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DIY or package holidays: which is better value? 🧐

Booking your next holiday and wondering if it’s better to DIY it or book it as a package deal? We’ve got all the information you need to decide which option is better value for your trip, and some hacks to save you money either way.

Published by
Caitlin Moore·07/03/2024

What is a package holiday?

A package holiday is offered through a travel agent or tour operator such as TUI, Jet2 and Virgin Holidays. The package will includes flights and hotel together. But on top of this, It may also include extras like transfers and luggage. A cruise or guided tour could also be a package holiday.

A package holiday can be self-catering, include breakfast, half board, full board or all-inclusive.

Someone who prefers to take the stress out of booking a holiday will typically prefer a package holiday, as the hard work is done for you.

What is a DIY holiday?

A DIY holiday is a trip you put together yourself by booking flights and hotels separately though various booking platforms. You'll also need to factor in luggage (which is often not included on flight-only bookings) and transfers from the airport to your destination.

It's the preferred option for people who enjoy putting together their own itineraries and endlessly scrolling through hotel options to make their perfect trip and find the best deals.

You have full freedom of dates, durations in places, flight options and hotels.

There are a few different factors to consider when deciding whether to DIY your holiday or book it as a package. Including; holiday type, destination, security and price.

Holiday type

1. All-inclusive and beach holidays

Typically, all-inclusive and beach holidays that are geared towards holidaymakers will be cheaper when booked as a package, including destinations like Greece, Turkey, Majorca, Mexico and Egypt.

Tour operators charter their own planes and book hotel rooms in bulk, so they can often offer a reduced rate on packages. Plus, if you’re booking last minute, you might find a cheap deal when they sell off remaining plane seats and hotel rooms for cheap so they don’t lose money.

However, it’s always worth comparing your package deal with flight and hotel price comparison sites. Sometimes pairing a hotel-only option with some cheap budget airline flights might work out cheaper, especially if you’re savvy with your luggage.

2. City trips

For a city trip, it's our personal preference to do a DIY. As Pirates, we often post city trips using cheap flights through Skyscanner or Kayak, and accommodation through Trivago or Airbnb.

We’re often happier to compromise a little bit on the hotel, since we won’t be spending as much time in it, which means you can hunt for something cheap on Trivago.

Cities also have great public transport connections, so you can get from the airport to your destination for fairly cheap without transfers. As a city trip tends to be around two–five days max, adding pricy checked luggage shouldn't be an issue.

3. Multi-stop destinations

Generally speaking, this type of trip can be booked cheaper as a DIY. You’ll have full flexibility of your dates, schedule and hotels. If you decide to make any last-minute changes, you can book your hotel with free cancellation.

One downside to DIY multi-stop trips is that a cancelled flight can have a massive domino effect on part of your trip, which can be stressful to sort out. However, there are lots of great multi-destination/tour packages available on the market for competitive prices. If the thought of planning it all yourself is too stressful, then this option could be your way forward.

4. Cruise

There are lots of competitive cruise packages on the market, if the cruise departs from another country, it can sometimes be cheaper to book without the flight and add on your own flights.

One thing to note: cruise ships aren't like a hotel, so if your flight is cancelled, the cruise ship leaves port and flying to the departing port the next day is no good. A good option is to fly a day early, book one night in a hotel, and do a small city break before your cruise. That will act as a buffer if the flights are delayed/cancelled.

Cruise deals:


Package holidays offer more protection than DIY holidays as they are covered by the ATOL scheme.

DIY bookings on flights and hotels booked separately are not covered by the ATOL scheme, but you can give yourself some protection by making sure you have travel insurance as soon as you book, paying for everything on a credit card and taking advantage of free cancellation offers on hotels.

Read more on ATOL here.

Travel insurance

If you plan to DIY your trip, it's important to make sure your insurance includes cancellation cover. For example, if your flight is cancelled and you can't make it to your hotel, cancellation cover means that you can claim on your insurance for the hotel to be refunded, which isn't always included with basic insurance.

🏴‍☠️ Pirate tip: Taking out annual insurance can often work out cheaper than booking insurance for each individual trip.

Pirate tips for booking a DIY holiday

  1. Use comparison sites like Trivago and Kayak to find the best prices on hotels and flights.

  2. Download the Chrome extension, Ratepunk, which will tell you if the hotel you're looking at is available for cheaper elsewhere.

  3. If you’re going on a shorter trip, invest in a 'personal item' approved size bag that you can use on low-cost airlines without paying for baggage. You can easily pack for a few days in one of these and keep the costs down on a DIY trip.

  4. Use Rome2Rio to check out the cheapest way to get from the airport to your destination/hotel.

  5. Check HolidayExtras for transfer options. They offer really affordable shared and private options to get you from the airport to your hotel, and there's nearly always a discount code.

  6. Take advantage of free cancellation hotel deals so you have more flexibility. You can also check the prices again closer to your booking and rebook for cheaper if prices have gone down.

  7. Sign up to our travel alerts to be the first to hear about cheap flights and hotel offers.

Pirate tips for booking a package holiday

  1. Get a general feel for the cost of a destination by pricing up the type of package and star-rating you want on a few different websites, this will make it easier to do a comparison.

  2. Check if the deal includes luggage and transfers or any other extras that add value to the deal. Transfer and luggage costs can easily add up to over £100 per person.

  3. Book last minute. As travel agents try to sell off rooms and plane seat, you can get some really cheap deals if you take a chance on booking your trip last minute.

  4. Play around with durations and board basis. We often find deals where 10 nights are cheaper than seven, or all-inclusive costs only a few quid more than going half board.

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