Package holiday or independent travel?

Caroline Cassidy

The package holiday has been part of the British way of life for decades but in recent years has been under pressure from the growing popularity of independent travel. The rise of cheap "no frills" flights, the Internet and an increased access to far-flung destinations has meant more of us are taking a do-it-yourself approach to travel abroad.

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However, with the offer of excellent value for money and greater security it would be premature to write off package holidays just yet. Around 19 million people chose to holiday with a package deal last year - three and a half million more than 10 years ago.

So, if you are just about to book that much needed holiday what's the best option? Let's take a look at the pros and cons.

If you are travelling independently be sure to start your research early. Airlines will only set aside so many low cost seats and if you don't book well in advance you could find yourself paying more than you need to.

You may have decided to travel to an exotic location, like Morocco, South Africa, Thailand or India but before you go into all the various ways of doing it on your own it's worth considering the all-in-one approach. A package tour to an exotic location will often work out much cheaper than trying to do it all yourself when you add in flights, accommodation, tours etc.

Tour companies have moved with the times. They now offer a more complete and flexible approach to travel in order to meet the increasingly diverse demands of holidaymakers. There are still the all-inclusive breaks to the Med, if that's what you want but there are plenty of other, more adventurous choices. It is now possible to enjoy a real travel experience with all the security of a package.

Tour operators are often able to get considerable discounts with national airlines and hotel chains because they can offer a steady and reliable flow of business. So, you should be able to get a great deal, especially if you shop around. Of course, if you want something off the beaten track then a large tour company might not be the best place to start. There are some really good travel guides on the market that can help you find a place to stay in even the most remote destinations.

No matter what offers are on the table package holidays are not for everyone, especially if you like to have more control over what you want to do. If independence is really important to you then booking your own flights and accommodation yourself is probably the way to go.

It is also important to consider your own preference when it comes to travelling. If you like to arrive at an unfamiliar location without a safety net, remain free of schedules and do your own discovering then making your own way is what will work for you. However, some people are more comfortable with the reassurance of a package, especially when they are a long way from home.

The final decision rests with you and its best to do some thorough research before finding out what will suit you best.