December 16, 2013 in Inspiration
Getting my haircut, as we travel, always makes me nervous.
I’m picky, and my haircuts have to be low maintenance. I put off going for as long as I possibly can and I always hold my breath a little as I lower myself into the chair. Annie put me at ease immediately this afternoon and before long we were deep in conversation about travel. She’s planning a trip to Italy with her daughter as a sixteenth birthday present; it will be their first international trip.
I came away with a great haircut, but I also came away inspired.
Our friend set is abnormally well traveled. On any given day I speak with people in five or six different countries. Our kids have best friends on four continents. Most of the people in our circles think nothing of an intercontinental flight or a months long road trip. It’s second nature to our peer group to live life in multiple languages, navigate unfamiliar territory and move between cultures with little regard for a comfort zone. I forget, sometimes, how weird that is.
Sitting with Annie this afternoon, listening to her enthusiasm for a two week trip to Rome with her only daughter I saw the world through new eyes. I heard her worries about leaving home for the first time and her concerns about getting lost or worse in a place that seems very far away. Her eyes were shining with excitement talking about their hope to visit the Vatican and to taste gelato for the first time. She asked me a million questions. I did my best to encourage her.
“You know,” I mused, “Since this is your first trip and since you’re worried about the logistics and it’s so important to get it right for your daughter’s 16th birthday, perhaps you should consider purchasing a package deal, something that would cover all of the bases for you and let you relax and enjoy the ride.”
We aren’t usually “package” type travelers, because we’ve been at this for a while and it’s a lifestyle for us, not a holiday. But there are some very good reasons to go with a package deal, especially if you’re just starting out and are finding your feet outside your home culture.
1. New Travelers
If you’re planning your first international trip as a family and you’re nervous about the details, peace of mind is worth the money. Airfare, hotel & tour options can be overwhelming and if planning is stressing you out, it would be better to go with a package on a trip you will enjoy than go the indie route and hate the process. Just because you read blogs by people who fly by the seat of their pants doesn’t mean you have to. Everyone starts somewhere and “adventure” can be defined incrementally! Start where you are comfortable!
2. Holiday Travelers
Tony and I booked a long weekend package deal to Iceland, from Boston, two winters ago. We were in need of a little couples escape and a break together: read that, I didn’t want to have to work at it, or plan it! We have been on organized trips to Hawaii and Mexico as well as a mini-cruise to the Bahamas years ago. Sometimes, it’s nice just to turn up and be able to rest. Even the most avid and independent travelers sometimes need a break; vacation packages offer that.
3. Budget Travelers
Sometimes the all inclusive vacation deals can be the absolute cheapest way to get somewhere. With airfare, lodging, perhaps even meals and tours rolled into one, the prices are often hard to beat. If your budget is as limited as your time, these deals can be the difference between an exotic locale and a “stay-cation.”
4. Try Before You Buy
If you are considering a longer journey to a particular country, either for work or adventure, perhaps a reconnaissance trip is in order. There might be great benefit to booking a package journey to the place you’re considering to get your feet wet, do some “on the ground” research and feel out whether a particular location is worthy of a much longer stay.
- Do your homework. There are loads of all-inclusive package type adventures to be had, but not all of them are a good deal.
- Maximize value by considering travel during shoulder seasons. If you are flexible in your dates you will have the best chance of bagging a really great deal.
- Be flexible in your departure cities. If you’re in the northern USA, don’t overlook the possibilities departing from Canada; often driving a few hours and crossing a border can save a bundle. Don’t forget to factor in the fluctuating exchange rate; it can make a noticeable difference, especially for families! It was far cheaper for us to fly out of Toronto to Bangkok than it was from either Boston or NYC, so we did!
- Be willing to use just half of an itinerary. Sometimes a package deal will provide a soft landing in a country that you plan to travel longer in. Don’t be afraid to use only half of a return ticket if it serves your larger needs. It might be cheaper in the long run to book a 10 day return through a package and then pay the extra fee to change the airline ticket portion to allow you to stay longer. Get creative!
So what about you? Have you taken packaged holidays? What are the pros and cons? Would you recommend them to my new friend, Annie?