Package holiday. A phrase to cause eyerolls in the travel blogging community. And I know, because I’ve done it too. When people have asked which company we used for our US and Canada roadtrips, or our multi-city breaks in Croatia and Italy.
“No, no, we’ve booked it all ourselves. Yes, it’s easy. All it takes is a year or so of research. And a dozen spreadsheets. And an A4 binder full of confirmations and itineraries and maps”
It’s fun planning a trip. But it can also be stressful. Even when I’m taking my own advice like the wisdom I dispensed here and here. And this time, after a year where we’ve moved house – me, for the first time in 22 years – we don’t need any more stress. So we’ve booked our November trip to Costa Rica with TUI. Yes, a package holiday.
And this one is a holiday. We’re not being travellers, or adventurers, or explorers. We are on holiday. We’re holiday-makers. Maybe even the dreaded “tourists”. Not since Mexico in 2014 have we booked a two-week holiday where everything is arranged for us. Food, accommodation, transport, excursions. That was also the last two-week holiday where we stayed in one place, in one hotel, from arrival to departure. Where we could unpack, hang up clothes and put away our suitcases. Even Malta this year and Tenerife in 2016 were DIY, with each element meticulously researched.
To do Costa Rica DIY would have cost us more than the money we had earmarked for this trip. The flights, the car hire, food and drink, national park fees, activities. We’re not backpackers or budget travellers, so we would have looked for a certain amount of luxury in our accommodation. Fourteen nights different accommodation doesn’t come cheap. This way, we’ve already paid our money – no lingering credit card debts for adventures already enjoyed – and all we need is spending money.
And there’s the planning. Don’t think I didn’t do my research. Plotting the things we’d want to see, the areas we’d want to visit – I soon realised there would have been hours spent driving between destinations, wrestling with maps and directions – and Costa Rican roads are notoriously dangerous with sporadic road signs and dodgy drivers. A bit like driving in Malta. Or Birmingham. As much as Mr Fletche and I have developed a pretty good driver/navigator relationship, I didn’t want our 10th wedding anniversary trip to be the one where I navigated us into a ravine or Mr Fletche runs over a sloth.
But even we agreed that we didn’t want to just laze on a beach, drinking our way through the all-inclusive cocktail menu for 2 weeks. Which is why we’ve opted for a combined tour-and-beach holiday. We’re spending a week travelling from Pacific to Atlantic coast, staying in haciendas and hot springs resorts, exploring volcanoes and rainforests, and taking park in organised activities such as horse riding and tubing. And then we’re lazing on a beach, drinking our way through the all-inclusive cocktail menu
Of course, there is also the peace of mind with a package holiday, especially with a large company such as TUI. Should anything go wrong, we’re ATOL protected. It’s always a risk going DIY – if just one thing goes wrong it could impact on everything else, although we always use credit cards where possible so we’re financially protected. But it’s the hassle. In North America we were willing to take the risk because there were no language barriers, and in Europe we’re a lot closer to home. But we don’t fancy having to sort out any potential problems in Central America with our rudimentary Spanish so having access to English-speaking support from a holiday company is invaluable.
Will we book independently in future? Of course we will. But sometimes we just want to sit back, pick a destination and let someone else do the legwork.