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pakitty Feb 9th, 2003 05:25 AM

independent travel - cheaper or more expensive?
A friend recently asked how much I save by planning my own trips and traveling independently. In my case, as a single traveler, I suspect I actually pay more. But, it's still worth it because I see what I want to see at a pace that's comfortable to me, and I enjoy planning the trip. It can be difficult to compare prices, though, because the prices most often quoted are for rock bottom rooms at non-peak times.<BR><BR>Your thoughts? Has anyone compared prices?

Maira Feb 9th, 2003 05:37 AM

Every vacation trip we take I compare packages with doing it independently. I have only found one package that was better priced than the independent alternative. HOWEVER, the travel agent messed up the hotels, which was an agravation I could had done without. I like some of packages prices for the winter-spring travel. The summer prices are not that great. Overall, independent travel is best for my style, regardless of the cost.

JenniferW Feb 9th, 2003 05:38 AM

I think I have saved money planning my own trips. The airline quotes that I was getting from a travel agent were the same that you get online. Also you avoid paying &quot;fees&quot; when you arrange your own travel. In the past I never got the best hotels with travel agents either. Definitely worth making your own arrangements.

pj Feb 9th, 2003 05:48 AM

I like independent travel because of the luxury of picking out small boutique hotels. I enjoy researching the areas and know exactly the location I want to stay in.<BR> When you find the hotel that works, it is nice establshing rapport with the staFF also.<BR> Looking at some package deals, alot of t imes the hotels are not in the city center.<BR> I can do all of this and usually beat package prices too!

JoyceL Feb 9th, 2003 06:34 AM

Tour operators always charge huge markups for single people who do not want to share hotel rooms. I never have to pay these large extra charges when I travel independently. At most I pay a few dollars per night extra, and usually not even that.

Tangata Feb 9th, 2003 06:44 AM

I do not believe that you can do it independently cheaper than on a tour; I wish you could.<BR><BR>Before we took our first coach trip I costed things out and for two of us there was no way that we could get that standard of hotel and be anywhere near the price. Possibly, if you do it with B&amp;B you can, but I doubt it, the big tour companies just have the clout.<BR>

Flyboy Feb 9th, 2003 07:04 AM

It varies. There are times and destinations where picking up a package allows access to fare classes and hotel rates that are simply not available for an individual booking those items independently. But here's the other part: packages often ARE indepent travel. Between the fully escorted tour and the totally independent route fall many packages that will include everything from almost no additional services to incremental add-on tours, meals, airport transfers, etc. The bottom line is that if you are interested in getting the most for your money, then it is only prudent to compare an array of options for cost and value.

gb Feb 9th, 2003 08:49 AM

As a single person or maybe a couple, it might be equal to take a package tour. But, for a family, it is definitely cheaper to go independently.

Christina Feb 9th, 2003 09:07 AM

I haven't compared prices a lot because I choose based on what I want to do, not price. If I were only interested in air+hotel to a big city, I might compare for some of the major airline packages or go-today, but I haven't been lately. I think folks are using words a little differently on here-- package is not a tour, it's just hotel+air usually. It is completely independent travel in most cases, once in a while they throw in a welcome city bus tour. <BR><BR>I don't think you can usually buy the same thing cheaper on your own, because those packages often get better rates on rooms, etc. You can do things cheaper, of course, by staying in different places, etc.<BR><BR>There isn't any way a single traveler can pay the same as half of a couple for room costs and thus avoid a single occupancy charge by traveling independently -- at least not for the same hotel room. You can travel more cheaply by staying in different, cheaper hotels, of course. I've never seen a package raise rates beyond actual costs for single occupancy (Paul Laifer tours, for example, has very low single supplements), but I did read an article once in the paper that said there is some segment of the travel industry that does this -- it's not packages at all, but expensive cruises and things like that because somehow I guess they think booking singles loses them profit on all the things they markup on the ship they others buy.<BR><BR>I agree with last post.

Ryan Feb 9th, 2003 09:16 AM

The reason my wife and I choose to plan things ourselves, has nothing to do with money. We both take the view that we'd rather plan on the vacation that we want, rather than the vacation that a tour operator/cruise line thinks we want. We both figure that we know what we like better than a tour operator. <BR><BR>Also, as we both have fairly full schedules in our careers, the last thing we want while on vacation is to have a set schedule. <BR><BR>It is funny though when we travel with my parents, as we did in 2000 when we went with them to France. They usually opt for tour groups as they like the set agenda. Every night Mom and Dad needed to know what time we were having breakfast, when and what we would see the following, and, on several days, if they should bring their umbrellas!

Patrick Feb 9th, 2003 09:41 AM

JoyceL, I'm interested in your comments about the tours charging so much more for single travelers. I have a couple of &quot;solo&quot; friends who travel quite a bit and both mainly take packages because they feel it does save them money. The difference is that the tours are always priced &quot;per person&quot;, doubled for a couple. Although there is an add-on for a single traveling alone, it is somewhat minor they feel. When they book hotels on their own, they both often feel they have to pay a full &quot;double&quot; price for a room, rarely are single rooms actually half the price of a double room, and in many case there is no single room price -- one person pays the same as two would ordinarily pay. In other words they feel that the &quot;half price&quot; for the room (based on a per person charge) plus the nominal add on for a single traveler, is still less than if they booked the room on their own.<BR>Are you saying that is not the case?

erinb Feb 9th, 2003 09:56 AM

hi pakitty and patrick,<BR><BR>patrick I agree with pakitty somewhat, however, to me, this is not just a question of single travel. It is for anyone purchasing a preplanned package vs. planning on your own online. Travel companies, most of the time add on a single supplement to cost of any preplanned independent package or group excursion. this supplement can increase your hotel and tour package costs as much as 30% on hotels and non airfare transportation costs. however, I think it depends on what you are trying to do, and whether that increase in cost is worth it.<BR><BR>Personally, I think deciding to purchase a independent package or group excursion should be based on the following:<BR><BR>1) are you planning a one or two city stay or a whirlwind tour of a country or region, 2) if you are traveling single, are you comfortable being by yourself or do you prefer traveling in numbers making it easier to meet and connect with people.<BR><BR>I have purchased in the last 7 years the following:<BR> <BR>a group excursion for 2 adults <BR>(16 day country tour)<BR>a package 1 city stay for 2 adults <BR>a package 1 city stay for single<BR><BR>Since then I have planned online on my own the following:<BR><BR>a city stay for 2 adults<BR>a city stay for 1 adult(single)<BR>a two city stay(london and paris) for a small group of 5.<BR><BR>In my experience, I would never plan or try to plan a whirlwind tour of a country on my own. A pre-package deal or group excursion is perfect for this. Even paying the extra single supplement would not be more than trying to beat the cost online. The logistics and transporation connections alone would be a nightmare to me and the cost of those connections without the benefit of the package deals bulk rate would be too high. the only way I would consider this is if I found a great rate on a rail or train trip of that country and I have open ended connections, .and that would still be a package deal. for me, the cost and hassle of renting a car add's too much onto the cost of the trip to make it worth it. also, the convienence of having those connections taken care of would offset the tourist quality hotels for this type of trip or the single supplement.<BR><BR>(cont)<BR>

erinb Feb 9th, 2003 09:58 AM

However, with that one exception, I will never again buy a package or group excursion if I am planning a one or two city stay. I have found them too restrictive and in every trip that I have listed above, with the exception of the 16 day country tour, I have saved money on any advertised package deal vs. my own planning online. In fact I got better hotels(higher quality) and more for my money on addon's by planning it independently of an agent or advertised package.<BR><BR>as a single traveler I have found this to be expecially true. thru online sources you are able to find those hotels that have single rooms at great rates. the last 2 trips I planned online exclusively. on the single trip, I was able to find a 4 star hotel, airfare, metro &amp; museum passes, and river cruise on my own for about $300 less than any package deal. on the 5 person small group, I saved us probably $400 apiece by doing it online vs a package deal. also, on that same trip, since I was the odd person out(the single) I was able to locate high quality hotels that did not charge an arm and a leg for that single rate. <BR><BR>however, for others going on a single, even on 1 or 2 city stays, many package deals include group tours and dinners that give you instant connections with others doing the same. this consideration needs to be based on whether you are truly comfortable by yourself or prefer the instant connection with people in a group excursion. <BR><BR>so for me, buying a package deal (independent or group doesn't matter) is not based on going with someone or going single, it is based on the type of trip I am trying to put together. I truly do not mind and actually enjoy the freedom of touring a city on my own so I do not need that connection. if you are same, you can save bundles by planning on your own.<BR><BR>I am currently planning a trip to london of 9 days. I have found 2 adult packages for hotel an airfare for about $900 apiece. (some for as little as $750 but that was bare bones). As of this week, this is what I have been able to accomplish:<BR><BR>$700 2 airfares coach raleigh to london<BR>$853 8 nights hotel (m. baileys)<BR>$ 63 2 tube 7 day passes(1&amp;2 zone)<BR>$ 30 2 adults windsor day trip<BR>$ 60 2 adults cantebury day trip<BR>$ 50 2 adults day museum and sites tour<BR><BR>total $1756 or $878 apiece. this is non stop flight from london to raleigh and a 4 star hotel in a great location for 8 full nights. this includes metro pass and 2 day trips and a city tour on the big bus tour group. It will be hard to beat this for a package for that type of hotel. I have found the same rate for 6 nights in a 3 star hotel and no day trips. the city tour and metro pass were add on expenses. by doing this on my own, I have increase the quality of my trip.<BR><BR>

Bob_C Feb 9th, 2003 10:07 AM

The few times I have compared, I found my trip to be about the same or a little cheaper. But I will stay where I want to stay, see what I want to see (which is a lot more the the people on a tour) and vist the places we are interested in. I found that we get a LOT more for our money.

erinb Feb 9th, 2003 10:12 AM

oh and ps...<BR><BR>the package deal included airfare out of jfk, dulles, or newark and being in north carolina that meant the added expense of a hopper roundtrip to one of those citys which would have added on about $150 apiece.<BR><BR>so the great package deals people are seeing on the net for $600-$800 by the time you add tax and addon's for us would be about $800-$1000 for just a 6 night stay in a 3 star hotel.<BR><BR>for $853 apiece and online planning I have added the following:<BR>metro passes<BR>2 night hotel<BR>1 more star quality<BR>1 city tour<BR>2 day trips<BR><BR><BR>

bobthenavigator Feb 9th, 2003 10:12 AM

I have pondered this question for some time. Of course, you can always get a budget special deal at a fantastic price, but that is the exception. The most similar tours to the trips that I typically plan are the Rick Steves group tours. I have done detailed cost comparisons with his itineraires, trying to keep it apples to apples, and have concluded that I can do it for 20 to 30% less than what Rick charges. But, the point is moot to me. I will always opt for independent travel as long as we are able.

RufusTFirefly Feb 9th, 2003 03:35 PM

Depends on what type of non-independent travel you're talking about. A fully escorted tour will usually cost more than independent. But a package deal with air travel, hotel, and transport between cities will usually cost less than what an independent traveller could do using the same hotels as the package. But I've found that I can do it more inexpensively than the package if I don't pick the same hotels.<BR><BR>Sometimes there's an exception--we got a fantastic deal on a &quot;hosted&quot; trip to Italy several years ago. For what we would have paid independently for just airfare and transport in Italy, we got that plus some nice hotels and a 1/2 day tour in each city. The best part was that other than the 1/2 day intro tour to each city, we were totally on our own unless we wanted to buy optional excursions. And the only meals provided were those that happened while on the road. So we had the cost benefits of a tour group, without being locked into having to go everywhere with the group. It worked out great, but I haven't seen another deal like it in the 7 years since.

Graziella5 Feb 9th, 2003 03:59 PM

One of the best parts of traveling independently is that when driving in Europe we can do small adjustments to the itinerary avoiding bad weather.<BR>To me this is priceless....<BR>

uhoh_busted Feb 9th, 2003 04:10 PM

Our first trip to Paris in 1998 was a package arranged through a travel agent. It was basically RT on Air France for $400 each and a hotel for around $70/night. We stayed for 8 nights and had a wonderful trip...essentially everything else we did on our own (we did do a package daytrip to Giverny, arranged at the main tourist office near the Arc de Triomphe.) Since then, we've planned a 3-week trip to Italy (based on an itinerary from Rick Steve's but adjusted to what we wanted to do, with a few less stops and more nights in our stops...and MUCH nicer hotels.) As Bob the Navigator noted, our cost was about 30% under the RS package tour. And that included two weeks with a compact car, a tour of Pompeii, a Capri tour (probably the only mistake of the trip), a horse &amp; buggy ride around Florence, a fabulous drive through the Dolomites between stays in Verona and Venice, a room with a Grand Canal view, a castle stay in Tuscany, the underground tour in Orvieto, tour of St Peters and the Vatican Museum in Rome...etc. Last year we did a week in London and a week in Paris (using ff miles for airfare). A terrific deal at Sloane Sq Moat House Hotel for 75 GBP per night, and a Paris hotel recommended by a Fodor's friend. I simply believe that we stay in better hotels with our independently planned trips, and we eat at better restaurants, and do what we want when we want to do it, all for less than we would with a tour or a package. I might &quot;shop&quot; the packages for ideas, but then I see what I can do on my own. I've always ended up spending about $1000 less with an independently planned trip of two weeks or more. Of course, if you don't like planning, the bother might be worth paying a couple hundred dollars per person to you.<BR><BR>

Dolcevita Feb 9th, 2003 09:03 PM

I've travelled solo for the past 16 years. Out of mere curiousity, I've price compared to tour packages, and I've always, consistently, made significant savings by travelling independently. Not to mention, it's a much more enjoyable experience for me. <BR><BR>

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