Sponsored by Gate 1 Travel

You know what it’s like to book a trip. There are flights to research (Am I getting the best price?); hotels to vet (Should I worry about cleanliness?); excursions to plan (What are the museum's hours?); and transportation to consider (Should we rent a car?). You probably know how much time it can take before all the pieces come together, and how many web sites you have to check and customer service reps you have to call. It can be a painstaking process.

Packaged tours offer a solution to all that. You book once, pay one price, and almost everything is covered — flights, hotels, meals, transportation, and more. What you may not know, however, is that in addition to saving you lots of time and many headaches, booking a vacation can save you money.

Here’s how tour operators do it.

1. It’s all about the relationships.

Try this. The next time you see a package on sale, take a look at the price and check the math. Do some research and add up the price of each included element per person — flights, lodging costs, meals, transportation, and excursions and tours. In many cases, you’ll often come up with a number that’s significantly higher than the price of the package deal. How do tour operators offer these prices? The answer is simple: relationships. Tour operators like Gate 1 Travel have many long-established relationships throughout the travel world — with airlines, hotels, attractions, and local guides. This allows them to negotiate amazing fares on their customers’ behalf. Gate 1 Travel has more than 40 years of experience doing this, so they can offer the absolute best value for the money.

2. There’s a tour for every budget — and travel style

Not all packages are created equal, and each kind is designed to suit the needs of different kinds of travelers. They’re also suitable for different budgets, whether you have a little to spend, or a lot.

If you’re an independent-minded traveler who still likes to take advantage of the savings and convenience of a package, a bare-bones "fly-and-drive" option might be best for you. (Gate 1 Travel labels these tours as "Independent.") These typically include flights, lodging, and a rental car. Some also include the assistance of a host at the hotel who can help you plan excursions. The rest is up to you. This kind of a package is great in destinations like Ireland or Italy where the roads are good, and where a car lets you easily see a number of small towns and natural sights that aren’t easily accessible by public transportation. These packages offer more than convenience, though. They also offer incredibly low prices. Sometimes, they will cost less than the flights alone to popular destinations around the world.

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find fully escorted packages. These tours usually include flights, lodging, some meals, all transportation in the destination (usually by train, plane, and/or bus), a dedicated representative from the packager who will stay with you throughout, and a comprehensive schedule of tours that covers a significant portion of your time. You’ll also find some amazing cruises — including river cruises — packaged to include flights, transfers, and optional pre- or post-cruise land tours. These kinds of packages naturally cost more, but offer significant value. They’re great for travelers who truly want to kick back and enjoy, and not worry about a thing from the minute they depart. Often, free time is scheduled into your day, so you can do some exploring on your own as well. Gate 1 Travel refers to these tours as "Classic."

For incredible savings, look for Gate 1 tours labeled as Affordable. These typically occur in shoulder and low season when crowds get smaller and you can enjoy significant savings on all kinds of tours.

There is a middle ground between independent and fully escorted packages, which Gate 1 Travel refers to as "Partially Escorted." This kind of trip includes flights and hotels, but you’ll also have some basic included tours and activities. This is perfect for travelers who want the organization — and support — of a tour operator, but still want plenty of time to go off on their own, and follow their own schedule. Expect these packages to cost more than an Independent trip, but less than a Classic, fully-escorted tour.

3. You’ll only experience the best of a destination

A package can also prevent you from wasting money. Operators like Gate 1 Travel extensively vet all of their travel partners so you don’t have to. Their tour managers bring decades of experience and expertise to the table, and they’re all fluent in English. This means you’ll be spared the frustrating experience of less-than-knowledgeable tour guides, sub-par food, and hotels that aren’t up to standard. They’ve tried it all so you don’t have to.

4. You’ll avoid kickbacks and scams

We’ve all had this happen to us. You ask a hotel concierge for a recommendation or take a risk booking a food or shopping tour in a destination you don’t know well. You follow the advice only to discover that you’ve been sent to a place that serves awful food, or is significantly more expensive than other offerings in the area. We wish it didn’t happen, but kickbacks and commission-based recommendations are a reality in travel. Tour operators like Gate 1 Travel help you avoid these completely by only taking you to reputable businesses, and on tours where the guides have not been paid or otherwise compensated to patronize specific businesses. When you’re on your own in a city, the locally based guides can often recommend their personal favorites. You’ll have a better experience, and you won’t pay more than you should.

5. You’ll sail through language barriers

A tour is a great option for travelers who are interested in destinations that present significant language and cultural barriers. If you’re excited to visit India, China, Japan, Peru, Greece, or Thailand but are less than enthused about the red tape — and potential miscommunication — of traveling on your own without someone to interpret for you, a package can ease a lot of the stress. It means you’ll never order the wrong thing at a restaurant, have to struggle with a two-language dictionaries and maps, or be lost during a museum or city tour.

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