I get a lot of requests for advice about how to make the most of the precious and limited time off work that my friends and family have each year. Is it better to go for all inclusive holidays or DIY options? Should you go in the off-season or at peak times? How do you get the best deals? Are there any definite dos and dont’s that cross cultural barriers and international borders? These are the trials of the international travel guru that my friends and family believe me to be.
The general answers that I give can basically be boiled down to “it depends”. Pretty much every holiday option has its ups and downs. If you have the time and resources to book individual flights, accommodation and sight-seeing trips you can often end up with a better deal, or at the very least a vacation plan that’s tailored to your particular peccadilloes. The problem is that this all requires a fair amount of effort, both before and during your holiday. Most important is requires that you set aside travel money
to make your vacation work for you.
If you’re not interested in micro-managing every aspect of your holiday or are just not very good at planning then you should probably just go with all inclusive holidays. There are still ways to get bargains – comparing various packages across agents and seeing if they offer any discounts can net you some savings. The other thing to bear in mind is that the organizing companies may have been able to organize bulk discounts and hence are able to offer cheaper deals than you may have expected.
In terms of peak versus off-peak, again there are positives and negatives. Off-season holidays may be cheaper and your destination less crowded, but many of the attractions and draws of the region may also be closed or only running partial services.
There are two main lessons I’ve learned that apply to any holiday in any region of any country. The first is to do your research. It’s almost never a good idea to take the first deal offered to you, whether you are looking at all inclusive holidays, hotel rates, or even just a price from a market trader. Comparing prices and checking ahead of time for special offers, deals and discounts will end up saving you time and money nearly every time. The second is to be polite. People understand that tourists may not always know the local customs and conventions. You will almost always find that the locals are happy to help you and will give you much more leeway if you are polite, friendly, and seem to be making a genuine effort to respect the local culture. Learning a few words of the local language such that you can say please and thank you is a great way to show respect.