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Question for DIYers?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Is it honestly cheaper when comparing like for like to assemble all the individual parts of a holiday, compared to a package deal?

For example, if you buy flights, transfers and half board in a hotel, can you beat the price for the same package from a TO?

The reason I ask is that I’m looking into arranging a mountain biking trip to the alps in Summer, travelling via train. The packages for whole holidays seem to be *much* cheaper than booking the hotels individually using one of the booking websites.

Thoughts?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Kramer, sometimes yes, sometimes no. My February holiday was 3800chf cheaper (yep) booking Easyjet & hotel direct rather than using Tui.

Factor in your time and appetite for handling stuff that a TO would have to handle (flight time changes etc) and your ability to do it in the local language.
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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?
The answer, I’m sad to say, is “It depends”
It also depends on what you want.
The best value holiday I can remember was with a tour operator, booked at the last minute in a catered chalet. Half board meals included.
But for my “main” holiday I self cater. Mainly because tour operators don’t go where I want to go unless you are in an expensive hotel.
I like to eat out locally. I don’t want to eat in the hotel each night.
Transfers are easier with a tour operator.
But I want a hire car so that I can decide on the spur of the moment to have a day in a different area. Rather than take an optional excision which is in area X on a Tuesday and area Y on a Thursday
You pays your money and you takes your choice
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Peak weeks should be cheaper DIY

Also DIY gives you options and control over elements which can be very important to you and give you options you just can't get via TO.

However if off peak and package happens to tick all your boxes then great.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
We would usually go at Xmas or Easter, so not top peak half term and I've usually found DIY to cost up well compared to packages at those times. Also you cant beat the flexibility it allows as @NickyJ says.
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Nadenoodlee wrote:
@Kramer, sometimes yes, sometimes no. My February holiday was 3800chf cheaper (yep) booking Easyjet & hotel direct rather than using Tui.

Factor in your time and appetite for handling stuff that a TO would have to handle (flight time changes etc) and your ability to do it in the local language.


When you say you booked the hotel direct, was that actually through the hotel itself?
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Quote:

options you just can't get via TO

I think is the key factor. TOs only feature a small number of resorts, a small sample of accommodation available, and often not the airport you want. Headline rates for self-catering accommodation is for "full occupancy" which, in many cases, is too many people - and the "under-occupancy" rates can make alternatives hard to compare. And, as noted above, hotels are often half-board whereas many people like the option of trying different restaurants - personally I dislike being a captive diner in a hotel. I like to try different places and if I have a good lunch, don't need to stuff my face again in the evening. Flexibility, I suppose, is the key word.
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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!
Thanks all for answering.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
As others say, it depends.
I prefer to self cater, usually go with another couple either with family or as two couples, but one of our friends is a teacher so we often go in ski holidays.
I pretty much invariably find DIY cheaper and usually by a big margin.
Sometimes for two in lower season weeks you can get great package deals which are unbeatable.
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@Kramer, yes. I rarely use the broker sites.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
You can save a fortune DIY if you have kids.
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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.
My trip last week was DIY. Came in at about £1000pp and that was for everything. Flights, car hire, fuel, pass, skis, accom and food/drink.

Didn’t see a TO deal anywhere near that price (that was to anywhere decent anyway).
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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
Like everyone else says, it depends, usually, the very best value deals are TO last minute deals but these are very rare at peak season and risky if you are tied to dates off work and none are available.
My last trip was self catering at similar price to Chalet but we had separate rooms instead of twin (snoring dad & 14 yr old daughter) the diy flight schedule also meant that we got 8 full days on skis instead of 6.

Years ago, I tried to do diy but the hotel wouldn't take bookings unless with a TO, I think those days are long gone.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
School hols is loads cheaper DIY, for a family. Other times a last minute deal can work out about the same cost and more convenient.

Our first 2 trips as a family were to Aussois at Easter and cost almost exactly £2k a week both times, all in (all petrol, ski passes, ski hire, food spending money etc) for a family of four, 7 full days skiing ... driving from Devon.

La Thuile, flying and hire car was £2.5k at Easter, 6 days skiing. Avoriaz, flying and private taxi transfer at New Year, 7 days skiing, was £3100.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Over the years we have mostly gone with a package as felt about the same price as DIY but less hassle.

Been looking at various options for Xmas week and Feb HT 2023 (12th Feb for us) and Crystal and Inghams are charging around a £1000-£1500 premium for a family of 4 after factoring in flight , hotel and transfer … I can only imagine they are desperately trying to recoup covid losses.

So we have easyJet flights booked for both hols , have already booked hotel for Feb HT (hotel diamant in san cassiano - inghams also go here) and will sort transfer out later.
Xmas hotel in Selva not yet taking bookings but we are on the list !

DIY opens up far more hotel options of course . Just coincidence that Inghams do go to hotel we chose .
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
The reference to families is a good one. I am more fussy with the children in tow. Ensuring that it is suitable for all of us. Though think this is in part because lots of places don't cater well for children. Really nice double bed for the adults. Very uncomfortable bed for the kids. Also 4 packed into one room means kids disturbed bu us at nights, us by them and very little place for all the gear.

Now they are 15 and 12, finally feel we can have them in a completely separate room from us. Saying that we found UK hotels didnt like that.... so we have to pretend 1 adult 1 child in each. They are both at secondary both walk to and from school on their own.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
For DIY do folks use Airbnb, sunweb (or similar) or book direct with Odalys, pierre etc vacances or mgm?

All the Airbnbs I find are great value less that £1000 a week In February HT but accommodation Is more basic and often a compromise, ski holiday is not just about the slopes I like decent apartments it still needs to be a treat. A holiday isn't about roughing it for me at least.

We often book with erna low and prices are as Odalys etc so I suppose the trick is to find the good areas that TOs don't operate in?

Our Feb HT holiday 2 weeks ago to Flaine cost us about £5k for 2 adults 2 under 10s which I was surprised at. Le Panoramic and flexiplus £2.7k, lift passes and kids lessons about £1k, then tolls, fuel, food, ski hire, eating out couple of times was the rest. We perhaps could've ate a little more cheaply but that would have only been a small saving.

We're booking a trip to le sybelles next hoping that might be more cost effective and we're close to booking an air bnb but as I say they are more basic so I suspect we'll wait to big residence prices.

Interested to know how others go about booking.
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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?
@James77, I try and look at all.

Feb half term in France is always going to be busy. We did Champoluc in Italy this feb half term gone and aside from one lift at a certain point in the day it really wasn't busy. I would be inclined to focus on Italy if you can. It sounds like you are driving so i don't know impact on the drive
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A mix…. Peak Retreats a couple of times on an accommodation only basis. Booking.com has on occasion produced great catered hotels and apartments. AirBnb too. Couple of times have booked direct for a second visit and shared the saving on commission.

We often self 'cater' …. Boulangerie for breakfast and to pick up a baguette for lunch. Then eat out or a couple of takeaways during the week for the evening meals.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
TOs can be ok in certain circumstances but usually require you "standardise" as a nice neat couple etc. I know that TO ski hols in North America were often priced on the basis of 4 people in 2 doubles in 1 room. Plus the Sat- Sat thing etc.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
the Sat- Sat thing etc.


Our last year as UK residents we managed 56 days on snow for iirc 12 days leave.

TOs don't let you leave late Friday night and return late Sunday, for instance ... (9 days skiing vs 6, same leave days taken, 50% improvement).
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Quote:

A holiday isn't about roughing it for me at least.



When our kids were young they loved skiing and put up with whatever accommodation they were given! One year when teenaged eldest moaned at prospect of a coach trip I pointed out he had enough money in his savings account to pay to fly instead. (The concept of opportunity cost was one which figured large in my kids upbringing). He came on the coach with the rest of us.

For our family holidays have invariably been about accommodation markedly inferior to our own comfortable family house; a tatty camper van, boats, cheap apartments. One night, when we were finally all in bed (5 of us) in the tatty camper, having done all the fiddling around, moving clobber and climbing over each other which that entailed, the eldest piped up "We have a big house with two bathrooms and four bedrooms. Why are we in a rusty old van in a field in the pouring rain?".

He knew what my answer would be - it was a family joke. "It's an adventure", I told him.
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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!
It depends entirely on when, where, who and what...

Recently did a Feb HT trip to Italy, 2 adults and 2 teenagers. Flights were only £16 return, so costs for flights/baggage/Airbnb 2 bed apartment/Car hire were around £900 total, so £225 each total, which is way cheaper than anything from a TO for that week. Of course there were more costs which are unavoidable whichever option you take, like airport parking, pre-departure tests, skipasses (3 adults, 1 junior), ski/boot hire, food, some lunches out, but mostly s/c, etc Grand total of everything spent door-to-door was around £700 each.

Before kids, I used to do last minute chalet packages in early Jan or mid March. Used to get them for £119-£399pp. Great value as they included flights, transfers, accomodation and chalet board and wine. Some deals could be had with a few weeks notice, but most appeared the week before departure. In recent years, you might have to pay £400-600 for these, but anything half brochure price or less would be worth jumping on. sometimes TOs have preferential with specific hotels that may end up cheaper than booking independently, but there's usually an equally good option independently.

Anything during peak weeks, booked well in advance, with older kids or a group booking is usually better value DIY, but even then you need to be selective about where and how you go. You need to compare costs carefully, flights plus car hire is often cheaper than self drive (even for a family) when all costs (fuel, tunnel, tolls, overnight costs, vehicle wear and tear, let alone fitting winter tyres) are taken into account. Accommodation from independent booking sites or Airbnb needs to be compared with those that offer accommodation plus ski pass packages.

If you can go last minute as a pair or maybe 4 travellers, then last minute TO deals can't be beaten for value.
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I think the OP mentioned summer cycling holidays and in that case, all the packages I've seen for MTB ('VTT' in French), road cycling, walking, train and touring holidays have been more expensive than if I organised things myself. But not necessarily if I tried to match the TO's itineraries exactly - I feel that often, their itineraries are carefully designed to minimise cost, rather than visit the locations I'd go for, given my knowledge of the area.

If you're organising a cycle holiday in Switzerland, then the following sites may be of interest:These are just a sample and the MySwitzerland.com official tourism site has lots of other locations and activities shown on it, as you'd expect. And most bigger resorts and areas will have a similar set of pages to Verbier's.

I'd say it's more flexible if you can drive down to the Alps with your bikes on the vehicle, and then tour 'round a bit, and do your cycling from where you're based for those 4-5 days. If you opted for this, then take a look at:Whichever option you go for, like any mountain area, you need to have a very clear idea of what sort of cycling you prefer/can handle i.e. between extreme MTB, scenic but not challenging MTB, valley floor touring, gentler foothills, road, track, etc. So for example, the Jura et Trois Lacs region is popular as a more foothill-type area with gentler road and track routes, with pretty villages and historic locations to visit en route, compared to full-on MTB extreme bike parks as in Verbier. Although even in somewhere like Verbier, you can use the lifts for all the difficult ascents and take gentler tracks back down.

I'm not saying that the Swiss Alps are better than the French or Austrian, or the Black Forest etc. - it's just that I'm more familiar with them. I'm sure other SnowHeads will have suggestions about other areas.


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Sun 13-03-22 12:19; edited 1 time in total
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LaForet wrote:
I think the OP mentioned summer holidays and in that case, all the packages I've seen for MTB ('VTT' in French), cycling, walking, train and touring holidays have been way more expensive than if I organised things myself. But not necessarily if I tried to match the TO's itineraries exactly - I feel that often, their itineraries are carefully designed to minimise cost, rather than visit the locations I'd go for, given my knowledge of the area.

If you're organising a cycling+train/car+cycle holiday in Switzerland, then the following sites may be of interest:These are just a sample and the MySwitzerland.com official tourism site has lots of other locations and activities shown on it, as you'd expect. And most bigger resorts and areas will have a similar set of pages to Verbier's. One thing I'd say is that I'd think it best to take your own bikes, of whatever type, rather than hire them, if it's a cycle/MTB-biased holiday you're after (as opposed to a car or train tour, with the odd day of cycling).

Like any mountain area, you'd need to have a very clear idea of what sort of cycling you prefer i.e. between extreme MTB, scenic but not challenging MTB, valley floor touring, gentler foothills, road, track, etc. So for example, the Jura et Trois Lacs region is popular as a more foothill-type area with gentler road and track routes, with pretty villages and historic locations to visit en route, compared to full-on MTB extreme bike parks as in Verbier. Although even in somewhere like Verbier, you can use the lifts for all the difficult ascents and take gentler tracks back down.

And personally, on balance, I'd say it's more flexible if you can drive down to the Alps with your bikes on the vehicle, and then tour 'round a bit, and do your cycling from where you're based.

If it as a hiking or walking holiday, then I can see the attraction of the TO option because of the local knowledge and guiding. It will save you a lot of time in planning routes and navigation in the mountains on the hikes/walks themselves (where you don't want to make mistakes). But as I said, it's someone else's itinerary and I often feel that the ones I've seen are OK but not the most interesting/rewarding routes.


Thanks for the tips.

I've driven, trained, and flown with my bike in the past. They've all got their pros and cons.

Part of the adventure for me is getting to places where I can mountain bike, with my mountain bike, using public transport as much as possible. Travelling to and around Europe with a bike by train adds complexity to something that is already somewhat less than user friendly. Perversely, that's what makes it more interesting for me.

For those who are wondering about the complexity, it's to do with the pros and cons of taking a bike by train on the Eurostar and then some of the European high speed train network. In a nutshell, on many high speed trains you can only take bikes in a bike bag, however, lugging a bike bag around many of the train stations is a complete PITA. It is possible to take a bike without disassembling it, but that limits you to slow trains only, which adds massively to travel time and cost. eg Switzerland becomes a two day rather than one day journey. rolling eyes
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Yes, it's quite finely-balanced, especially if you're a relatively fit cyclist. And it can seem perverse to take a car on a cycling holiday. Our local bike shop used to organise European group trips and they used disposable cardboard cycle packs for the flights, and then re-assembled the bikes after landing and discarded the cardboard (although they did have to then airmail more packs out for the return flight).

Many of the lift systems in summer are really useful too e.g. I've got up to 3,000m from our 1500m accommodation, all on lifts, and then just gone down easy tracks. It looks spectacular and made for impressive photo's by the glacier, but in my case, it wasn't intrepid at all!

Hiring versus using your own bike is also a difficult decision, as I've found rental rates to be very variable and sometimes pretty hefty. If you're an eBike user, this might favour rental, depending on the location. But it's hard to be sure.

Overall, I cans see that if a TO's itinerary exactly matches where you want to go, then probably, they can get better rates than you will for accommodation and possible train tickets. But the question is really whether you want to conform to their itinerary or do something different.
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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.
Talking about our experience as a family of 4, who like nice hotels:

At Xmas/NY/FebHT, if flying, packages are often cheaper. Scheduled flight costs to any airport remotely near The Alps can reach obscene levels, especially if you’re travelling as a family. Driving saves vast sums.

At any other time, travelling independently can cost the same or is cheaper, plus you can choose from any hotel that takes your fancy. There are so many wonderful hotels not on the books of the TO’s. In addition, fortunes to be saved by not flying on Fri/Sat/Sun. You can also tailor say 8 or 9 day holidays, giving loads more skiing.

We’ve taken 1 package holiday in 10 plus years (St Christoph NY 2018/19), against many independent holidays skiing or in the Med.
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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
James77 wrote:
For DIY do folks use Airbnb, sunweb (or similar) or book direct with Odalys, pierre etc vacances or mgm?

All the Airbnbs I find are great value less that £1000 a week In February HT but accommodation Is more basic and often a compromise, ski holiday is not just about the slopes I like decent apartments it still needs to be a treat. A holiday isn't about roughing it for me at least.

We often book with erna low and prices are as Odalys etc so I suppose the trick is to find the good areas that TOs don't operate in?

Our Feb HT holiday 2 weeks ago to Flaine cost us about £5k for 2 adults 2 under 10s which I was surprised at. Le Panoramic and flexiplus £2.7k, lift passes and kids lessons about £1k, then tolls, fuel, food, ski hire, eating out couple of times was the rest. We perhaps could've ate a little more cheaply but that would have only been a small saving.

We're booking a trip to le sybelles next hoping that might be more cost effective and we're close to booking an air bnb but as I say they are more basic so I suspect we'll wait to big residence prices.

Interested to know how others go about booking.


I check a variety.
Air BnB
Vrbo
Belvilla
Chalets Direct

Our trip last week to Mayrhofen I actually used the accommodation finder on their website. Was really easy and simple to use. Found us a spot that wasn’t advertised anywhere else.
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