Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Travel packages vs. Planning it on my own

I have been able to travel to Australia twice in my lifetime. We visited Sydney both times as well as Cairns "Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef". We did a 4 day live-aboard SCUBA trip on the reef, visited Daintree Rainforest, Sydney Opera house, the Sydney Bridge and stayed with some friends in Port Macquarie. Both trips were amazing.

I found a deal on Groupon today for a packaged deal to Australia that included the Gold Coast, Cairns and Sydney for $2,499 per person if you travel between May 1 and June 8th.

I thought this would be a great time to point out the benefits and negatives of using packaged deals.

The Groupon deal for 2 people is $4,998 (excluding any tax and fees that I don't know about)

EXACTLY everything that the Groupon deal includes (minus the surfing lessons in Sydney) will cost 2 people $5,823 if you were to package it on your own.

Airfare alone is $1,668 each person ($3,336 for 2 people). So depending on what you want to do and how long you want to spend at each place, this may or may not be a good deal for you. If you are fine with everything that the the package offers, then using the package deal this time will save you over $800 on 2 passengers.

If the tours are guided you are bound by the tour guides schedule and the pace of the group. My husband and I did a guided tour of Jerusalem and although the tour was good, being tied to the group was torture! We wanted to explore things on our own, go places the tour wasn't going, go faster or slower then the group. We got funneled into tourist shops that had "deals" made with the tour company so we HAD to shop there....I'm talking locked us in the shop and drove away type of experience. (NOT kidding) I always thinks is funner to explore on your own, but if that's not your thing you might want to look at a guided tour.

Hotels and Activities:
The Groupon deal for Australia has selected companies and hotels that were able to offer them discounts for offering lower rates to get more people to fill their open rooms or schedules. The hotels Groupon is working with are not 5 star, but they also aren't the cheapest you can get.
If you book on your own trip at less expensive hotels you can get your total "pieced together" trip lower then the packaged deal.

I bought a snorkeling tour in Florida last summer on Groupon for $49 each. The tour company in Australia is charging $187 per person. Granted it's in another country and I have no idea if Australia has "Groupons" but my point is that there are better deals out there if you look for them. You might even be able to call the company and they will quote you a lower rate then online. Or your hotel might be able to offer you a discounted rate on select activities if you book through them.

Time Allotted:
I stated earlier that I've been to Australia twice. I've never been to the Gold Coast aka "Surfer's Paradise" but I've been to Carnies and Sydney. 3 days in Cairns as listed in the packaged deal is a good amount of time. 4 nights in Sydney is too many in my opinion. I'd say 3 would be my max but I'd probably opt for 2. When you purchase packaged deals you are on their time schedule.

Airfare will be the highest expense on the trip. I suggest doing a search on your own to see what airfare you are able to get. Starting with airfare rates will give you a good idea if it will be worth it to book the trip on your own.

Another thing to consider is transportation to and from the airport. Dose the hotel you are staying at offer a free shuttle to or from the airport? Package deals usually include hotel transport.

Are there eating establishments nearby your hotel? Does the hotel offer free breakfast? Whenever possible we always book hotels with free breakfasts. It saves us time in the morning so we can gut up and go see the sights rather then having to find breakfast on the road.

Off Season:
Package deals seem to pop up a lot during the destinations off season. Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere so in May they are just getting into fall. The weather should still be nice, but be sure you question on any package deal if you are okay to go at that time of year or if you are just going to get the deal. If you are not okay going at that time of year, hold out and look for deals on every aspect of your trip and you can book the trip you want when you want to go.

We decided to take advantage of off season airfare deals in Florida last August. Ya~Florida in August, one word....HUMID!!! But the airfare was only $138 round trip from SLC, UT to Florida. We had to purchase 5 tickets so for us the price outweighed the time of year.

So in summary:

  1. Start with a search of Airfare prices you can get on your own. I always start with Kayak.
  2. Search for hotels and check reviews at Trip Advisor
  3. Trip Advisor also lists local activities and places to eat.
  4. Do some quick math so you can determine if the package deal is cheaper for you.

For more vacation planning tips click HERE.

Pin It!


  1. Love Australia! We also visited Sydney and Cairns. Spent 2 months in the Brisbane area. We want to go back so thanks for the info.

  2. The one time I got a packaged deal, it was before the internet and it was a ripoff. Our honeymoon to the bahamas during a tropical storm and we were not told about the taxes we would have to pay when we got there and had to spend almost all of our spending money on the taxes. We now read everything just to make sure there are no surprises!

  3. Great tip Missy! I am also not a fan of packaged deals. At least when you piece your own package together you can figure out the taxes and there are no service fees. Thanks for sharing! :)


I love comments! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, I read every single one.