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There is an endless debate about the difference between a traveler and a tourist. For the most part, we stay out of this debate – whatever gets people traveling and seeing the world is fine with us.
In fact, it is more than fine. Even just one trip abroad is enough to open your mind to a way of life entirely different to yours. In fact, even a trip to a different part of your own country gets you out of your element to see yourself and the world just a little bit differently.
But isn’t there something entirely inauthentic about a package tour? You’re stuck to a schedule, you see very little of a place before hopping aboard and heading to your next destination, or you end up staying a resort and never venturing outside it much at all.
So, what is the draw, why do some people prefer package vacations over independent travel? The first reason is likely that they see a package as a major money saver. Companies are able to get much lower rates on airfare and hotels and if you are at an all-inclusive, you know roughly up front what the full costs of your trip might be (excluding tips, extra snacks and drinks outside the resort, etc).
For those traveling with family, package vacations are attractive as a safe, regimented way to keep both kids and parents happy. There is often unlimited access to popular amenities like pool activities, sports, movies and food and snacks and many packages have a kids-eat-free policy which really helps a family’s budget.
Travelers with less experience often look for ways to maximize safety, and package vacations offer this in many ways. Tours are escorted so that you do not have to navigate or worry about missing buses or getting off at the wrong stop. When you have a guide, you have access to knowledge about the area as well, not only in terms of what dangers to look out for, but also to find out about major historical and cultural questions that might arise.
Today most of this information is available online – maps, public transportation options and recommendations by other travelers (in fact, we dedicate our own site to doing just that for readers!). But for less adventurous travelers or those who have limited time, having everything planned out might be the biggest appeal and create a low stress environment.
For independent travelers like ourselves, however, such a regimented tour might create more stress, as we would feel that we are missing out on authentic life outside of a resort or package vacation. However, one aspect that we must admit is attractive is that package vacations do allow you to stay at 4 or 5 star hotels at inexpensive prices that would be impossible to find on our own online.
Do you have to be either an independent traveler or someone who does package vacations? The best way to narrow down what vacation package is best for you is to consider what the purpose of your trip is really all about. Are you looking for a stress-free escape or to soak up a new city or a new culture? When you dream of the destination, what do envision your week or two weeks to look like? For the two of us, independent travel isn’t just a preference, it is our entire lifestyle, a way we live day in and day out for almost four years now. When we think about an actual vacation, we have to admit there is something tempting about someone else planning everything for us. I’m just not sure either one of us would be able to relinquish that kind of control!