Package holidays cheaper than DIY bookings

Which? Travel disproves the common assumption that holidays booked yourself cost less than through an agent

A 'package' holiday is not always what you think. Tailored, micro-group touring can be really cost-effective. More often than not, once we factor in the complete costs of travel, we beat the price our customers find online. A study by UK-based consumer-protection company, Which? Travel has proved this, finding that travel packages are more affordable in in eight out of 10 cases.       

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:

“Many people are put off booking a package because they worry they’ll have to pay more than booking their flight and accommodation separately, but as our research shows, a package could save holidaymakers hundreds on the cost of their holiday.

The benefits are even greater, if you factor in working with a reputable booking agent:

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been urging holidaymakers to book a package if they were considering a holiday over the summer or are looking to book for next year, given the unparalleled protections they offer if things don’t go to plan.

“Not all holiday providers are equal though. Anyone planning on booking a holiday for 2021 should strongly consider booking a package with a reputable provider that has treated customers fairly in recent months, to ensure their cash is protected if something goes wrong.”

The consumer champion looked at the price of the cheapest package holidays available online from five UK airports from both Jet2holidays and Tui, and compared them with the cost of identical DIY holidays. It found the package holidays were cheaper in eight out of 10 cases – with the biggest saving more than £400 (AU$725) on a holiday to Greece.

The research suggests holidaymakers taking the package route could save hundreds of dollars on the cost of their trip, while also avoiding the risk of losing their money if they can’t travel due to government restrictions, lockdown or if their airline or hotel goes bust.

A package holiday is a booking comprising at least two travel-related services made through the same source, most commonly flights and accommodation. Since July 2018, holidaymakers booking in this way have enjoyed extra protections.

In the examples Which? looked at, researchers calculated the cost of the DIY package using the cheapest airfare from the same airport on the same date as the tour operator package, and included one check-in bag per passenger. The cost of return airport transfers was also included in the DIY bookings if these were included in the corresponding package booking, to create an identical holiday.

The biggest saving was £442 (AU$800), for a two-week holiday for a couple flying to Rhodes from Bristol, booked through Tui. The same holiday with travel and accommodation booked separately would cost £1,025 (AU$1860), compared to £583 ($1057) when booked as a package – an increase of 76 per cent.

The average saving across the eight packages that were cheaper than a DIY booking was £157 (AU$285).

How are you protected in Australia?

You must be informed of your rights and obligations before money changes hands

Australian consumer law requires anyone booking travel for you, to be completely upfront about the terms and conditions that apply. When you book a holiday yourself, you are entering a contract with a dozen or more separate legal entities. A reputable travel agent will manage those relationships for you (including seeking refunds, rebooking etc), so you only have one contract. That makes the travel agent responsible for ensuring you're fully aware of any terms and conditions before paying anything. Note, there are always residual risks and this is where you would usually enter into a relationship with a reputable insurer–during the pandemic, that has become harder, so advice from your agent is even more essential. 

Zero dollar deposits

Everyone is offering this at the moment, not because it is different, but because it's legally required. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been quite clear in its travel advice, that money must not exchange hands, until you (the customer) have had your obligations and rights explained to you in full. This usually means confirming that you have read and understood payment arrangements and signed something to this effect.

Uncertainty during the pandemic

The pandemic is an extra level of uncertainty, on top of what usually exists. Every supplier has a different set of conditions, so it is a travel agent's job to ensure that you are aware of the specific terms and conditions for all of the components of your holiday. If you are booking yourself direct, online, with suppliers of individual products, then each company is required to do the same. 

Other protections you should expect

When you buy a holiday, you should expect your money to be paid to the locals in a timely manner. The pandemic exposed a practice that has become common among Online Travel Agents, where your money can be 'invested'. Let's say the average two-person holiday is AU$6,500 and a company is doing 10,000 bookings a year and paying its suppliers every 60 days, at any one time, there is $11M sitting in an account waiting to be paid forward. Less scrupulous companies were trading with this money on the promise it would come in again, two months later ... when the pandemic hit, the tap was turned off and the companies were left millions of dollars in debt. There is no reason this should ever happen!

One-to-one service

It stands to reason that when you are passing thousands of dollars over to someone else, it is good to have a human being as contact. This is why we do not book travel, unless we have made contact with you personally and know exactly what you want. 

Money held in trust

When you book with most travel agents, your money is held in an independent trust account. That means it cannot be used for investment or even day-to-day operating costs. Accredited travel agents (look for ABTA / ATAS symbols) may or may not operate this system. Some have voluntary holding accounts and you may have a good and trusting relationship with them already. If you are unaware of how your money is being used, it's vital that you ask–even if you are booking direct with a supplier.     

When you book with us, you are getting

  • Personal one-to-one service.
  • Tailor-made itineraries to suit your budget and interests.
  • A full list of inclusions and exclusions (no cost surprises).
  • Advice on flights, connections, transfers, experiences, accommodation, car hire etc. Fully-inclusive options.
  • Travel and health updates, visa and entry requirements.
  • Full advice on travel insurance and cancellation risk.
  • Peace of mind that you are dealing with an AFTA & ATAS accredited agency with all payments held in a Client Trust Account. 
  • Full transparency of our Advisory & Booking Services as well as our suppliers’ terms and conditions, including payment schedules. 
  • Hotline for 24-hour emergency assistance.
  • Detailed itinerary with local contact numbers for the travel products and services in your trip.
  • Special needs assistance (e.g. wheelchairs, child & baby assist).
  • Local knowledge about what to do, places to eat, weather and logistics.
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