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Package vs DIY

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Do most of you DIY or Package?

For the past few years I've been on package holidays (Inghams, Crystal and one other who I can't remember what they're called). It's been a mixed bag, with I think Inghams coming out on top in terms of their service & reps (although, it's seasonal isn't it so hard to compare!).

Couple of guys from work have mentioned convoying up, as they have mostly been on package trips... and now I'm toying with the idea of driving (from South Wales), and getting the train over and then driving down. Looks to be ~14hours... or the other option is organising transfers from Geneva or similar. Thoughts then are what happens if there's issues with the transfers? Have any of you had issues with private transfers? Cost wise, would you say it's similar to package trips?

Typically goto France (3 vals).
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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There's a very competitive transfers market between Geneva and 3V. It's very simple to arrange shared transfers (i.e. share a minibus with other people who have booked DIY), or private transfers if there are enough of you to fill a minibus. Lots of independent companies do it.

I've never had any particular hassle with DIY transfers, other than the obvious fact that if you're sharing the minibus (and the cost) with people on other flights you might have to wait for their flight to get in.

Quite a few chalet companies do their own transfers from GVA - that could be another option. I know that Ski Magic do; that's what I did last Jan and it was good value.

It's pretty easy to DIY once you've been on a couple of trips to the mountains and you've got some idea of what you need. Pricewise? If you get a crazy cheap late deal then package will be cheaper. Otherwise, it's probably not. The main issue for me is that I can choose exactly when and how I travel. I don't have to be at Gatwick for a 6am flight, or some other such horror.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Private Transfers from GVA to 3V tend to be expensive. Shared transfers, and bus transfers are ok, but slow as you tend to have to hand about at the airport for your scheduled bus service. I’ve used Alpybus from the Belleville valley which was quite good as there was no need to change get onto a different service in Moutiers.
It’s worth thinking about car hire if there are a few of you.
Cost wise, it’s difficult to compare to packages. If you’re renting an apartment and self catering, then my guess is you can get the accommodation far more cheaply (booking via local French agents in resort, is definitely worth considering). For catered chalets, you may find you can get nicer quality owner operated/smaller operations, but they don’t charge bargain basement prices.

Depends what you want...a basic “lads on tour” deal, or ensuite chalet with canapés and a hot tub Toofy Grin .
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@marksymoo,

Transfers usually work fine in my experience. Usual caveats about extreme weather conditions apply. Everybody on busy roads has issues in those circumstances.

Sunday travel beats Saturday travel every time if doing a typical 1 week break, IMO.

As for relative costs, depends a lot on when you go and how far in advance you book. Outside of peak weeks hard to beat a package for value I’d say. Especially if you can hang on for a late booking deal.

During peak weeks, for booking well in advance, the cost pendulum swings more towards DIY.

You have to like driving a lot to do S. Wales to Alps. On the other hand, the whole air travel experience seems to become increasingly complicated and tedious year on year.

Package v DIY? The devil’s in the detail of costs, timings, what’s included/excluded.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
We always DIY as we are tied to the school holidays and packages are expensive. We tend to spend a bit more on the apartment and have stayed in some much nicer places than you can get on a cheap package- you can be fussy about location etc. but the budget is totally up to you. Don't rule out hiring a car for the transfers- it can be much cheaper- and they are generally really good at clearing the roads up to ski resorts. Fingers crossed! but we haven't had a problem in 6 years driving in February.
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Have done both options. We generally know where and when we want to go and then figure out the best pricing option

With the package you know that if the poo-poo hits the fan it is their responsibility to get you home. If you are uncomfortable with responsibility, driving on the continent and are budget limited this may be the better option.Package deals on the quiet weeks offer probably the best value of all, particularly if you can wait until the last minute to book.

We tend to DIY for the most expensive weeks Christmas/NY, Half term where we have done the trip before and know where we are going. Book the flight as early as possible, book the transfers- we usually use Bens Bus to get to VT and then your accommodation through booking.com or back to somewhere you have been by booking directly. Works out cheaper on peak weeks.

Downside as per last Christmas was that on our return to GVA the heavy snow caused a crash which meant we missed our flight. We re-booked flights for the next day,stayed in GVAs Starling Hotel and were able to claim it all back on our travel insurance. It would not have been enjoyable if we did not have insurance.

Other pluses of DIY are for example to be able to spend a night in Bergamo on a Spring trip last year before flying home.

If you are hiring a car or bringing your own-make sure you are comfortable with chains should they become necessary. I avoid hiring a car in mid winter going to VT for this reason.But I will hire in March as I know it will not be such a problem getting to Les Arcs.
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@marksymoo, I think there are quite a few factors which make people choose one over the other and it is a fair bit of personal preference.
I generally DIY and for me it is usually cheaper than I can get an equivalent package . This is often going high season with a family or larger crowd.

I generally find the accommodation I can book on a DIY is better than on a package looking at it.
Having said that there are real economies of scale with accommodation occupancy and with transfers and for a couple going low season a package trip is pretty difficult to beat cost wise in my experience.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Depends on what I'm looking for, how many there are in the group and what deals are around. Plus some of my trips are Snowheads bashes so sort of fall some way between the two!

My new year trip last year was full DIY and we hired a car as we 3 of us. Worked out marginally more expensive than a transfer, but the flexibility was a bit better, especially on the way back when we had a late flight so were able to have a nice walk around Annecy. New year trip this year is DIY but probably private transfer as there will be 6 of us and an appropriate car is quite expensive.

The real hassle of DIY is being responsible for everything. For example last year I didn't read the small print of the accommodation booking and we got stung for linen. It wasn't expensive but I still felt awkward that the cost was going up for everyone. I also hate being the one that effectively chooses the resort, the flight times and the transport method, particularly if I'm not completely sure I've done it right (e.g last year when I booked a transfer to Avoriaz and wasn't completely sure if I was being dropped of at Prodains or in resort, a bit nerve racking as didn't get there until the early hours of the morning).
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We always DIY as are limited to school hols and it means we get to ski twice a winter rather than just the once if we went package. If you're driving consider overnighting either in UK at Dover/folkestone (paid £32 for a family room end of Dec in Dover Premier Inn) and/or getting the ferry rather than the chunnel as it means you get a proper break and can have a meal on the ferry. There's lots of good overnight hotel chains in France that are clean and do a decent breakfast (we use https://www.hotel-bb.com/en/home.htm) although we sometimes stay somewhere nicer and have a day in somewhere like Dijon/Beaune and enjoy the Christmas market etc. Accommodation wise it's nice to be able to pick an apartment from photos rather than a generic room and we can upscale or downscale depending on budget each year. Hiring skis, passes or car park is all very easy in this internet age and for me is all part of the fun of organising it.
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Done both and the main difference is:
Package is less hastle - just one thing to book and if anything goes wrong it's up to someone else to sort it out for you*.
DIY is more flexible - looking at booking a trip at the moment and because I have skis and all the ski space has already gone on the Thomas Cook flights the only package option means a 07:15 return flight. If we go DIY we can fly EasyJet, with a much more civilised 17:15 flight.



* My experience of Inghams and Crystal in a crisis is the opposite of yours, marksymoo. Flights diverted from Innsbruck to Friedrichshafen and the Crystal reps were amazing. Calm, controlled, had busses en-route before flights touched down and communicated updates regularly, clearly and loudly so everyone could hear. It was almost a thing of beauty to see...just a shame we were with Inghams. We had 1 rep who just hid on her phone and refused to speak to anyone. The second rep didn't know anything but did talk to us...but not by standing on the table and broadcasting to the crowd, informing everyone in 1 go like the Crystal rep. No by slowly working through the queue telling each person in turn in a whispered tones that she didn't know anything and to just hang around.
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Having done both, I tend to concur that there are pro's and con's to both. We DIY'd last year after Catered Chalet and TO for a couple of years before. Price wise, we DIY'd in Feb half term week for about half what TO's were quoting for a family of 5. If we had gone say at easter, the price difference would have been a lot less and if we had gone outside of school holidays I think it would have been line ball. What we did like about DIY was that were were on no one elses time table. We had meals when we wanted (with our kids). We had late afternoon's playing in the snow, whilst dinner was cooking in the oven knowing that we weren't inconveniencing anyone else. We had movie nights with the kids. We had a couple of date nights out on our own. DIY was just more flexible.

We wouldn't rule out doing a TO or Catered Chalet again and in fact looked seriously at a Kinderhotel in Austria before deciding to DIY in Tignes.

What I would recommend if you are DIY'ing is don't underestimate the value of convenience.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
It's a more than a simple binary decision. For example you could arrange the drive/fly/transfer but still have the in resort package via a TO.

And either way the drive v fly decision is an independent one. Do you want to fully winterise your car? Do you have ski's to transport (might need roofbars, clamps, roofbox but it's free each time once purchased!)? Do you have at least two drivers? Do you have the right number of passengers v cars (4 or 8 is a great number, 5 or 6 not so great). If you drive you can get two extra days skiing. Less likely but still possible if you DIY flights.

Lot's of ways of doing things.

I think it would be a good thing to do, because it will either point you back in the direction of TO's or you'll like the benefits it affords (many mentioned in this thread) and it will be your new way of doing things.
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We always DIY with a hire car. We like self catering and the flexibility having a car gives at Christmas/New Year and Easter we normally get away for 10-12 days each and visit a couple of different areas for a similar price that a TO may charge for a week. We make the most of our time by getting an evening return flight and stop off at a smaller resort en route to the airport on our final day. This works very well for us
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Layne wrote:
If you drive you can get two extra days skiing.


Even that depends on circumstances. It takes 5 hours for me to get to Folkestone/Dover and I wouldn't leave before 6pm on the Friday, so even with an all-out cannoball run I'd probably be looking at getting to resort around 10am, aboslutely knackered and ready for bed. The early flight from BRS-GVA would land before 9am so could probably hit a resort at around midday byt the time you allow time to collect luggage, hire car and drive, but I'd actually have had some sleep the night before (albeit not much). In truth though I find it preferable to get the cheap flights and just resign myself to not skiing on Saturdays, it's far more relaxing that way.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Cardiff to Chambery with Flybe - Costing us £85 inc baggage Shock) as its a group booking, we get free checked baggage

There is a transfer bus (altibus) for around 65 euro return or train option as well as transfer bus or hire a car.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Fri 28-09-18 11:41; edited 1 time in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
Layne wrote:
If you drive you can get two extra days skiing.


Even that depends on circumstances.

That's why I said can Very Happy wink

SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
It takes 5 hours for me to get to Folkestone/Dover and I wouldn't leave before 6pm on the Friday, so even with an all-out cannoball run I'd probably be looking at getting to resort around 10am, aboslutely knackered and ready for bed.

I find that the natural body clock, mountain air, the fact that I am "stoked" means the tiredness isn't a factor. I do pay the price later of course. I once literally nodded off with a glass of red wine in my hand! And the second morning can be a bit of a slow start. I've been working Friday and been at the first lift Saturday morning a couple of times (boys trips). When the kids were younger we were less inclined but now they are both over 10 it's back on the agenda.

SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
The early flight from BRS-GVA would land before 9am so could probably hit a resort at around midday byt the time you allow time to collect luggage, hire car and drive, but I'd actually have had some sleep the night before (albeit not much). In truth though I find it preferable to get the cheap flights and just resign myself to not skiing on Saturdays, it's far more relaxing that way.

Lazy B. The time to rest is when you're in the box Laughing wink Very Happy snowHead
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@Layne, if I tried driving through the night then it would be simply dangerous for me, others in the car and anyone else on the road long before I got anywhere near mountain air. Have never understood how people can do it without the aid of elicit substances Very Happy I'm quite happy to stay up but I reckon I'd be a safer driver if I had 4 pints* than if I drove through the night.


*Disclaimer, I don't drive after having had 4 pints either.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@SnoodlesMcFlude, it's the only time I drink the caffeine pop to be fair..
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Only even done a package once, which was my first ever trip - as we didn’t really know what we wanted.

After that I knew exactly what I wanted from my skiing/flights/accom/transfers etc so have diy’d ever since.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
only advantage of package is the protection.
Ie delayed/missed flight, etc. & the knock on affect.
Some hotels will release your rooms if you dont check in for example.
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@Mr.Egg, sometimes you can get a deal on package trips as well that can make it a better price than DIY equivalent.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Mr.Egg wrote:
only advantage of package is the protection. Ie delayed/missed flight, etc. & the knock on affect.

Some hotels will release your rooms if you dont check in for example.[/quote]
Wouldn't agree with that either way. The "protection" as chronicled extensively on this forum is not at all guaranteed. Sometimes TO's do a great job, sometimes you may have actually been better off without their help. I think this is one of the myths of using a TO.

But there are other advantages to going to TO for sure (and not just one). The biggy being the obvious that it's a one stop shop.

Ultimately it's quite a complex decision that can be distilled into a few simpler questions to aid the process.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Layne,

but if your flight gets cancelled as part of a package, your whole holiday is protected if they are ATOL/ABTA registered.
That does not happen if you DIY.
I am talking about financial trip protections, not help from TO.
A lot of packages are never one stop shop these days as hardly any charter planes & instead booking you onto some budget airline.

I prefer to DIY my trips & sort out my own issues. I wouldnt trust someone on minimum wage to either care or be knowledge enough to be of much assistance & like them I am more than capable of using google to get misinformed answers. Toofy Grin
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Main attraction of driving is getting a couple of extra days in i.e. 8 rather than 6 from a one week trip. Get a flyer Friday lunchtime, try to hit around Lyon for bed then with an early start you can be skiing by 10am then repeat on the way back . Need at least 2 drivers for this though.

Hit a snowmaggedon and TOs may be a surer bet in looking after you though with the agility of your own vehicle you can anticipate and dodge potential problems.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Nobody has mentioned the fact that British TOs only go to a small minority of ski resorts and have access only to a small sample of the accommodation within those resorts. Choice is hugely greater with DIY trips - particularly if you want to rent an apartment. Which is not, of course, synonymous with " self-catering". Even small resorts have a good range of restaurants to choose from or "traiteurs" with good ready made dishes to enjoy, with a bottle of vino from the supermarket, in your own place. Other things being equal I would always prefer to rent an apartment. I dislike being compelled to eat in the same place every night. And in some hotels package guests will get inferior food. Happened to us in Austria. Shocking food and a squashed table in the corner of the restaurant. That was Inghams.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
pam w wrote:
And in some hotels package guests will get inferior food. Happened to us in Austria. Shocking food and a squashed table in the corner of the restaurant. That was Inghams.


Really? Not done a ski TO in a while but have done summer TO trips to Austria a few times. Never less than equal hospitality or great food from the family hotels with sometimes a little more thrown in (like a bag with fruit, choccy bar and a wrapper to make your own lunch from the brekkie bar)
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Both have their good and bad points.

I've done two package trips with Neilson (as well as 3 summer ones with them! We are fans...) and 1 DIY, currently planning 2nd DIY trip.

For us, as relative newbies the ease of booking with a TO and have everything sorted for us allowed us to just concentrate on the skiing and getting good! We booked relatively late (about a month before travel) so got ok deals/prices.
It was nice just being to pay, relax, turn up, fly, jump on a coach, have passes pre-booked etc and just generally be well looked after. Having been on 3 summer trips with Neilson, we trusted them and both ski trips were superb however you do get a less "personal experience" with a large TO. You often will get gap students/school leavers etc looking after you which can be a gamble. You may get a great bunch or not so....(which is the same as any TO).

Last year, I organised a trip for 10 on a DIY basis. One huge positive is the flexibility and amount of options you have. Independent companies, Air BnB, HomeAway, Chalets Direct etc. You will be overwhelmed with choice and you'll be able to find something to suit any needs or price. With the smaller independent companies you'll get a much more personalised service. You will more often than not get a more "experienced" host (we had a teacher and ex-restaurant manager on our last trip). Booking flights is straight forward nowdays and again going DIY gives you an awful lot more options. The "hardest" bit I guess would be the transfers. If there is a large enough group of you, then a private transfer will work out to be the most efficient, comfy and probably best value option. If there are less of you, hire a car.
Last trip we used Alpine Eagle from Grenoble to La Plagne. Nick was amazing and actually the cheapest option! (worked out at about £90pp return). This year it's only 4 of us so we are renting a car as we have booked a late flight back so we are going to have a nice relaxed drive back and stop somewhere for a late lunch.

I think that's probably the nicest thing. Go package and it's usually an early flight out (which is good) but an early flight home (rubbish) or a late flight out (rubbish) and a late fight back (good). We have booked early morning flights out this year and an evening flight home.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@Dave of the Marmottes, that was a bit of a disaster because was supposed to be catered chalet in the annexe of a hotel but kitchen wasn't ready. I suspect there'd been bad blood between Inghams and the hotelier. When lift broke down between floors at 1am with four of our party the proprietor sent my son packing when he tried to wake her to deal with it. Fortunately he spoke fluent German and called the Fire Brigade. The guys in the lift had been drinking beer. The miserable woman was fortunate they'd not peed in the lift before they were released. The food was truly shocking but we were a big family party and rose above it. But I don't like having to eat in the same place even when food is good. I enjoy the planning and flexibility of DIY holidays.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
SnoodlesMcFlude wrote:
@Layne, if I tried driving through the night then it would be simply dangerous for me, others in the car and anyone else on the road long before I got anywhere near mountain air. Have never understood how people can do it without the aid of elicit substances Very Happy I'm quite happy to stay up but I reckon I'd be a safer driver if I had 4 pints* than if I drove through the night.


I find it's OK if two are sharing the driving. I have done it as the sole driver and my driving was every bit as bad as you suggest by the end. I wouldn't try to do the whole trip in one go through the night on my own again.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Interesting read, cheers all.

So, for the non-DIYers benefit (i.e. mine Very Happy) where do you mainly book your accomodation - airbnb, or usually local directly? What about flights, is there a trick, apart from the time-before flight on how to obtain cheaper flights... like using a price comparison site vs directly on the carriers site?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@marksymoo, I have used booking.com, homeaway.com and Lestationdeski for accommodation before.

when are you planning to go? as this may make a big difference to price and availability.

we drive as the cost of flights have been too expensive as we are tied to school holidays, tend to overnight in france on the way there and back.
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I've got a week booked end of Feb/start of Jan, and another week at the start of March.

I'm trying to whip up excitement about a DIY trip with some guys & girls from work for maybe around mid Feb (peak) - but this is going to be a struggle getting the approval from the boss (wife).

It was mainly for 2020 to be honest, as if I'm able to get another permission slip from my wife then I guess it'll be a last minute deal Smile
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
OK Disclaimer my chosen subject for Mastermind would have been booking ski holidays.

I was in education and skied at least twice and usually three times a year.

The midterm week in Feb was always a DIY job and always booked well in advance to take advantage of cheap flights and cheap car hire if transfers were problematical. Ischgl Lech and Arabba were chosen as they tended not to get crowded with school kids. [ Especially Arabba. ]

Christmas and Easter were TO jobs but I would wait till the last moment checking snow conditions, forecasts and last minute discounting by TOs desperate to fill their planes and accommodation. I had a back up plan of driving out to Avoriaz but never had to activate that always getting away. I will give a big up to a company called Skiline who got me away a couple of times when I had run out of online options. Once to a 4 star in Zermatt for SC money. Woo hoo.

As Christmas and Easter were at the end of terms the possibility of brain death would be setting in and I would have been hard pushed to deal with all the problems associated with a last minute complex DIY job.
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@marksymoo, nothing wrong with a bit of forward planning Toofy Grin Toofy Grin Toofy Grin

you can get some decent deals on accommodation starting early in april/may, and a lot of the accommodation on these sites allow for free cancellation in case circumstances change, to give you flexibility.

as others will point out, if you are flying you really need to book the flights the minute they are released (easyjet etc) to grab bargains, even for the less busy weeks. if you are driving, the Eurotunnel prices do not seem to change much, not sure if this is the case with ferries to be honest.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I use googlemaps. Zoom in use streetview, etc. Take a walk about town & look for signs, adverising boards, gites, etc.
We got a chalet 7 bedroom, 6 bathroom, sauna, hot tub, self catering oh & ski in/out for 2800euro.
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We've done a fair few package deals and they're fine if they go where you want to go and you only want one week. Once you start looking at two weeks (or 8 days) then DIY is the way to go. And the hotel owners definitely prefer it when you book direct because they get all your money. The first time I stayed in Lech it was part of a very expensive package. It was a great little hotel and now I've been back several times I know the hotel owner I get a better rate, I can phone her up and book without any kind of deposit and I know I'll be greeted like an old friend when I get there. I love Lech and I'll probably go once a year. If I'm trying somewhere new and the price is right I'll take a passage deal.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
As others have said, there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
I tend to go to Sankt Vigilio each year on a DIY basis because I want to go to THAT resort on a self cater basis. I want a night in München with a meal at a non touristy (or at least less touristy) BierKeller on the way home, or a stopover at Venice. What i want isn’t offered by a Tour Operator.
But I will try to sneak in at least one extra trip. A catered chalet can offer excellent unbeatable value if booked last minute when a Tour Operator is trying to shift unsold beds. But sometimes a last minute DIY trip can be good value.
All you can do is keep an open mind and go for it when “it” appears
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
marksymoo wrote:
So, for the non-DIYers benefit (i.e. mine Very Happy) where do you mainly book your accomodation - airbnb, or usually local directly? What about flights, is there a trick, apart from the time-before flight on how to obtain cheaper flights... like using a price comparison site vs directly on the carriers site?

You need the flights first. Book them as soon as they are available. Then it's the transfers. Then the accommodation. I use the local tourist information/websites as first point of call. If you want chalet accommodation google "chalets direct solution room". Ski lessons as early as possible if required. Ski hire and lift pass as and when.


Last edited by After all it is free Go on u know u want to! on Sat 29-09-18 19:57; edited 1 time in total
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@Layne, not necessarily. The best accommodation is often available before the flights.

We booked our accommodation through Airbnb in May (for Easter next year). The best apartments get snapped up early.

Flights weren’t available till late Sept, but getting up at 6am to book them on the first day meant we got good prices flights too.
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@Handy Turnip, our apartments for high weeks are now typically booked on departure.

But in general, if your requirements are not so specific, @Layne’s protocol is sensible.
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