We at Garipally feel so strongly about making sure that each and every traveler coming to Italy can leave having experienced great moments and bring home good memories that, even if you are new to the blog, you quickly realize we make it our priority to guide you towards better, authentic experiences when visiting Italy or Europe in general (or Bergamo, where we are from, for that matter). So for that reason my strongest temptation right now is go to straight to answering the question in the title and share with you reading why I feel so strongly about my answer. That would be wrong however, for I must recognize it’s my own opinion and should not present it as a universal fact and instead try analyze together with you the pros and cons of travel packages and ponder whether it’s a good idea to opt for one or not.
Let’s first take a quick look at what travel packages are and what the article will cover today.
Table of content
• What are travel packages
• What are the benefits of travel packages to Europe
• Who are travel packages to Europe meant for
• The cons and lows of travel packages to Europe
• Is booking a travel package to Europe a good idea?
What are travel packages
The bridge Dictionary describes package tours (alias travel packages) as “a holiday organized by a travel company in which you visit several different places and for which you pay a fixed price that includes the cost of the hotel and travel, and sometimes food.”
Usually, for those who are not familiar with these packages, they make it extremely easy for people traveling to come up with an itinerary and manage everything that it involves. Let’s say you want to visit Italy. If you do, you probably don’t come to italy every other year and for that reason want to make sure you don’t miss the best places it has to offers, so you decide you must visit Venice, Milan, Rome, Florence and Naples (not necessarily in this weird order). Anyway, because you want to visit multiple places, and maybe multiple countries, as you may want to visit nearby countries while in Europe, you need to do a lot of planning. You need to book a flight to italy, decide which city you want to arrive in first, decide how to move around between them while here and then how to leave the country for neighboring ones and from where you wish to leave and go home. On top of all these decisions you must book hotels, maybe tickets to popular museums and cathedrals, you may want to consider renting a car and so on. Here in all this mess travel packages come in and show off how convenient they are.
What are the benefits of travel packages to Europe
The situation above presented is common among international travelers visiting new places, especially when coming to Europe, as it has hundreds of cities and dozens of countries you don’t want to miss out on. In situations such as this you quickly realize the load of work involved in planning a trip and the myriad of things that can go wrong if it’s the first time you plan one. Here is where travel packages come in. They pre-make, pre-plan standardized trips and sell you the whole thing. They understand what are the most popular destinations most people want to visit, what are the activities most people plan to do and offer you just that: pre-packaged tours and trips. Now let’s look at the example from earlier. Most people coming to Europe or Italy know they should not leave out cities such as Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, etc. So if you choose to use the help of a travel agency you will find that they probably already offer similar itineraries. For a fixed price you buy one of their packages and, without booking a thing have a whole two-weeks Europe trip planned out for you. Not only you didn’t move a finger to plan it out, but their packages are so consolidated that there is no risk it can go wrong. So we can break it down into 3 main advantages:
1. Travel packages make it extremely easy for you plan a trip.
2. You rely on someone with experience who knows what and where to book.
3. You don’t need to stress of worry about booking hotels, flights, car rentals, etc.
4. You dramatically reduce the risk of booking the wrong hotel, in the wrong part of town, etc.
Who are travel packages to Europe meant for
If you never planned a trip overseas or never booked a hotel, relying on travel packages wouldn’t be a bad idea, although I must say that also exploring the possibilities that planning your own trip grant wouldn’t be a bad idea either. In general, they are meant for people who do not have the time, energy or desire to plan their own trip. Relying on travel packages or travel agencies in general is always a good idea if planning or even thinking of planning your next trip sets your anxiety on fire and you feel too afraid or nervous about making mistakes. And if you are wondering, yes, this is definitely a factor they play on you when selling.
(If you are planning a trip to Europe and feel uncertain about the coronavirus situation, check out our artcile: Coronavirus: When can I travel to Europe again?)
The cons and lows of travel packages to Europe
if it wasn’t obvious enough already, travel packages, and those to Europe specifically have several cons that must be taken into consideration. They offer great “ease of use” and save you a lot of time but come, most of the times, with higher costs overall, and largely reduced options and opportunities for customizations. In fact, if we can say their are ideal for some, such as those opting for more relaxed, carefree types of experiences and don’t mind following tight schedules, they are a terrible idea for all the others looking to live their own trip. Here are the most important aspects you must consider before purchasing travel packages to Europe:
1. They often cost you more money
These agencies must make their money somehow. Be prepared to pay premium prices for their services. All that time you just saved? They are charging you for it. And if they’re charging you less or as much as you would pay without, be positively skeptical and ask yourself both how and why.
2. They usually follow strict schedules
They tend to pack 1,2 or even 3-weeks vacations with activities and things to do. To do that they must follow strict schedules and move on quickly. You were looking forward to strolling around with your lovely half? Maybe a travel package isn’t right for you at this time.
3. You must adapt to the needs of a group
These packages are often offered to many people at once. Now, you may be completely ok with it but keep in mind that we all have different needs and each one of us moves on his or her own time. Think of all the ramification of this point and let that help you decide whether travel packages can be for you.
4. You must feel comfortable traveling with others
As we just discussed, they usually, but not always, plan trips for groups, which means that’s it’s very possibile you will be traveling with people you never met before. Take a moment and try to understand if you can be comfortable with that, if you are not, good thing you realized that in time.
5. You must be willing to make sacrifices
This point is self explanatory. It is the sum of the last two points and the ways they influence your next trip. Are you ok making few sacrifices?
6. Say goodbye to authenticity
This is where, if I could, I would write pages and pages on how these kind of travel packages take all the authenticity out of you next trip. Letting a big travel agency book your hotel is great and easy. But can you really compare that with getting along with the guy checking you in at the hotel, exchanging contact information and let him guide you the same night to the best restaurant and cocktail bar in town? When you travel on packages like these you are giving up on a lot, first on authenticity.
7. It’s a holiday, not properly a trip
I strongly believe that what makes a trip, well a trip, is the local people. It’s them who can really turn your experience upside down and change it for the better. It’s the locals who can take you on an unexpected rout and show you their uncle’s small vineyard and get drunk at sunset with her family. It’s not a fixed rule but package tours tend to have a different vibe to them. They are great if what you are looking for is a holiday full of hotels and pretty pictures.
8. You loose the romanticism of adventure and luck
Continuing from the point above, if you lose authenticity you lose the most romantic aspects of a trip. The mistakes you make, the people you meet, the wrong street you walk and great experiences you live. It’s the mistakes involved in a trip that make it both memorable and remarkable.
So, is booking a travel package to Europe a good idea?
Hard and probably wrong to answer with a simple yes or no, but personally, no. They can be a good idea if you have a clear idea of what you are getting and, after considering all the pros and cons, still believe its the best option for you. In that case yeah go for it. There are so many people who are just looking for some relaxed time, drink good wine, take pretty pictures and rest in good hotels, nothing wrong with that. But overall I believe that unless you are looking specifically for this type of experience, you shouldn’t book a package.
I believe it transpired since the beginning that I dislike these kind of deals. I am a big advocate of authentic traveling, solo traveling, trying to live the way locals do and all the fancy ways to describe it. I have heard people referring to it as sustainable traveling, local traveling, slow traveling, regardless of its name, I believe in visiting a place and living it to its fullest by surrounding yourself with local people, the only people who can best give you the local, authentic experience.