If it’s your first time to travel to the Philippines, it’s understandable if you become rather confused on where to go and what to do. Come on, over 7,100 islands to explore? How do you cramp all that into one visit?
The answer is, you don’t.
You choose the ones that you feel would be more than worth it, and then you plan your next trip to the country to explore more.
But once you’ve decided on the specific islands or provinces that you want to explore, you become faced with yet another huge decision. Do you take the package tour, or do you plan an itinerary on your own?
Let’s look at both options.
When you think about the costs, the packaged tours are often more appealing. You’d be surprised at how much they can include in a package that only costs AUD150, relieving you of worries about transportation, accommodations, and entrance fees to different places.
However, remember that packaged tours also mean that they try to get the cheapest deals out of everything because they have to think about profit, too.
This is where planning your own itinerary could prove to be more affordable not because of the total amount, but because of the value you get for the services you pay for.
Transportation costs, for instance. There are seat sales that run almost every quarter, allowing you to travel from Manila to Boracay and back again for less than AUD30.
Yes, you’d have to book the flights way in advance, but that’s a big deal if you compare it with the usual AUD80 to AUD100 fare.
You can also find great deals on accommodations, with rooms around AUD90 a night, sometimes even less. And yes, these are decent rooms that you can truly enjoy.
But Boracay is one of the more expensive locations in the country. So just imagine if you were to explore cheaper tourist spots. You’d have to do a lot of digging, but trust me, your planned itinerary could actually give you a better experience for the same costs, sometimes even cheaper.
If you were initially hoping to get a lot of quiet time and a whole lot of relaxing, that’s not exactly something that’s guaranteed when you get a packaged tour.
Tour organizers have a habit of trying to fit a million things into two or three days, which means that the schedule is pretty tight.
That’s fine if you’re the type of person who’s always on the go. But if you were hoping to finally slow down your pace and enjoy each moment, then a packaged tour is definitely not for you.
If you’d rather sleep in and take as much time as you want in a certain spot, then it’s better to plan your own itinerary.
No running around, trying to catch up with everyone else. No looking at your watch every 2 to 5 minutes in fear that the guide might have left you. It’s all about taking your sweet time every step of the way, which is one of the things that you can truly enjoy while on vacation.
Packaged tours follow a strict itinerary simply because that’s exactly what everyone paid for.
This means that if you were hoping to visit a spot that’s not on the list, you’re going to have to do it on your own time.
This also means that if there’s something on the list that you’re not really interested in seeing, then you have no other choice but to go anyway.
When you plan your own trip, you become 100% sure that you only go where you want to go when you want to go there.
The best part about it is that you can stay at every spot you visit for as long as you like, never having to worry about being left behind by the group.
When you sign up for a packaged tour, you’re going to be glued to the same group of people the entire duration of the trip. You’ll eat together. You’ll travel together. You’ll stay in the same hotels.
You’ll probably even find the same faces in the pictures you take home. And that’s all fine and dandy, but remember that these people are just like you, travelers who have little to no knowledge about what the place is all about.
Now if you really want to explore each locality you visit, the best people to hang out with would be the locals who know the ins and outs of each place.
You can really get immersed in the local culture and hear stories about its history. You can even find secret spots that tourists do not hear about from paid guides, giving you a richer experience overall.
So are packaged tours really for you? If you have very little time to spare or have no chance to do the research needed, then by all means, sign up for a packaged tour. But if you really want to savor each fully experience each moment, then you’re probably better off planning your own trip.
Special thanks to Fartinabag for the main image.
I am a mother, a wife and a technology loving Filipina who loves reading hi-fiction books (dragons!) , good stories, dancing, laughter, lying on the grass and eating balut. I am born and raised in the Philippines and now resides in Australia but finds myself in the Philippines for at least 3 months a year. I am part of the Filipino Australian Community and have been living between Australia and the Philippines since 2007.