The Finance of Travel: Should I take a tour package?

While planning my trip to Rajasthan last year, one of my first thoughts was- should I take a tour package? When I looked at the hassles of planning a trip- booking tickets, making an itinerary that covered everything, finding good hotels etc, it all seemed like a big headache. A tour package did seem like the easy and convenient way out, and most tour companies suggested that it would be economical too. The lazybones in me was all too ready to go the tour package way, but the economical budget fanatic resisted.

I ultimately chose to make my own arrangements, and they worked out really well for me. After the trip was done, however, I thought I’d do a quick comparison of the costs I’d incurred vis-a-vis the cost of a tour package. What I found was interesting.

First off, let me list down the reasons you may want to go with a tour package.

1. Everything is pre-arranged: From your travel arrangements to your hotel to your itinerary, everything is arranged by the tour company. So you need not rack your head to figure out how to see everything at A in one day and how to get from A to B.

2. It’s more convenient: If you plan your own trip, you have to do everything, from booking the tickets to comparing hotel prices to making arrangements for transportation. In a tour package, the company takes care of it all, saving you numerous pre-trip hassles.

3. Safety: When you make your own arrangements, there is always the worry that the hotel you chose may not be safe or comfortable, and this worry is compounded for solo travelers. Traveling with tour groups gives you the advantage of safety in numbers, and also the assurance that the hotels chosen and the transportation will be reasonably comfortable and safe.

4. You have company: Often, tour companies arrange large tour groups during special occasions like Diwali or Christmas. On such tours, you get to meet different kinds of people, make new friends and enjoy the sights with them.

All the above factors may make tour packages seem like attractive choices. However, tour packages do have a flip side.

1. Everything is pre-arranged: Yes, what is an advantage is a disadvantage as well. While most tour packages do allow you some time to go off on your own, most of the time you have to follow their itinerary. So, if you want to spend more time gorging on the street food of Old Delhi vs seeing the Birla Temple and the Lotus Temple and the ISCKON Temple all in one morning, you may not be able to do so.

2. Jam-packed itineraries: Most tour packages focus on squeezing as much sightseeing as they can within a short time. If you like soaking up the sights or immersing yourself in a place, a tour package may not be the best option.

3. More expensive: The costs for a Rajasthan tour from most tour operators, including the government ones, ranged around Rs 20,000 per person for the route I took (Delhi-Jodhpur-Jaipur-Udaipur-Delhi). In comparison, I was able to travel from Bangalore-Delhi-Jodhpur-Jaipur-Udaipur-Delhi-Bangalore, comfortably with no safety issues whatsoever, for the same price for two people, i.e. Rs 10,000 per person. It took some time and effort to research budget hotels and make appropriate travel arrangements, but I’d say 50% off the quoted price was worth the effort.

According to me, the safety aspect of a tour is the most attractive thing about it. When you make your own arrangements, you never know whether the hotel you chose is in a safe location or not, whether your rented car’s driver is decent or not. With a good tour company, you have some semblance of safety and security. Of course, problems happen, but on the whole, tour packages are considered safer.

I think a tour package makes sense if you are traveling abroad, to multiple countries. Certainly a package would reduce the hassles of comparing hotel prices and checking connecting flight timings. If you are traveling within India, I personally prefer to make my own arrangements, unless it is an experience I’m going for, like, say, a cycling tour of Nandi Hills.

What do you think? Do you prefer the convenience of tours, or do the economics of making your own itinerary?

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