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Need a hotel or car? Book a package to save up to $250

SmarterTravel

Planning a trip isn’t just about finding the cheapest airfare. If you need a hotel stay or a car rental, one way to save time and money is to book a vacation package. In just three examples we checked, we spent less time by not having to search separately for the components of a trip, and we found savings of up to $250, too. The main drawback to a pre-packaged vacation is that you may not get as many options as you’ll find if you choose the individual pieces yourself.

Fortunately, many airlines and online travel agencies now offer ways for you to reserve a hotel or car rental at the same time you book airfare, without the inflexibility of a pre-packaged vacation. Bundling multiple components of your trip allows you to search for the best-priced or most convenient airfare, hotel, and rental car, and book them all together, often at prices that are comparable to vacation packages.

Usually, bundling is available from the provider’s home page or within its online booking process. For example, on the top of its home page, Expedia offers you the ability to book “flight only,” “hotel only,” or “flight + hotel,” among other choices. And in its reservation system, Southwest provides menus for choosing a car rental or hotel stay at the same time you book airfare.

How do the fares compare?

Here are three comparisons of sample vacations for two people departing on July 15, with return on July 22. For each trip, we checked the prices for booking the same flights and hotel rooms individually and in a bundle, as well as, when applicable, for a pre-packaged vacation with the same components. (We’ve rounded all prices to the nearest dollar.) Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a single method of booking that always offered the best price.

From Dallas to New Orleans on Southwest, with a seven-night stay at the Best Western French Quarter Landmark

Booking method Airfare for two Hotel Total Cost per person
Airfare and hotel separately, from Southwest and Best Western $335 $1254 $1589 $795
Bundled from Southwest $335 $938 $1273 $636
Pre-packaged vacation from Southwest N/A N/A $1089 $545

The results: The package price turned out to be cheapest, but compared to booking our stay separately through Best Western’s website, bundling gave us the most hotel options, saved us time, and offered a lower price.

From Seattle to Miami on United, with a seven-night stay at the Marco Polo Ramada Plaza Beach Resort

Booking method Airfare for two Hotel Total Cost per person
Airfare and hotel separately, from United and Ramada $506 $520 $1026 $513+
Bundled from United $506 $470 $976 $488+
Pre-packaged vacation from United N/A N/A $994 $497+

+ Does not include applicable hotel taxes

The results: With United’s system, bundling was slightly quicker than booking a vacation package, and it was also less expensive.

From Boston to Chicago with Expedia, with a seven-night stay at the Renaissance Chicago North Shore and a seven-day economy rental from Hertz

Booking method Airfare for two Hotel Rental car Total Cost per person
Airfare, hotel, and car separately, from Expedia $363 $646 $148 $1158 $579
Bundled on Expedia N/A N/A N/A $1181 $591

The results: With Expedia, we could book our three travel products separately, or as a bundle. There wasn’t a pre-set vacation with the same components, so we couldn’t compare the overall package price. When we tried to book a bundle, Expedia, unlike the airlines, didn’t show us the individual prices for airfare, hotel, and car. As it turned out, we were able to find the lowest cost per person by booking all three components separately.

Conclusion

Because there wasn’t a single method that always offered the best price, our advice is to check with multiple providers to find the options that suit your needs best. Sometimes, you can save both time and money by booking a pre-packaged vacation, or you can give yourself more flexibility by putting your own bundle together.

In two of our three examples, bundles and packages took about the same amount of time to book; reserving each piece of a trip individually took longer, but that method can sometimes find you a lower price. For overall convenience and the widest range of choices, however, we think bundling is the best way to go.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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