arrived at the hotel, we discovered the property was overbooked.  After a few hours of waiting and shuffling around, they were able to find us a room that was scheduled for refurbishment.  It was far from ideal, but it was a holiday weekend, and we didn't have much choice.  On our return, I contacted Travelocity and they were able to help intervene with the hotel and provide some compensation.  Had we booked directly with the hotel, I know my request for a credit would have gone ignored.

Not so Fast...

Prepayment required. When you book a package vacation, you will need to pay for most or all of the associated costs in advance.  When you book directly on a hotel's website, you have the benefit of not paying until check-out. However, in order to take advantage of the lowest available rates, most hotels in popular vacation destinations are now requiring full prepayment.  

Being walked.  In the hotel business, being walked means a hotel will overbook and then walk you to a nearby hotel as they do not have any available rooms. The hotel will usually select those guests that paid the least amount (remember those preferred rates that your travel company was able to offer you as part of that great package?) to move to the new hotel.  Even if you book directly with the hotel, being walked is still a possibility but a lot less likely.

No points for you.  Finally, if you love to collect hotel points, you can forget topping up your balance if you book your branded hotel as part of a package.  You will earn points based on any miscellaneous charges spent once you arrive and, depending on your loyalty program, will get a night or stay credit but you won't receive points for the daily room rate.  

Ultimately, you need to decide what is most important to you.  If you are traveling to a destination that has a lot of independent hotels in a very traditional beach destination such as Mexico or the Caribbean, a package vacation is often the way to go.  If you are going somewhere in the US or to a city in Europe, consider booking direct.

Enjoy the sun girlfriend!

Cheryl Reynolds
College Girl to Working Girl

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