The short answer: For convenience, yes. For price, no (with exceptions).
A tour package should do what you want it to do. That means you should talk about your vacation first, pick the parks/attractions you want to see, and discuss where you want to stay coupled with what you can afford. Some people read the shiny webpage, believe that it will do what it says and offer “the perfect family vacation.” But after they book the glitz, they start to calculate the activities the package doesn’t include.
If you want to tour only Disney, consider a Disney-only package. Same with Universal or any other tour. (Note, however, that “tour package” covers a lot of turf. Some packages plan the entire vacation for you; others might offer only tickets and meals. Pick and choose appropriately.)
The cost of activities outside a packaged tour is steep. Assume you took a Universal Studios package that includes hotel, park tickets, luggage transfer, meals, etc. If you then choose to spend three days off-package at Disney World and Sea World, you must pay extra for the tickets and meals. Worse – you’ve prepaid for the Universal tickets and meals that now aren’t used.
Package tours: The benefits
- Convenience. Trip planning can be a nightmare for visitors who have never been to Orlando. Which flight is cheapest, which hotel is best? Want to avoid paying for each and every meal, worrying that your youngest will order off the top of the menu? With a package, all the documentation is sent in a single envelope, and the instructions – where to go, what to do – are included.
- Extra perks. Some benefits cannot be booked outside at least a limited tour plan. Disney, Universal, airline tour companies, private tour companies, etc., offer dining plans that, by definition, are part of a package. In 2009, Disney included free meals if you booked its tour package, a perk you cannot get on your own.
- Peace of mind. This comes in two forms: First, you have a tour company to call if anything goes wrong, and something always goes wrong – lost reservations, delayed baggage transfers, etc. Second, international visitors can book through a native company that speaks their language, which simplifies a sometimes-confusing visit to another country.
Package tours: The downside
- Inconvenience. If a park or event isn’t included in the package, you pay extra and make your own arrangements.
- Unnecessary perks. Even perfect packages may include elements you don’t want, such as a tour book (you have FAQOrlando.com), free Disney toy, etc. – but you still pay for them within the package.
- Cost. Disney doesn’t pretend to offer cost savings through a package unless there’s a recession. Other tour operators generally book a block of rooms or tickets at a significant discount, but they then tack a profit margin onto them before putting them into a package. You can only tell if it’s a bargain by pricing each element separately and comparing it to the tour package price.
Also note the time of year you’re traveling. A package could be a good deal in high season (summer and holidays) but more expensive compared to a la carte prices in the off-season.
Also see: Using a travel agent