Few actions provide more giddy anticipation than uncapping a Sharpie and scrawling “O N V A C A T I O N” across an entire week of your wall calendar. Having a tropical getaway to look forward to puts a spring in your step and fun visions in your head because soon you’ll get to switch to auto-reply on your work email, relax with your family and enjoy a beautiful locale — preferably with a Mai Tai in hand. But travel is expensive, so unless you’re Jeff Besos, you probably have to budget.

So how do we get a little more bang for our buck, have just as much fun and maybe even save enough cash to hasten saving for our next trip? Packages are one way to go. Booking your airfare and your hotel together through a reputable online travel service like Orbitz, Travelocity or Expedia can keep the costs down — but it is not right for every trip. Pros and cons exist in most every travel bundle, so here are some basic tips to help you decide when to seek out a package and when to stick with a la carte:

Booking a package could be beneficial when:

  1. Spending less is your top priority. Depending on your current budget, sometimes the “How much?” is even more important than the “Where to?” Sometimes price can be the difference between going and not going. Maybe it’s been an extra tight year for you otherwise or you’ve had to pay for a big event recently. (Perhaps it’s your honeymoon.) A well-designed travel package can get you the same flight and hotel experience for a lot less money than purchasing them separately. You may have to concede on certain details, however. For example: stay on a different shore of the island or use travel dates that are less convenient, but with a little comparison shopping you can determine if it is, in fact, a better deal and if so, it might be well worth these concessions.
  2. You are taking a last-minute trip: Sometimes you get lucky and score a cheap last-minute flight, but more often than not a fare will spike in the final days and you end up paying a frustratingly elevated price. This is a good time to check to see if bundling your airfare and hotel can save you some cash. You might be pleasantly surprised. Many sites specialize in last-minute travel and it’s not unheard of for customers to save as much as 70 percent by booking a last-minute package vs a la carte. Anywhere from 14 days to three hours before departure, these last-minute bundling companies will snatch up unsold airline seats and hotel rooms at everything-must-go prices. If you can find these bundles, you will often see pretty big price differentials than if you’d last-minute booked separately.
  3. You’re happy to let the experts do some of the planning for you: Enter: the romance package. And by romance we don’t mean the falling-in-love kind of romantic romance (though we never rule that out!) We are referring to the romance of place. Resorts create packages of goods, services and fun that broaden the experience of the locale. For example, Koloa Landing Resort on Kauai’s sunny South Shore has several smart packages to choose from. Their Exactly Like Nothing Else package offers a dizzying array of adventures that include a Na Pali Coast tour, a helicopter excursion, a ziplining experience and more! (Airfare does not factor in here.) Just by staying at the resort you’re already going to enjoy the largest villas on the island, a world-class day spa and a spectacular 350-gallon, multi-level pool (hailed as one of “Hawaii’s best” by the Los Angeles Times), but now you will also be whisked away on multiple pre-booked adventures for less than you’d pay booking it all separately yourself.
  4. You are hitting a popular place at its peak season: Peak season is always going to be more expensive; it’s just supply-and-demand economics. If you are not willing to pay $800 for that ocean-view resort room over the 4th of July, there are plenty of folks who are happy to. With a package, you can book a predetermined fee for airfare and hotel together, and free yourself from the hassle of tracking rising-and-falling airfare prices or trying to figure out how and when to nab the best hotel room rates.

Booking a la carte travel makes more sense when:

  1. Your trip requires more flexibility: Perhaps you have friends you’d like to visit on Maui for a few days before you hit your resort on Kauai. Or perhaps you’d prefer to split your time between one resort in Poipu and one in Princeville. Even though vacation packages can often reduce your travel costs, by the time you make adjustments to your itinerary, you can find yourself bumping up the price anyhow. Also, if you love to stay in that tiny plantation inn or in that off-the-beaten-path Bed and Breakfast, they will likely not be part of a mainstream travel package that usually deals with the big-name resorts.
  2. You’re a spontaneous traveler: If, for example, you arrive in Paris and now are suddenly overcome with the desire to get down to Provence for a fabulous week-long rosé festival, you will obviously need to make adjustments. Once you’re locked into a hotel as part of a package deal, it can be nearly impossible to switch up your dates or the number of nights in any given city. Spontaneous folks are likely be best served booking a la carte (and with cancellation insurance to boot!)

With a little creative research and price comparing you can discover great deals. Whatever you choose, we hope your travels bring you to Koloa Landing where we are always ready to welcome you in the spirit of aloha. Click here for more info on booking a gorgeous villa or guest room — with our without a fabulous package. Happy adventuring!

Erica Karlin — Koloa Landing Resort