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All inclusive holidays are very popular. You go online, find a good deal, take out your credit card and click book. It’s simple. Too simple, in fact. It’s because it’s so easy that thousands of us go on package holidays every year. What’s the problem? I hear you asking… well, package holidays often are not as good as they seem….
If you have been following the blog for a while, you will know that I am not a fan of package holidays or all-inclusive holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to package holidays per se, heck I’ve been on my fair share! But, I know that I can plan a better holidays than the likes of Thomas Cook or Tui.
I’ve travelled much of the world. I’ve been on relaxing holidays and active holidays. I’ve travelled solo, I’ve travelled with a baby and I’ve organised school trips. I’ve flown with terrible airlines and great airlines. I’ve travelled in luxury and on a budget. I like to think that I know what I’m doing nowadays…
(psssst, for a list of my recommended travel companies, travel gear, coupons etc download this handy PDF)
Today I will share with you the five main reasons why I do not usually (there are always exceptions to every rule) book a all-inclusive package holiday…. and why I don’t think you should either!
#1 Value for money isn’t as good as you think
So what do you get for your money when you book a package holiday?
Typically a package holiday includes three core elements: a flight, a transfer and accommodation. If you book an all-inclusive holiday it will also include unlimited food and drinks.
So lets break this down.
When you book a package holiday, you will typically be flying with the tour operator’s own airline, for example Thomas Cook Airlines on a charter flight. Your flight price will probably be reasonable as charter airlines are trying hard to compete with the low cost travel market. So that’s great news, you’re not paying over the odds for your flight!
BUT did you get to choose the day or time that you wanted? Probably not. Package holidays are typically very rigid. They will start and finish on the same day once or twice a week. So, lets say that all of the holidays start on a Monday but you have Saturday-Saturday off work. Not ideal, is it? I like to make the most of my time off work and I don’t want to waste time waiting for the next charter flight. I want to leave when I am ready!
Further to this, you don’t usually have much choice of flight times either. Take a look on Skyscanner and see how many options are available to you if you book it yourself. Now that I travel with my children flight times are important to me as I do not want to disrupt their routines if I can avoid it. I want to choose a flight time that works best for us, not be dictated to by a tour operator.
So, whilst in terms of monetary value, at prima face it seems that a package holiday offers you a good deal on flights. However, if you look a little deeper you will often realise that this may not be the case. A wasted day due to awkward flight times or over-tired children is a waste of money to me!
For me, the absolute worst part of a package holidays is the never-ending coach journey between the airport and your accommodation. Seriously, I’ve just spent hours in the airport and on the aircraft, I don’t now want to drive around and around the resort aimlessly.
Put me in a taxi anyday, anytime, any cost.
Food and drink
If you eat and drink in your hotel, especially if it’s via an all-inclusive package holiday, chances are that your food isn’t the best quality and, depending on where you have travelled to, it may well be far cheaper if you ate out at a local restaurant.
Most all-inclusive hotels offer up cheap, mass-produced buffet food. Think low quality pizza, pasta, rice, salads etc. Drinks are often local brand only and watered down. Nope, no nice glass of your favourite Merlot or a Barcardi and Coke for you.
In reality, if you actually added up the cost of the food and drink that you consume against the cost that you have paid for your all-inclusive holiday, you would probably be better off eating out.
#2 You don’t get to see the country you are visiting
One of my major issues with package holidays is that most tourists see very little of the country that they are visiting.
Whilst this is a shame (really, are not interested in grabbing some bargains at the local market? Trying to local delicacy or learning a few words in the native language?), it is also in many ways unethical.
Is it fair that we use their beaches (or worse, take them and make them private foreign-owned land that they can no longer use!), their land and their resources and give them very little in return?
One of the things that annoys me most when I ask somebody about their holiday is when they respond to tell me that they ‘love x destination so much’. I then proceed to ask what they saw or did only to hear that the pool was lovely and there was some great evening entertainment.
I once had a friend who went to Morocco but didn’t know what a tagine was. I had a student who lived in Turkey for an entire summer but didn’t visit Cappadocia. There is a whole community of British expats in Alicante who can’t speak a word of Spanish! Skocking, just shocking…
If you go on a package holiday and do not leave your hotel you are NOT travelling, you are simply relaxing in a nice hotel that could be placed anywhere in the world.
#3 If it’s bad, it’s REALLY bad
If you book a package holiday you tend to be a bit stuck. Yes, the Holiday Reps will help you out where they can. But they probably can’t change the food on the menu. They can’t improve the entertainment over night. They can’t clean your room for you.
Because when you book a package holiday you tend to stay in or around the hotel, if there are issues then it’s difficult to get away from them. Whereas if I have a bad meal, I will simply choose to eat in a different restaurant next time, this isn’t usually so easily rectified on a package holiday!
#4 Little or no money is directed to the local community
I recently published a post on the economic impacts of tourism where I explained that most of your money does not end up staying in the local community, ESPECIALLY if you go on a package holiday.
Think about it. You book your holiday through Thomas Cook. Who do you pay? Not the local person who lives in the destination that you are travelling to that’s for sure…
I like to see where my money goes. I don’t want to give my hard earned money to a big conglomerate who are already loaded. I want to support the kids to go to school. I want to help a family buy a bag of rice. I want to contribute to the construction of a new road.
By booking local and paying my money directly to local people I know that it is going to a deserving place. There is something great about handing over money to a local taxi driver instead of paying for the tour operator for a transfer or buying a freshly squeezed orange juice from a market stall instead of buying a can of Coke. I like to feel that my spending and that my enjoyment whilst on holiday can help somebody else.
Unfortunately, package holidays do not tend to benefit the local community. In fact, in some destinations, as much as 95% of tourist spending never reaches the local economy! That’s just shocking!!! If you want to know more about this take a look at my post on economic leakage in tourism.
#5 It can have dire consequences for the locals
Building on from the points above, taking a package holiday can have negative consequences for the local community.
Beyond the lack of revenue that is directed towards the local community, tourism can cause land prices to increase and inflation in the local economy. This can push local people out because they can no longer afford to live in the area or because they no longer have enough money to support their families.
Why you should NEVER go on an all inclusive holiday
I could write about why you shouldn’t go on an all-inclusive package holiday for hours, but hopefully this short blog post has given you some reasons to re-think how you book your next trip. There are lots of brilliant resources for finding great deals, without handing over all of your money to a tour operator. Try Skyscanner for flights, Booking.com for hotels and Airbnb (click here for your £34 discount code), for example. You might just be surprised at how great a holiday can be when when you DON’T go on an all-inclusive trip!
What are your views on all-inclusive package holidays?