If the term "package holiday" conjures visions of crowded tour buses disgorging cut-price tourists at cheap hotels on Costa Del Shocker, you're in for a surprise.
The "holiday in a box", as it's been dubbed, has never been better or more affordable. Think luxury hotels, elegant resorts, classy cruise ships and extraordinary escorted journeys to amazing places on comfortable coaches, with top-tier airline flights, limo transfers, fine cuisine with fine wine, and even free babysitting included. All this for a price often much less than it would cost you if you went and organised it all yourself.
"The golden era of travel is now, " says Tom Walley, executive general manager of the Flight Centre Group, "because of greater affordability, choice, convenience and superior product. Plus, airfares have never been cheaper and there's never been more variety of destinations accessible for Australian travellers."
That's given rise to entrepreneurial travel companies, Flight Centre included, using innovation, imagination and bargaining power to create appealing all-inclusive and semi-inclusive holiday packages for all tastes and means. Walley says that "people can now adopt the philosophy: my only job is to have a holiday" and leave the rest to these experts.
Ignite Travel Group, which comprises the My Holiday brands as well as Get Luxe, is a pioneer in this segment of travel. Randall Deer, chief executive of Ignite, says customers across the various Ignite brands, while wanting value, are different.
"Everybody wants more for less, " he says. "And they want to be inspired. Our point of difference is more curation and more care. Let's just sell the best and put everything in a holiday-in-a-box solution with no hidden catches. We bring the destination's best foot forward in the most convenient package."
How's that possible at the prices offered?
Brendan Sawyers, chief executive of Webjet Exclusives, says: "We are a part of Webjet, Australia and New Zealand's largest online travel agent, and our all-inclusive tours benefit from our wide range of business relationships we have in the market.
"With a significant number of customers buying their tours online with Webjet Exclusives, it promotes great pricing from our suppliers which we can pass straight on to our customers."
Adam Schwab, co-founder and chief executive of Luxury Escapes, says his company has the ability to approach the best hotels and resorts and ask for their best price. "And we can do that because we give various things: customers who stay longer, and generally Australian customers who spend more on site, and who will come back. The hotels love it and so do our customers."
Richard Johnston, founder and director of TripADeal says that all sorts of people are buying all-inclusive holidays these days. From families on cruises to couples enjoying resort stays to Baby Boomers chasing their bucket-list dreams. He says the world is opening up like never before and Australians are travelling to places they never would have considered in the past.
Expedia's Lisa Perkovic believes that Australians' renewed love affair with packaged holidays is due to two main factors – money and time – both of which have become precious commodities.
"We all want to save where we can plus there is a thrill you get from sourcing and finding an amazing deal," she says. "And convenience is important."
Here, then, are 25 inspiring ideas (with an additional five ski holiday suggestions for good measure) carefully selected by Traveller on Sunday that you can book right now.
Expedia bundles flights and hotel nights for big savings. For example, secure return economy airfares from Sydney to New York with Cathay Pacific combined with seven nights' accommodation staying in a double room at the four-star Cassa Hotel NY 45th St, a boutique Radisson property in the heart of Manhattan. From $6721 for two, a saving of more than $2400 (sample travel dates September 22-29, 2018). As Expedia's pricing is dynamic, other rates may currently apply. See expedia.com.au
Flight Centre's website has a "view and customise" function to add on things such as breakfast and sightseeing tours. This pre-modification deal for flights and accommodation in Paris is ideal as it is for those who want to do their own thing. You get return economy air with Thai Airways, five nights at the three-star Hotel L'Interlude in a Classic Double Room and Wi-Fi. From $1369 a person twin share. Travel October 21-November 15. See flightcentre.com.au
Travelmarvel's regular "fly free" promotion is one to look out for. It's just finished, but time it right and you can get flights included with the popular 14-night river cruise itinerary, European Gems. This one comes with the lot apart from flights and takes you to Amsterdam, Budapest, Vienna with other stunning stops in between. Great onboard meals, with beer and local wine at lunch and dinner, transfers and tipping are all included. From $5795 a person twin share. See travelmarvel.com.au
Ideal to include in your personal tour of Italy, this Rome stay has you in the heart of the action with lots of extras. Stay four nights in the city's oldest hotel – Hotel Sole al Pantheon, established in 1467 near its namesake, the Pantheon. This Luxury Escapes package represents savings of 56 per cent and gives daily breakfasts, prosecco on arrival and late checkout. It costs $849 for two, valued up to $1949. See luxuryescapes.com
Tick off London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin with an experience-laden tour from Scenic. The Majestic Britain and Ireland, 22-day London round trip tour melds two-night city stays with historic ruins and natural wonders in the countryside. All breakfast and many dinners are included, as are entrance fees, tipping and quality accommodation. Scenic prides itself on "worry-free touring". This one costs from $12,845 a person twin share. See scenic.com.au
My Fiji's bundling power gives $2000 in bonus value on a family holiday at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort for seven nights in a Deluxe Ocean View room. It includes return airfares plus checked luggage and transfers in Fiji as well as two children under 11 flying free (Sydney only), daily buffet breakfast, two children under 11 staying and eating for free, and a suite of extras such as four days of nanny service. The price is from $1990 an adult twin share. Travel November 2-December 19 and January 23-March 31. Book by June 30. See myfiji.com.au
Sri Lanka is a great option for a fly and flop holiday. This one includes savings of 51 per cent, thanks to Get Luxe's clever bundling. Fly to Colombo with Singapore Airlines (luggage included) and stay five nights in a Grande Oceanview Room at Amari Galle Sri Lanka. There's breakfast daily, airport transfers, massages, a daily cocktail, late checkout and Wi-Fi.
From $1729 a person ex Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth. Book by June 30 for travel till December 22 with blackout dates applying. See getluxe.com
There are even packages out there for golf nuts – in its $2000 of bonus value, this one includes unlimited golf, including green fees at Sheraton New Caledonia Deva Golf Resort & Spa. Accommodation at the resort, Aircalin airfares including checked luggage, transfers, breakfast, resort credit, and a glass-bottom boat tour to round things off. Children stay free and Wi-Fi is thrown in, too. It costs from $1690 a person departing Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Select travel dates with blackouts applying. Book by June 30. See mynewcaledonia.com.au
If you've ever considered the Maldives a bit hard to get to, or too expensive, My Maldives has you sorted, with $4500 in bonus value to boot. You get return flights with Singapore Airlines (luggage included), seven nights in a Beachfront Deluxe Room at Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, return speed boat transfers an excellent meal plan, dolphin cruise, massages and children can stay and eat for free. All this costs from $2990 a person twin share. Book by June 30 for select travel dates. See mymaldives.com.au
Packages can be handy as an aspect of your wider roaming. Heading to New Zealand for a road trip? Book two nights at Peppers on the Point, a historic lodge at the edge of New Zealand's beautiful Lake Rotorua through Luxury Escapes. The offer includes daily breakfasts, a four-course gourmet dinner, 30-minute massage each and complimentary wine and chocolates. It costs $999 for two, valued at $1927. Phone 1300 889 900. See luxuryescapes.com
Spacifica's seven-day Fiji cruise package includes savings of $2340. Cruise the Yasawa Islands, Modriki and the Sacred Islands aboard the MV Fiji Princess in a Hibiscus Cabin with all meals, all beverages (local beers, house wine, and fruit juices between noon and 11pm daily), and all shore excursions and activities. It costs $2999 a person twin share. On sale till June 15 for select departures in November 2018 and February 2019. Phone 1800 800 722 and quote deal code 185446. See spacificatravel.com
Bundling gives savings here of $4000 for two, that manifest in a free upgrade from inside to mid-ship ocean view cabin and three nights staying at Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa, Waikiki. The star of the show is a seven-night cruise on Pride of America, and with return economy air, transfers in Hawaii, all meals plus a special meal package and tour voucher booklet, it's a true holiday in a box. It costs from $3990 a person twin share. Book by June 30. Select departure dates between July 28 and November 10. See mycruise.com.au
Abercrombie & Kent includes helicopter touring of the Bungle Bungles in this June 2019 luxury Kimberley adventure onboard the exclusively chartered, new luxury Le Laperouse vessel. The 12-night Broome-to-Darwin trip includes in-depth exploration thanks to A&K's award-winning expedition team and the price includes Broome hotel accommodation, all meals and beverages starting with dinner on arrival day and all excursions. It's currently $1300 a person off, at $16,995 a person twin share. See abercrombiekent.com.au
Webjet Exclusive's Majestic China Yangtze River Cruise includes international flights, internal flights, airport transfers, four-star accommodation, a three-night Yangtze River cruise, plus meals on the river cruise and gratuities. A quick trip, but there are nine- and 14-day versions available with similar inclusions. Sightseeing excursions include the Three Gorges Project, the White Emperor City and more. This itinerary costs from $999 a person twin share with many departure dates. See exclusives.webjet.com.au
High end, boutique cruising comes at a premium, but when you factor in gourmet meals, complimentary fine wines and spirits (including in-room bar) and exemplary service, they can be great value. This 19-night package offers a 16-night cruise onboard the 600-passenger Seabourn Encore in a Verandah Suite, visiting New Caledonia, Fiji and more. Premium economy air and two nights with breakfast and Wi-Fi at the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland add more value. From $10,155 a person twin share. Departs Auckland January 6. See travel-associates.com.au
This 10-day Highlights of Vietnam package includes return international airfares with Vietnam Airlines including 30 kilograms of luggage, internal flights, transfers, breakfast daily, sightseeing, accommodation and more. Highlights include exploring the Cu Chi Tunnels, an overnight cruise in Halong Bay and city tour of Hanoi. Webjet Exclusives also offers a beach stay extension. From $1599 for value nearly double that. There are plenty of departure dates. See exclusives.webjet.com.au
Wendy Wu's mega-sale is on until June 15, a good time to book the 14-day Trails of Japan tour, currently $1100 off. Wendy Wu bundles international flights, so things are taken care of from go to whoa. This trip features Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and lots of great experiences in between such as learning taiko drumming and seeing the snow monkeys. Most meals, entrance fees, accommodation and transfers come in the package. From $8780 a person twin share on select departures. See wendywutours.com.au
MEXICO AND CUBA
On this 18-day itinerary, land touring in Mexico combines with a Caribbean cruise. TripADeal includes return economy flights. Kick off in Cancun, before heading to Chichen Itza for the Mayan pyramids, then Yucatan and two days on the Riviera Maya. Board MSC Opera or Armonia for a seven-night cruise through the Caribbean including two days docked in Havana. Many meals and eight hotel nights are included. $3999 a person twin share, for more than $6500 value. Select departures till February 25. See tripadeal.com.au
SPAIN, PORTUGAL AND MOROCCO
Bunnik includes return flights, transfers, porterage as well as a transparent $295 "tipping made easy" component so there's no doubt about not having to put your hand in your wallet for gratuities. This 27-day, small-group odyssey features good-quality hotels, all breakfasts and some other meals, and sightseeing in Barcelona, Valencia, Granada, Tangier, Marrakech, Sintra, Lisbon, Porto, and many other places. The price is from $10,795 a person twin share. See bunniktours.com.au
CANADA AND ALASKA
With Evergreen you get an itinerary curated to include must-see sights and free time, with "You're Invited" exclusive local experiences included and "Discover More" options to personalise a holiday. Premium accommodation, tipping and transfers are covered. The 17-day Rockies Highlights with Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska Inside Passage Cruise costs from $5595 a person twin share and includes extensive land touring in the Rockies featuring the Rocky Mountaineer train, and a seven-day cruise. See evergreentours.com.au
Webjet Exclusive's 11-day Temples, Tigers and Raj tour of India can be tailored with upgrades. An Essentials Package includes return international airfares, sightseeing, accommodation, tour guides, meals, transportation and more. The Classic Package gives more meals and better accommodation and the Signature Package goes deluxe with special meals, more wildlife spotting and superior hotels. It's from $1999 a person twin share. See exclusives.webjet.com.au
EGYPT AND JORDAN
See the best of Jordan and Egypt on a 22-night small group tour that includes breakfasts and many other meals, Emirates flights and 16 nights' accommodation such as in the Le Meridien overlooking the Great Pyramids of Giza. There's a three-night Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor and handpicked sightseeing including the legendary sights of these ancient lands such as Petra and a swim in the Dead Sea. Priced from $7799 for travel in 2018 and 2019. See inspiringvacations.com.au
Flights with Emirates are included with this bucket-list-ticking adventure. A 17-day winter self-guided tour of Norway to hunt for the Northern Lights, there's snowmobiling, fishing for king crab on a frozen lake, husky-sled riding, a stay in a wooden cabin, a five-night cruise from Kirkenes to Bergen on a small ship to see the fjords and riding the Flam Railway. Breakfast daily and a number of other meals are included, as well as accommodation. From $5999 for travel in 2018 and 2019. See inspiringvacations.com.au
APT runs regular deals that give free flights. Itineraries these apply to include the 11-day Grand Bordeaux with Luke Nguyen, a 2019 gastronomic holiday, offering a look at Paris and the Bordeaux region through the eyes of the popular chef. Travel aboard MS AmaDolce, with highlights including a special dinner at La Terrasse Rouge in Saint-Emilion. It comes with sightseeing and APT's Freedom of Choice Inclusions in four locations, beverages, 25 meals, and for some suites, laundry. Departs August 2019. From $8995 a person twin share. See aptouring.com.au
CHILE AND ARGENTINA
Starting in Santiago, Bunnik's 23-day Ultimate Chile and Argentina ticks off the checklist with return economy-class flights from Australia to South America, five internal flights, transfers, tipping, good quality hotels, all breakfasts and plenty of other meals, plus special treats such as two nights in a treehouse hotel in Los Glaciares National Park. Wine regions, natural wonders, city explorations and local experiences are built in, too. It costs from $15,975 a person twin share. See bunniktours.com.au
FIVE SKI PACKAGES
All-inclusive pioneers, Club Med has ski-in, ski-out resorts in its portfolio. Packages include accommodation, lift passes, group lessons, gourmet meals and snacks, an open bar, activities, entertainment and transfers. Club Med Tomamu in Hokkaido, Japan is new. Seven nights from $2350 an adult. See clubmed.com.au
VIP Ski is a British-based company with its own ski chalets in Austria and France. Its packages include flights from Britain but they'll recalibrate for people flying from elsewhere. In the Arlberg region, a package gives flights from Gatwick, transfers, accommodation, meals and a free concierge service to help you find your way around. Add-ons include equipment, lessons and childcare. See vip-chalets.com
Ski Portillo is two hours north-east of Santiago, Chile. A week's stay includes accommodation, four meals a day, lift tickets and access to fitness and entertainment facilities. A double room is $3950 a person in high season. There are shorter options. At extra cost, Chimu Adventures can tailor a trip including flights to Santiago, a city tour and transfers to and from Ski Portillo. See chimuadventures.com
THREDBO, NEW SOUTH WALES
Thredbo's Kids Ski Free Lift and Accommodation Package gives savings of up to $200. Package includes three nights' accommodation and a three-day lift pass for each person, including free kids' passes. $477 a family a night for two adults and two children staying in a One Bedroom Patio at Lantern Apartments on select dates. See Thredbo.com.au
Falls Creek Hotel Weekend Escape Special gives two nights from $340 a person twin share with a four-course dinner and cooked breakfast each day. Available June 8 till October 1 at the Falls Creek Hotel, with price increasing during peak periods. Quote package code: FCHWS. See snowholidays.com.au
INCLUSIVELY YOURS: INSIDER TIPS FOR THE PERFECT PACKAGE
TOM WALLEY, FLIGHT CENTRE
"Prepay for as much as you can before you go, and if you are looking for a really good deal, travel outside of school holidays and peak periods."
RANDALL DEER, IGNITE TRAVEL
"When booking a package, make sure you know which airline you are flying with and if there are any layovers. Do your homework on the pricing offered."
TRACEY BARRY, TRAVEL ASSOCIATES
"Contact us and let us make some suggestions. This is what we do all day every day and we can keep you in mind when we see amazing value offers and new products come across our desk. Sign up to our weekly newsletter."
RICHARD JOHNSTON, TRIPADEAL
"Included flights allow you to have a fully integrated experience. Deals without flights can be logistically difficult. Also, all your nights should be in quality accommodation. We know value is important, but never at the expense of a good place to rest your head."
BRENDAN SAWYERS, WEBJET EXCLUSIVES
"Being open-minded about your destination can help as you'll have more choice and flexibility on deals to suit your budget. You might also be pleasantly surprised about a place."
PAUL RYAN, INSPIRING VACATIONS
"Book early. At Inspiring Vacations we launch our packages well advance of travel dates and the closer we get to the travel date, the higher the costs (such as flights) tend to be. Sign up to newsletters and look for product launches."
ADAM SCHWAB, LUXURY ESCAPES
"Keep an eye out and be open. Often hotels and resorts are substitutable. Do your research."