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Are "Packages" Really Any Good?
Old 10-16-2014, 06:16 PM   #1
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Are "Packages" Really Any Good?

I saw Delta offered Atlanta to San Juan PR for $302 R/T and so checked Kayak from Charlotte to PR and it was $387...not bad. But what caught my eye was a pitch to bundle hotel and air to save lots of money.

So I did a Priceline package deal (picking my own hotel, but a range of times for the flight), and it came up to $1871 for the "package"* for seven nights. Priceline "snuck-in" a crappy return flight on me somehow.

Then I went to Kayak for air and Hotwire for hotel, and I got it for $1735 buying separately. And I did keep drilling into the reservation until they gave me the final-final prices, with all the extra hotel fees.

So I'm left wondering, why buy a package deal if it isn't less money? Are there ways to sort through this more quickly than doing this kind of digging?

I use Deal News for electronics, and that will give a rating of how good of a deal certain things are. Is there something like that for travel? I'm not a shopper, so going through umpteen iterations until I learn what is a good deal and what is not is like pulling teeth. Is there were a no-brainer way to do travel like there is for electronics?

* I ran the same Priceline search again, and it came up to over $1900 (didn't look at the flights). I ran it a third time and it came to $1811, and they replace the crappy flight with a normal one. Seems like Priceline is playing games with its customers, which makes shopping for travel even more burdensome.

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Old 10-16-2014, 08:11 PM   #2
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For a trip last month, I spent a few hours exploring every package option I could on travel aggregater sites compared to making separate hotel and air reservations, with and without a rental car, and I couldn't get any package at a better price than if I just called each provider separately. I think the package are attractively promoted as big discounts, but their only real advantage is convenience, which is negated by all the shopping they make you do. Next time I won't bother, I'll just buy separately and get the best deal I can on each component.

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Old 10-16-2014, 09:10 PM   #3
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We did a package deal through Southwest Vacations (the southwest airlines' travel site) to vegas a few years ago and it was a slightly better deal than paying for flights and hotel separately. Maybe $100-200 off regular prices (can't recall but maybe $450/person instead of $500-550/person if we booked hotel/air separate).

I've seen some decent savings at travelocity/expedia type sites too. Sometimes they'll offer a nice $100-200 coupon for booking air+hotel at the same time. I haven't booked anything like that lately though.
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Old 10-16-2014, 11:24 PM   #4
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I think it depends on the market. For the most part I too have been unipressed with ANY savings with almost every domestic package I have seen, but for Mexico, the air fare could be cheaper when packaged to a hotel over trying to book separately...

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Old 10-17-2014, 05:08 AM   #5
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Old 10-17-2014, 07:38 AM   #6
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I booked airfare thru Expedia and denied the hotel offer cuz I am meeting up with some others and they already booked a hotel.

After I booked Expedia sent me an "offer" for 50% off for making the flight booking thru them.

Hmmm - tempting...ok, so I checked the rate on the hotel our group already made reservations at and the Expedia "50% off" room rate was still the same as what the group booked at.

So much for 50% off - 50% off of what?

I think my conspiracy theory has been confirmed that store specials of X% off is really just repricing the items during the sale, then advertising the percent off that gets you back to the price before the sale.
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Old 10-17-2014, 07:48 AM   #7
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I usually price it both ways and typically find packages are no great deal and I can do better a la carte. I did have one instance going to Hawaii via Hawaiian Airlines (who are wonderful BTW) that I did get substantial savings on a package vs a la carte so I took advantage of that.
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Old 10-17-2014, 10:18 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BBQ-Nut View Post
So much for 50% off - 50% off of what?
My guess is 50% compared to the "rack rate" (list price that often is posted on the back of the door in US hotel rooms). I can't imagine anyone pays the rack rate for a hotel room. It's like full-fare coach tickets or the sticker prices at Macy's - who pays full retail for any of that?

Travel today seems to be a pretty efficient market - with online direct booking, dynamic capacity management, etc. It seems that travel agents or consolidators have lost much of any prior advantage they may have had (except perhaps for knowledge of locations and service in arranging things, which I'm sure some find useful, particularly for exotic locales).

We tend to use Tripadvisor and similar to screen locations and services, and then book directly for each item. That usually works out better than (or at least as well as) comparable packages on price, with the qualification that we are not typically "all-inclusive" travelers anyway, preferring to roll our own itinerary for most destinations.

We do take advantage of AARP, AAA or similar discounts which I think genuinely can save a few bucks, on hotels in particular. But we often rent apartments through VRBO or similar, particularly when the kids are along, so hotels aren't in the mix anyway.

It takes a some work but we enjoy the planning an I think we're probably "saving" a bit in the end.
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Old 10-17-2014, 02:24 PM   #9
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It used to be that air package deals to Hawaii were a really good deal - 20+ years ago! Not so clear now. And many hotels offer rental car discounts.
Well, I thought I was retired. But it seems that now I'm working as a travel agent instead!
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Old 10-17-2014, 03:35 PM   #10
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In the past - say 15-20 years ago, I was able to get some decent packages to London and to Hawaii. This was when expedia was the only game in town for booking online and travel agents still had pretty good deals on vacation "packages". Then all of the online travel sites came online - and now I check everything using kayak for price, and trip-advisor for reviews of hotels/vacation rentals.

I always price through priceline - but have never gotten a good enough deal with them for a hotel at my destination at my dates... so I've never actually purchased through them. But I always check with them.
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Old 10-19-2014, 04:54 PM   #11
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I agree, no savings with packages. I started listening to this podcast "Budget Minded Traveler" - some of it is not for us, but she had a very good hour on how to get the best airfares with the various aggregators. Here is the page on that

Find Cheap Flights - The Budget-Minded Traveler
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Old 10-19-2014, 05:50 PM   #12
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I normally don't even look at packages, since I am on the move all the time while on vacation and most packages lock you into one hotel. I have book through agencies that provide vouchers and list of place within a country that takes them and have found this to be pretty convenient since I am not locked into one hotel.
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Old 10-20-2014, 05:22 AM   #13
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Did a Travelocity air/hotel package last year. A week in Paris. I figured we got a free room night ($350?) as a result of the bundle vs going a separate bookings.

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