Packaged To Go

Know what your vacation deal really includes

Valerie Mitchell and her husband, both advertising executives in Los Angeles, wanted a hassle-free vacation, establishing the costs right up-front. “Our goal was to get a handle on the total cost of our trip before we left for vacation,” she says. They focused on all-inclusives and vacation packages, deciding on an all-inclusive resort in Antigua.

Vacation packages and all-inclusives are great travel options for saving money, but there are differences.

All-Inclusives
All-inclusive resorts usually cater to a specific clientele: honeymooners, singles, or families. They do not often include airfare but can offer great value by including much more than your meals, such as spa services, land and water sports, cocktail parties, and room service.

Vacation Packages
Newspapers have tons of ads that read six days/five nights to Paris including round-trip airfare for $489 dollars, or seven nights in Tahiti with airfare for $799. In its most basic form, a vacation package usually combines airfare and hotel, or airfare, hotel, and car rental. Meals, recreational activities, and incidentals are out-of-pocket expenses. You can save as much as 40% on vacation packages, but you should always check the accommodations to make sure they are to your standard and liking.

Some destinations are promoted as “special interest,” such as casino packages to Las Vegas or Atlantic City, and there are ski and golf packages, too. Contus offers a number of golf packages. Their Hawaii Prince Hotel Package for five nights includes airfare, oceanfront accommodations, and three rounds of golf for two, plus one hour of golf instruction per person for $191.50 per day. Airfare would average between $600 and $800.

Check the legitimacy of these packages with the United States Tour Operators Association (www.USTOA.com) and your local Better Business Bureau or attorney general’s office. “The USTOA requires member companies to have been in business for at least three years under the same ownership,” says Linda Kundell, spokesperson for the USTOA, “and all members must take out a [USTOA] $1 million Consumer Protection Plan to protect consumers in the event of a bankruptcy or closure.”

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