Which is cheaper: package tours or independent travel

What is the best way to travel: independently or take a tour?

Travel is an endless road of learning and discovery, inspiration, feeling full of life and the vast world around us. No matter how old we are, when we travel, time, which flies faster and faster over the years, slows down, opens our eyes wider and makes us breathe with full breath.

Emotions creep under our skin, leaving a second trace on our bodies and an eternal trace in our souls. Once you know the fresh taste of adventure, few can refuse to feel it again.

But before we plunge headfirst into the study of ancient European architecture or forget ourselves on the fabulous beaches of famous resorts, we have a more prosaic stage – the preparation of our journey. Here we have a choice: to put all the cares on the shoulders of travel agencies by buying a ready-made tour, or to organize a trip yourself.

Choosing how to travel is not only a matter of taste and preferences, but also a question of the purpose of the trip and the feasibility of a particular decision. So we decided to talk today about the difference between independent travel and ready-made tours.

Let’s understand the concepts.

Ready-made tour or independent travel: what to choose?

Ready-made tour picks up a travel agency or a separate tour operator based on your wishes and preferences. You will be required to come to the office of the company, to provide the criteria for a trip like: “I want to go to Tunisia for a week, a five-star hotel, I will eat alone, I need breakfast and dinner! That is, provide an approximate date, type of holiday, destination, number of nights, and so on. Travel managers will choose the most suitable tour of the existing offers. A standard tour package usually includes airfare, medical insurance, hotel accommodation, meals, and transfers. If you need a visa for your trip, the travel agency will help to solve this problem.

Do you want to know the difference between a travel agent and a tour operator? Read this article.

Travelling on your own means that you should take care of all the details and arrange your trip by yourself. Itinerary planning, choosing and booking accommodation, buying tickets, getting visas and insurance, finding excursions, and so on, all this falls on your shoulders.

At first glance it seems that the choice is obvious – why bother to think for yourself if the travel agency will do everything for you? This is where the nuances that make the choice not so clear-cut. And it’s not just the additional cost of travel agency services.

More and more independent travelers today, but buying a ready-made tour in the travel agency is still a more common way to organize travel. Both options have their pros and cons. Of course, some of them would be more correct to call the features, because what is a burden to one, the other will only be a pleasure.

About this we will talk below.

Features of the ready-made package tour

As you have already realized, the main difference between traveling, organized by a tour operator from an independent trip – is the absence of the hassle associated with the preparation. All the “paperwork” associated with the registration of documents, booking, search and purchase of tickets and other services the travel agency takes care of. You only need to sign the contract, pay for services and, waiting for the planned dates, finally go on a long-awaited vacation. Travel agency organizes your vacation “from” and “to.

The quality of these services depends on each company separately, and on how carefully you selected a tour operator and the conditions it offers.

So, the advantages of package tours.

At the airport of arrival you and all your fellow travelers in this tour must be met and will be taken to the hotels, so the question of how to get to your accommodation, you will not worry.

If you wish, you will be offered all sorts of excursions and entertainment available in the selected location. Of course, excursions booked in the tour company will cost you more than those purchased on the spot, but they will definitely be Russian-speaking and safe.

Most of the unforeseen problems associated with the organization of the rest solves the tour operator. If you have problems with accommodation, transportation, service personnel, and even with the airline – you have every right to rely on the tour operator to solve these issues.

This crazy world of monuments.

Following a holiday on a tour, you may have little or no knowledge of a foreign language. Hotel employees and guides are likely to speak to you in your language.

The cost of charter flights is much lower than regular flights.

Namely the opportunity to buy a last minute tour. In the high season traveling on your own less than a week to book an accommodation is not easy, and to buy the most expensive ticket – almost impossible. And last minute tours are almost always available.

Unpleasant nuances of package tours.

  • The illusion of choice.

Only at first sight it seems that proposals from travel agencies in the market wagon and a small cart. In fact the choice is limited starting from the direction and finishing with the lodging.

Charter flights, which tour agencies use, are organized to the most popular destinations, and their list is not so great. The terms of the tours are strictly regulated, and can not always coincide with your wishes or opportunities. So you will have to adjust.

In contrast, the dates of charter flights do not have a clear schedule, because they are adjusted to the tours, and the exact date of departure is notified by the travel agency a couple of days before the flight. In addition, charter flights are often shifted, postponed, or canceled.

For accommodation you will be offered only the hotels with which the travel agency has an agreement. Respectively, you can have meals paid for at the restaurant or cafe, which are included in your tour package.

Flight and transfer, as well as tours are organized for the entire group of tourists. Accordingly, your pastime, mental and sometimes physical condition to some extent will depend on the people around. Not everyone is well organized, well mannered and well socialized.

Someone begins to celebrate the start of the holiday is on the plane, preventing you to rest or sleep, someone before the tour will forget the camera in the room, and he will have to wait, just like a lost luggage neighbor on the plane. Well, yes, the colors may be thickened, but each of these options when traveling “organized crowd” is very likely.

You pay for the tour exactly as much as indicated in the invoice of the travel agency. And if you really save on the flight, then the final cost of the trip will still include all the overheads of the travel agency from the agency’s commission to the rental office.

When you travel on a tour you see just the facade of the country, its popular tourist routes and well-known attractions. In itself, of course, this is very good, but in light of the cursory group sightseeing, the time savings, and the same photo courses, the charm is a little erased.

No, of course you have every right to separate from the group and continue the review on your own. But was it worth spending money on the tour service in that case?

However, the obvious advantage here is the story of the guide, especially if it is a professional and competent.

Features of an independent travel

An independent travel is always an adventure, starting from the moment of planning and preparation. And there is no need to talk about the very process of the trip.

The main advantages of independent travel

The main advantages of independent travel for most travelers are:

    Freedom of choice. In every sense.

You yourself decide when to go on a trip and have the opportunity to buy a ticket for the ideal dates for you. Regular flights fly strictly on schedule regardless of cabin occupancy. True, we are not talking about delays due to technical or weather reasons.

Also, you yourself determine how many days, weeks, months you will traverse the expanse of our planet. You yourself make up the route, which you can change at any time. Nowadays it is very common to travel for quite long periods, the so-called “winter vacation”, when travelers, alone or with their families, go to warm countries in the winter. Such trips last several months.

Travel without problems. What to occupy a child in the car

You are completely free to choose your lodging. Being on a trip is not necessary to stay in a hotel. Today the list of options for accommodation is represented by a huge number of different hostels, campgrounds, apartments, which can be easily found on resources like airnbnb or booking. By the way, because of this is the next pleasant thing.

Many people think that independent travel is more expensive than the tour. Sometimes this is true, especially if the trip is short, and you’re going to get a regular flight, which is always more expensive than the charter. However, if you are traveling at least a couple of weeks, then choosing to hostels or apartments will help you significantly reduce this item of expenditure. The price tag on them is lower than the standard hotel rooms, sometimes several times over.

In addition, you can save money on cooking, since almost all of the apartments and hostels have their own kitchen. If you do not want to cook on vacation, you can always find a cafe more budget than the prescribed tour restaurant. Well and an additional plus – no schedule of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as opposed to “all-inclusive” trip.

Well, and flights. This of course is unlikely, but if you’re lucky you can catch cheap tickets for charter flights, which sell out travel agencies at an incomplete tour sale. True, these places appear suddenly and fly apart in an instant, so you have to be lucky and fast at the same time.

You are guided only by yourself everywhere and everywhere. You do not need to wait for stranded at the airport and late for the transfer passengers or collecting a group on an excursion. You wake up, pack up, and set out to explore the unknown.

While an organized tour will take you through the traveled places that you have read about many times in other people’s blogs or heard about in the stories of friends and acquaintances, an independent travel gives you an unlimited choice of routes that can become unique. You see not only the facades of countries and cities covered with magnets and tourist signs, but also their unknown areas and corners filled with authentic culture and atmosphere.

It’s a chance to delve deeper into the ordinary life of the country, understand its mentality, see it through the eyes of the locals, and even make interesting acquaintances with them. Sometimes only the natives can show you places that no guidebook can tell you about, or share useful information that is not available to ordinary tourists. And in the end take pictures that are not like those you see in the albums of package tourists.

But we must remember that no matter how exciting the adventure is, and it has its pitfalls.

The main disadvantages of independent travel are

  • Liability.

The fact that all the worries of preparing for the trip will fall on your shoulders, you have already understood. Finding accommodation, buying tickets, arranging insurance, making an itinerary and plan all take time and effort. In order to travel comfortably, you will need to study a lot of information on the Internet, read the reviews of other travelers and well think through every detail of the trip.

In addition, abroad there may be situations that you can not anticipate in advance, such as health problems, or an encounter with crime. In addition, each country has its own laws and regulations, which may be unexpected. And ignorance of the law, as we know, does not exempt from liability.

And if the “packaged” tourists can be helped by their tour operator, then you have to clean up the problems yourself.

Therefore, in order to best protect yourself from unexpected situations and emergencies, it is better to buy a full medical insurance in advance, as well as learn the basic laws and requirements for tourists operating in the country.

It is not available. Neither is there a guide. You will have to understand the transport system of the country on your own, which for a visitor may not always be immediately understandable.

Knowing English is not just desirable, but mandatory. If you are traveling on a tour situations where you will need English to a minimum, then on your own without knowing at least the most common phrases and expressions will be difficult.

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Although in some places, even it will not help. For example, in the hinterland of France in any other language except French, either can not explain, or very strongly do not want to. The same situation may arise in any non-English-speaking country.

For all the freedom of choice of routes, there are places in the world where tourist access is restricted. Some museums or national parks can be accessed only in an organized group.


Well, we have considered the main features of both types of travel, and as you can see, there is no single answer to the question “What is better? Each of us chooses to our liking, based on their own abilities and preferences.

Many tourists successfully use both types of travel. Some people see no other way but to go to a travel agency. And independent travel sometimes becomes a way of life, when a person simply can no longer feel comfortable if his mail does not lie another confirmation of the reservation or not bought a ticket.

Sometimes one can notice a sin behind independent travelers – snobbish attitude towards package tourists. Like, you have not smelled the gunpowder, comrades, you look only at facades, but warm your belly on beaches.

However, this view is not always fair and always unwise. Everyone has a right to choose how to travel. The more so that sometimes the choice of package tours is not due to laziness, fears, or lack of ability to independently organize a trip, but to basic common sense. In one of the following articles we will tell you about the situations when and to whom it is better to organize the vacation by yourself, and when it is better to turn to a travel agency.

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What is cheaper: a tour or a trip by yourself?

Real battles sometimes break out on the Internet forums between independent travelers and those who rest exclusively on tours, on the question: what is cheaper, to rest on their own, or to go on a trip. We decided to deal with this question as objectively as possible, using simple mathematics. Namely, we will determine the cost of a standard trip to a popular holiday on a tour, and compare it with the cost of an exactly the same independent travel.

For the sake of objectivity we will provide screenshots of prices from popular booking sites. Skeptics should know right away, that all of the sources below are proven sites for searches and reservations, with actual prices. The price you see in the screenshots is exactly the price you would pay without any hidden fees and commissions. If you do not want to read the long and tedious calculation and comparison below, you can skip straight to the results and conclusions.

Terms of comparison

For the calculation, we take a popular destination among Russians – Thailand, because it is also one of the most convenient places for independent travelers. Average price options are used, i.e., not the cheapest, but also not too expensive. We do a +/- 10 day scatter by dates, because the price can change significantly, depending on the day of the flight, and we have to choose the cheapest options for flights to compete with the “wholesale” price tour operators.

Tour Search

Searching through the Travelata tour search engine gave us a good average option for the four-star Pinnacle Grand Jomtien Resort in Pattaya from 72,148 rubles.

Screenshot of a tour search

Moving on, we get the final information about the tour:

  • Period: 01/03/18 – 08/03/18 (7 nights)
  • Breakfast: STANDARD
  • The tour includes: flight, transfers, hotel, meals of your choice and insurance.

The total price to pay remains unchanged – 72 148 rubles, all honestly.

Screenshot of a tour search

Independent travel arrangements

Our flight search for nearby dates gave us two tickets for 40,906 rubles. Here it is worth noting that the dates with the tour do not match, because we could not find an inexpensive flight for the exact dates of the tour. Therefore, we used the Aviasales flight search capabilities to find the best prices. Why airfare prices vary so much from date to date, and how to buy the cheapest tickets, read here.

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Screenshot of the airline search

Screenshot of the airline search

Transfer which is included in the price of the tour we could not count in the price of the trip, because from Bangkok airport to Pattaya is easy to reach by local transport, and it would not cost much at all. But since not everywhere has public transportation, for the sake of purity of the experiment we use the search personal transfer Kiwitaxi.

Note, by the way, that the personal transfer from KiwiTaxi is much more comfortable than the group from tour operators, so the price is quite high. One way cost was 2821 rubles, and since we still have to go back to the airport, the total cost is 5642 rubles.

Screenshot of the transfer search

Searching for a hotel. To check the hotel price we use Agoda hotel search and booking site at once, bypassing all kinds of aggregators and meta-search engines, because Agoda is a proven system that traditionally gives the best prices for hotels in Asia and around the world.

But here we get a real “surprise” for those who are convinced that traveling alone is always cheaper. The cost of accommodation for 7 nights at the Pinnacle Grand Jomtien Resort comes out to 30,529.19 rubles, and in the end the cost of independent travel becomes higher than the tour! Checking prices at booking.com, hotellook.ru and other popular hotel booking systems produces prices only higher.

Screenshot of hotel search

Screenshot of hotel search

Insurance. Although it is already clear that the total cost of self-organized travel comes out more expensive, we do the calculation in order to estimate the scope further. We look for insurance using the travel insurance search engine Cherehapa, which compares and displays the prices of several companies. In the end we get the cheapest option – 1382 rubles for two people.

Screenshot of insurance search

Let’s summarize.

So, to the great regret of independent travelers, which include us (the authors of the site), a package tour for two to Thailand in the hotel Pinnacle Grand Jomtien Resort for 7 days in March 2018 cost less than an independent trip to it.

  • The cost of a package tour – 72,148 rubles.
  • The cost of an independent trip – 78,469 rubles , made up of:
    • Airfare – 40,906 rubles.
    • Transfer – 5 642 rubles
    • Hotel accommodation – 30 529 rubles
    • Insurance – 1 382 rubles

    You can save if you don’t need a personal transfer and use the local transport or a cab, but even in this case a package tour is at least a little bit cheaper.

    However, do not rejoice fans of package tours and grieve independent travelers. The truth, as always, is somewhere nearby, because for comparison we took a popular destination for a short period of time. But as soon as you increase the travel time, specify a more complex route (with visits to several cities and attractions), or make a comparison for non-mass tourist destinations, the situation changes dramatically, and independent travel becomes much more profitable. Even if you take the original price of 72,148 rubles for a package tour, for this money an experienced independent tourist can see much more and rest longer, it is only worth learning how to save. And how to do this, you can learn on the pages of our website, for example, in useful articles about economical travel.

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    • ☂ Take out insurance to be safe at Sravni.ru or Cherehapa.ru
    • Rent a car at Rentalcars.com or Localrent.com
    • Book a transfer from the airport to your holiday destination on Kiwitaxi.ru
    • View tours online on tripster.ru
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    Re: Что лучше, бронировать отель заранее или искать на месте? nausla 13 Март, 2019 От меня уже смысл стал ускользать. r>Я так понимаю пришли к следующему:r>1. Бесплатная отмена бронирования возможна до определенной даты, бывают конечно исключения но я такие видел пару раз за 5 лет.r>2. Бронировать зарание определенно имеет смысл, обычно к приезду все прилисные варианты дорожают. Разумеется если не случаются форсмажоры.r>3. Если на сто процентов уверены в поездке – надо брать более дешевые варианты без права возврата денег. Кстати полностью согласен.r>Добавил бы еще, что надо смотреть: расположение отеля, предоставляемые услуги (трансфер, вайфай, площадь номера, кондиционирование и т.д.)r>Also read reviews, preferably on more than one oesource, and don’t take with a rating below 8. Of course if you are interested in the quality of the vacation .

    Re: Что лучше, бронировать отель заранее или искать на месте? Горыныч 14 Март, 2019 r>И не забывать, что чем больше требований к жилью, тем больше вероятности, что у вас будут проблемы, если не забронировать заранее. Одно дело, когда вас устраивает обычная двушка без привязки к конкретному месту, а другое – когда нужны большие комфортные апартаменты не абы где, да еще в достаточно высокий сезон.r>For example, today I was looking for a very long accommodation in Nice for six people. It was necessary in the center, near the sea and with separate beds, not to mention the fact that no 2-story bunks. At a reasonable price such options are in principle the minimum, even heavily in advance .

    Re: What’s better, to book a hotel in advance or look for it on the spot? Navalny March 14, 2019 very strange advice, given that different resources “weight” of reviews different and different system of ratings. for example, 8-9 points hotels.com is about 7 at Buking. and how can you book a place with an assessment not below 8, for example, on airbnb or tripadvisor, where the maximum rating – 5? and why not book accommodation with a rating of 7 on Buking, if there is even 6.5 quite acceptable? where is such love for the number 8?

    Re: Что лучше, бронировать отель заранее или искать на месте? nausla 14 Март, 2019 r>Например для того, что бы не получить сарй в котором и собаку стыдно поселить. Насмотревшись левых фоток от отельера.r>А про оценку, да надо было утлчнить, что по шкале букинга.r>Про лотерею airbnb тут зачем? Для вас секрет – частое нарушение соглашений владкльцами жилья? А ведь вы тут в основном именно на реферальных ссылках живете. r>tripadvisor вообще очень странный ресурс, имеет смысл только как площадка для прочтения отзывов. Лично несколько раз сталкивался, что высокая оценка на этом ресурсе по факту фейк.r>Впрочем удаление отрицательных постов, не оказание помощи, размещение некорректной информации характерно и для букинга. Он ничем не лучше остальных. r>Соответственно, чем ниже оценка (причем чем больше отзывов тем оценка будет объективней) тем больше вероятность нарваться на приключения.r>And strange to read that 6.5 is also okay. Without evaluation in general is also acceptable, and the game of “Russian roulette” does not always end sadly. .

    Re: What’s better, to book a hotel in advance or look for on the spot? Navalny March 14, 2019 more than 10 years of booking hotels on the boqing, except for a couple of times never booked a hotel with a rating of 8 or higher, and did not live in barns .

    Re: Что лучше, бронировать отель заранее или искать на месте? nausla 14 Март, 2019 Везет вам!r>А я пользуюсь ей уже больше 20 и имел счастье сталкиваться с негативом от этого ресурса неоднократно. r>Так что не обольщайтесь.r>And I did not live in barns because I had enough money to send scammers away and get a more expensive room, quickly and, unfortunately, without the help of the bookings in another hotel. This feat usually cost me 2-3 prices .

    Re: Which is better, booking a hotel in advance or looking locally? Strannica June 11, 2019 I always book in advance, looking locally is not my thing. Moreover, I always fly from a specific tour operator, that’s from him and then require a good accommodation))) .

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