Many people think tours and vacation packages are overly regimented or lack adventure or sophistication. The truth is, nothing could be further from the truth. Tour and vacation packages encompass a tremendous spectrum of tastes, interests and travel styles -- from a multi-country tour to a wine-tasting tour of a particular region to an adventure combining cruising and land-touring. In short, tours and vacation packages are as varied and individual as the millions of Americans who purchase them each year for travel in the U.S. and throughout the world.
As you began your vacation search you need to know the difference between a "Tour" and a "Vacation Package."
1. A Tour can be defined as a trip taken by a group of people who travel together and follow a pre-planned itinerary. Most tours include accommodations, a number of meals, sightseeing, land transportation, and/or other transportation, plus the services of a professional tour manager or escort who accompanies the group.
2. Vacation packages are designed for those traveling independently. They include a combination of two or more travel services (e.g. hotel accommodations, car rental, air transportation) that are offered at a "package price." Many vacation packages offer a choice of components and options, thereby enabling you to customize the package to your tastes, interests and/or budget.
The major benefits of tours and poackaged vacations are Savings and Peace of Mind.
Savings -- By contracting in bulk for hotels, accommodations, ground transportation, sightseeing tours, meals and other services, tour operators achieve substantial economies. The resulting savings from this volume purchasing are passed on to the traveler. In addition, the tour operators' volume purchasing often enables them to secure accommodations, airline space and other arrangements that would be virtually impossible to obtain from any other source.
Peace of Mind -- Purchasing a tour or package also means peace of mind. Since you pre-pay for your trip, you know what the cost will be in advance and can budget for your vacation with greater certainty.
You'll also have the assurance that your vacation has been planned by professionals; and in the event that an unforeseen problem does arise, a tour escort, local host or some other representative of the tour operator is generally available to assist you.
Just as you wouldn't think of buying a piece of clothing that isn’t the right size. So too, when buying a vacation, finding the right fit can make or break the experience.
To help you find the right vacation to suit your style and personality, we suggest you ask yourself the following five questions.
What is important to you? What do you expect from your trip? Are you looking for a particular level of comfort or luxury? If luxury accommodations are important, be sure to ask what category hotels will be used.
How much activity do you want? Some people want to see everything; others prefer a casual day on the beach or to relax in a café. On an escorted tour, find out how much actual travel there is, versus time to stay put. Is there enough free time? Check the itinerary carefully to be sure that the sights you want to see are included.
How do you fit in? Try to choose accommodations that are compatible with your style and comfort level. If you like things casual, check to see whether it may be too formal for your taste; or vice versa. If on an escorted tour, decide how important it is that the other people in your group be from a similar background or educational level.
Are your expectations realistic? Are you willing to compromise in order to save money? If you’re trying to save money, decide whether it matters that your hotel room faces the back or has no view. Remember, you usually get what you pay for. If you’re traveling on a bare bones budget, don’t expect top-drawer luxury.
What type of vacation is right for you? Does an escorted tour, a special interest trip with like-minded individuals, or an independent, on-your-own vacation fill the bill?
In order to help you decide what is right for you when considering your vacation I have listed some of the terms you will find in the descriptions that the various tour operators use in their offerings.
Single Room: A room with one bed for one person.
Twin Room: A room with two beds for two people.
Double Room: A room for two persons with a double bed.
Triple Room: A room for three persons, usually consisting of twin beds (or double bed) plus a roll-away cot.
Service Charges and Taxes: Service charges are a fixed percentage automatically added to room and meal charges. Taxes are set by the city, state or federal government.
Ocean Front: A room directly facing the ocean.
Ocean View: A room from which it is possible to secure a view of the ocean (usually located on the side of the hotel).
2. Air Transportation:
Connecting Flight: A segment of an ongoing trip which requires a change of aircraft, but not necessarily a change of airline.
Direct Flight: A flight on which passengers do not have to change planes, but may involve one or more stops en route.
Non-stop Flight: Service between two points with no scheduled stop en route.
Add-on Fare: The cost of air travel from a domestic city to another domestic city from which the tour/vacation package originates and vice versa.
Baggage Allowance: The weight or volume of baggage that may be carried by a passenger without additional charge.
3. Car Rental
Drop-off Charge: Fee charged by a car rental company to defray the cost of returning the vehicle to its original location.
Value Added Tax (VAT): Tax imposed by governmental authority.
Force Majeure: An event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled (such as storms or war).
Passport: An official government document certifying identity and citizenship and granting permission to travel abroad.
Visa: An official authorization appended to a passport permitting travel to and within a particular country.
Vouchers: Documents issued by tour operators to be exchanged for accommodations, sightseeing and other services.
Continental Breakfast: Usually consists of bread, rolls, butter, jam and tea or coffee.
AP (American Plan): Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
MAP (Modified American Plan): Includes breakfast and dinner.
Full Board (Full Pension): Includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Half Board (Demi-Pension): Includes breakfast, and either lunch or dinner.
Table d'hôte: Published restaurant or hotel dining room menu, usually consisting of appetizer, two or three choices of main course and dessert. After-meal tea or coffee and other beverages are not usually included.
A la Carte: Unrestricted selection from the menu.
Tour Escort/Director/Manager: Professional engaged to oversee the technical details of the tour operation and to accompany the group from one place to another.
Local Host: Generally a representative of the tour operator who provides assistance, information and optional sightseeing and entertainment arrangements in a particular city.
Local Guide: Professional engaged to point out places of interest and conduct tours of specific locations and attractions.
Driver-Guide: Professional engaged to drive a vehicle and to point out places of interest.
Transfers: Arrival and departure service consisting of providing transport between the airport, city air terminal, rail station, or pier and hotel.
Porterage: Baggage handling service.
All-Inclusive Price: Includes land arrangements and round trip airfare and/or other transportation.
Land Price: The cost for the land arrangements only.
Single Room Supplement: Difference in price between half of a twin room and the actual price of a single room.
High-Season Supplement: Additional charge imposed during the busiest time of the year.
Double Occupancy Rate: The price per person based on two persons sharing a room.
Double Room Rate: The price per room shared by two persons.
Trip Cancellation Insurance: Purchased separately from either the tour operator or your travel agent, this provides a refund if you have to cancel your trip after completing payment. Refunds oftenvary according to the time frame in which you cancel.
Travel Insurance: Purchased from a private company or the tour operator, this provides coverage for emergencies abroad such as illness, baggage loss, accidental death/dismemberment. This policy often includes trip cancellation insurance.
Tour Protection (Consumer Protection Plan): A program designed to reimburse travelers if the tour operator goes bankrupt or becomes insolvent. A tour operator's participation in these types of plans is voluntary and can involve posting bonds, using escrow accounts or other types of financial security.