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3 Alternatives to Traditional Vacation Packages

This year, more people than ever are opting to spend their money on experiential gifts like vacation packages rather than old-fashioned “things.”

In a recent report from PwC, the younger generation is almost twice as likely to spend money on travel rather than more stuff. While you can always collect more possessions, it’s hard to gain too many experiences.

Travel isn’t limited to the younger generation, however. Both older couples and families with small children are finding that it’s easier than ever to hop on a plane and go around the world. And, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not as expensive as you would think.

American Express says that the average cost of a family vacation in the United States is $4,580. That’s quite a chunk of change: but that’s a combination of hotel costs, food, transportation, and admission costs (Disney World costs hundreds per day, per person!)

Traditional vacation packages are a little more expensive, but are oriented towards international travel: they might include things like a trip to Europe with flights, destinations, and accommodation predetermined; a theme park package with all-inclusive food and drinks, or a week-long cruise to the Bahamas.

A great option for the more adventurous among us is creating your own vacation package.

Although it’ll take a bit more time, you’ll be able to customize all your destinations, pick the places you want to stay, and prioritize the things that are important to you. A travel consultant can help you organize your options and make it a little easier to create a personalized route. If spending lots of money on food isn’t important to you, put that budget to better use by adding another destination! Or maximize your airfare by adding stopovers, and use your extra money to upgrade to luxurious hotel suites along the way.

A street in the Plaka district of Athens, Greece.

European Vacation Packages

Some of the most common vacation packages are trips to Europe. Some range from simple week-long packages to a single destination, and others are large group tours which can roam over the entire continent.

The downside of a traditional vacation package is lack of flexibility: you’re expected to choose from pre-selected options instead of exploring the things you really want to see.

One of the best ways of creating a custom European vacation is by utilizing stopovers: finding cities that you want to see and stopping in them for a few days at little to no added cost.

Consider a New York to Europe itinerary which includes stopovers in Rome, Paris, and Reykjavik. This route could run from $797 to $1,087 per person for airfare. Of course, the list of amazing European cities to visit is endless: London, Amsterdam, Munich, Barcelona, Prague, or Zurich are among those well suited to add as stopovers to your trip.

Cambodia is a beautiful and quiet place for a relaxing vacation.

The Typical American Cruise

The average cost of a cruise is $50 per person, per day. At least, that’s what’s commonly advertised. But after taxes, port charges, drinks, gratuities, laundry, and photos, the final average price of a cruise is actually closer to $222 a day. The average cruise is 8 days long, so this comes to a total of $1,776 per person! For a family of four, this is around $7,000. This figure doesn’t include transportation to the port.

Benefits of a cruise package are that it’s extremely easy…you’re waited on hand and foot, so you don’t have to give a lot of everyday thought to your trip. The amenities of home are easily available, like internet, TV, buffet-style food, and lots of familiar drinks.

The downside is that you won’t experience a culture other than your own, and this is where some exciting alternatives can come into play!

Depending upon your personal travel style, a family of four could return from a self-planned month in the Pacific for less than a normal cruise in the Caribbean! A few months ago I spent $37 a day in Cambodia. This was at a hotel with a double bed, private bathroom, a full-service bar, swimming pool, and just a few blocks away from downtown Siem Reap. Beers are $0.50 and entire meals can be had for $2.

While almost any destination in south-east Asia is affordable, even Western Europe can be visited on a budget. I backpacked 13 countries, from Ireland to the Czech Republic, for less than $1,850 in total…and that was including airfare!

But, of course, the downside is that traveling this way isn’t relaxing. You’re seeing new sights and learning how to travel in countries with languages and cultures you might not understand. And unlike a cruise, you can’t just buy an all-inclusive “soda card” or bring your own 2-liter bottles of soda along (…that might not be so bad).

Rice fields near the mountain village of Ubud, in Bali

A Honeymoon In Bali or Southeast Asia?

The average wedding price in America is at $26,645, and that doesn’t even include the cost of the honeymoon! According to Conde Nast, the average honeymoon cost for a newly married American couple is $5,111, and that’s for an average duration of 7 nights.

Most of these are vacation packages to resorts in locations either in or close to the US. The bride and groom often don’t want the stress of travel to interfere with their honeymoon, but that is a trend that is rapidly changing. More and more couples are going for exotic vacations in faraway places, with a little more adventure than just a week on the beach.

The benefit of traveling abroad is that, for Americans, our currency goes far in purchasing power. A luxury hotel in Thailand can be had for less than a cheap drive-up motel back home, and the equivalent of a $100 five-course meal could be $10. While the initial cost in getting there (airfare) might be a little higher, once you get to your destination you can live in extravagance for pennies on the dollar.

Costs for a single traveler in South-East Asia, one of the most popular tropical destinations in the Pacific, can be anywhere from $25-50 a day, and when traveling with a significant other it’s not much more. Accommodation is extremely affordable, with three or four-star hotels at $50 to $100 a night. A full meal at a local restaurant is around $5, and a bus ticket to explore the whole island as low as $12.

Whether you’re a newly married couple, a senior wanting to see more of the world, or a family with kids, travel has never been more approachable. With a little bit of planning and adventurous spirit, you can turn your vacation into a cultural and geographic experience you won’t forget.

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