Author Topic: Independent vs Tour Operator  (Read 4654 times)

Offline Mike G

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Independent vs Tour Operator
« on: August 16, 2003, 10:24:29 AM »
There are several mentions in the forums of "Going Independent" to Plakias. I have never done this on any holiday, in fact I have never seen the attraction, especially as one of the correspondents admitted that you didn't save money. Let me explain my reasons and perhaps some of you will try to convince me otherwise.

The one think I look for on a holiday is relaxation and a minimum of stress. That's one reason why I enjoy resorts such as Plakias so much. This was admittedly more important when I worked (I took early retirement a year ago but it still applies). For this reason  I have never hired a car, looking on it that this is one aspect of 21st century life I can do without (buses in Greece are an interesting (?) holiday experience). I don't want the hassle of a taxi journey from an airport or looking for a studio on arrival. I like the fact that a rep meets you at the airport, says "you're in Coach C in the car park", and am dropped off outside the studio. I like sitting on the plane knowing there is a bed with my name on it! I have never been pressurised to buy excursions etc by a rep and in a new resort find the welcome meeting is a useful source of information and meeting other holidaymakers.  When I used to holiday with my daughters I found a rep invaluable when one of them was ill and he prevented this from becoming a stressful experience.  I always book as soon as the brochures come out (I want to go where I choose to, not take what is left the week before, even if I pay a bit more).

Talking of cost, over the last 5 years I have paid only around £200-240 for 2 weeks in both May and Oct (always Greece), including insurance. Good value or what? You need to know who is offering good discounts. Admittedly the rep is often not too well informed in May but in Oct they always are.

Someone mentioned Smart Holidays and I checked out their brochure. Yes, they have a better selection in Plakias than either Olympic or First Choice. However, you have to book the flight separately and get yourself to and from Heraklion airport. The latter would cost best part of £100 for the two way journey.

I accept that the Internet has made booking independently easier but would be interested in the counter view from some of your correspondents.

Mike G

Offline ostraco

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« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2003, 10:47:37 AM »
You make some very good points Mike.
Personally, I prefer to use the travel companies too. While I can get the resort, rooms and flights that suit me, I will continue to use them.

The savings made by going it alone are not substantial - the security of being with a company represented in the resort is worth the extra few pounds. And travelling 'off season', the package option is often cheaper.

There are a few niggles with the companies - like the time it can take to get to the resort if there are lots of 'drop offs' along the way, but the stress involved is certainly well reduced.

Each to their own - but I've made my choice.
John - Ostraco

Offline Susan K

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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2003, 10:17:03 AM »
Sorry chaps, can't agree with you on this one, we much prefer to go it alone and it's part of the holiday experience for us. When in Plakias (usually September) we stop by Anso Travel and book our accommodation for the following year. When the tour operators release details of their flights we book as soon as we can which is usually January/February. We hate hanging aroung the airport sitting in a hot coach waiting for everyone to join us and then having to drop everyone off on the way. It is so nice to walk through customs and find a familiar taxi driver (arranged by Anso) standing there with your name on his board. No hanging aroung and straight to the resort for that first cold beer and Greek salad. Stress, what stress?  

Offline Allan Barham

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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2003, 03:21:11 PM »
Well said Susan!

For many years we used Simply Crete for all our Cretan holidays and found the company very good although perhaps a little more expensive than some other packages.  Then two years ago we discovered to our horror that Simply had dropped almost all their properties in South West Crete, including those in Plakias.  Happily we found that ‘our’ Plakias apartments were being offered on the Internet and with flights booked through a local travel agent, the DIY package was coming out about £150 cheaper than we had been paying before, even taking into account the cost of airport transfers.  I don’t doubt that you can pick up a last minute deal from other travel companies that would come cheaper still but we find that there are some significant advantages in making your own arrangements.

Firstly we can specify the flights.  Living in South Wales we can choose day-time flights from our regional airports to either Heraklion or Chania whichever suits us best.  We can book direct with the airline or through a bucket shop or in a high street travel agent.  We don’t have to go for seven or fourteen days but for any period that we fancy.

We have a large choice of hotels and apartments at extremely competitive prices and can even haggle.  The accommodation can be booked before arrival either through the Internet or via Finikas Travel or Anso by email.  Again we are not stuck with 7 or 14 day slots so we might decide to fly into Chania and explore that area for a couple of days before moving on to Plakias for a ‘chill-out’.

What about airport transfers?  Taxis are more expensive this year – Finikas are quoting 70 Euro (about £50) each way.  It does not cost that much more to hire a car for two blocks of three days at the start and end of the holiday – picking up the car at the airport and leaving it in Plakias and then reversing the procedure at the end of the holiday – Anso are happy to oblige.  Of course this makes the idea of having a couple of nights in a different location even more feasible.  The route from the airport to Plakias is so simple that it would not tax even the most novice navigator.

It all boils down to choice.  Do you want the simplicity but the constraints of a package or the convenience and flexibility of a holiday that you specify in detail yourself?  The Internet has made the DIY approach easy to manage and those of us who are retired (time rich, cash poor) can get a great deal of satisfaction from organising the holiday that we want at a competitive price.

So what happens if it all goes pear shaped – how do you cope with no rep to fall back on?  Provided that you have good travel insurance cover it isn’t a worry.  On one Cretan holiday we had a major emergency back home but one call to our insurance company was enough to put in motion the steps necessary to fly us back to the UK the following day.  So it really isn’t a worry and if we want to organise a trip to say the Inbros Gorge there are plenty of places in Plakias that will book the trip for you.

So if you see a discounted bargain with one of the travel companies by all means go for it but don't dismiss the idea of going it alone!

Regards,

Allan

Offline Graham_and_Karen

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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2003, 05:40:17 PM »
We have always booked through a brochure and often too late to have much choice - We just hate to commit to a holiday too soon. We booked earlier this year as we knew we wanted to go to Plakias. Maybe next year we will try booking independently as, like you Susan, I hate the time spent on the coach. Also, this year, Olympic have really messed us about with the flights ('cos we're going from Stansted I think) It might have been the same if we had booked the flight separately - maybe we'll find out next year. Flights for early September are still available at around £175 and the Kostas studios we're staying at also have spaces so finding somewhere doesn't seem to be a problem.

I am working in Canada until just before our hols - I can't wait to get back home, throw some things in the case and chill out for 2 weeks. Just hope this hotel food doesn't add too many pounds while I'm here.

Looking forward to the meal on 5th  

Offline Ken & Kathy

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« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2003, 12:04:17 PM »
Over the last 5/6years we have gone independant we have found little difference in cost,it really is only a question of freedom of choice in accommodation.towards the end of the 90s the tour operators withdrew pages of places to stay in Plakias and it became a choice of (stay where we say or don,t come with us)We made our choice.

Offline Mike G

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« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2003, 01:32:11 PM »
Thanks for your comments folks. Yes, it is all a matter of personal preference and a key factor in this is whether you would find not knowing where you are going to be staying stressful or part of the holiday adventure. I'm in the former camp here. I accept that the internet has made going independent much easier.

For those in the "Independent" camp, could you share some approximate costs. I'll start the ball rolling here. I have heard positive cooments (from Ostraco I think)on the Dora Studios (Olympic Holidays). For my "early" holiday (first half of May) for someone travelling as one of a couple this is £295 plus £20 Gatwick flight supplement, less £40 Olympic discount, less tour operator's discount (Magic Breaks, who I use, will probably offer 7.5% off). There may be an extra "flight discount" from Olympic if you book early but I have ignored this. This makes £254. I have ignored insurance and the security supplement as both the independents and tour operator customers will have to pay this. One of the correspondents mentioned a flight cost of £175 and there is also mention of £50 for the taxi each way!!

I know the transfer can be less than ideal (for two recent holidays neither the coach driver nor the rep could find the accommodation I was going to and for one we travelled round and round the resort several times before we found it. This was in Paralio Astros in the Pelopponese and they didn't even know where it was in the police station!). However, unlike 21 century life for those who aren't retired, I have plenty of time on holiday and refuse to rush or be rushed for anything. (I don't go quite as far as some people I have met who take off their watch on arrival and don't put it on again until they leave). I don't find the greater time to resort on a coach a hassle. I sit back and enjoy the countryside and think about my first taverna meal and glass of house wine or Amstel. Maybe get to know some of my fellow holidaymakers

I would find negotiating the price of a taxi or accommodation on arrival a real hassle, but then again I can appreciate that others wouldn't.

The flaxibility of choosing one's start date and holiday duration both seem trivial to me  but maybe not to others (I doesn't matter whether I travel on May 5 or 7!).

I can appreciate you have a wider choice of accommodation going independent and this would become important if Olympic or First Choice were to abandon Plakias. One of the reason why I haven't returned since 1995 is becasue my preferred tour operator is Manos and they don't go to Plakias, but do go to many other good Greek resorts.

I look forward to some more feedback.

Offline John R

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« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2003, 03:34:42 PM »
If you search this forum you will see the dillema I found myself in for my October 2004 booking. Yes I like to book EARLY !!!

I their 1st edition brochure First Choice seemed to have abandoned Plakias. I have to admit that I was rather looking forward to going independent and I made the first step by booking a flight from Glasgow (we live North) for £472 (for two people) I paid a £93 deposit. I planned to hire a car for the full two weeks and have it meet us at the airport and return with it - so no transfer costs. Normally we only hire a car for 8 days or so during the two weeks there but the extra time would cover the independent transfer arrangement. Having been to Plakias for a few years now I knew that we would be spoilt for choice of accommodation which I intended booking when there this October. Then John (Ostraco) spoilt it all by pointing out to me that First Choice was later showing Plakias on their web site. I found that they were offering very big discounts for early booking which meant that we could get the whole holiday - flights accommodation and transfers for £492 (for two people - £246 each) from Newcastle airport (our usual departure point). This was far cheaper that our identical Newcastle booking for this October (2003) and it completely ruined my calculations. I swallowed my pride and cancelled the Glasgow flight losing my £93 deposit as there was no way I could compete with that price even allowing for that very annoying loss of deposit.

So for us up North with First Choice in October we can get the whole (bed and Breakfast) holiday at the excellent Stella Pension for just about the cost of the flight alone.

John R

Offline Susan K

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« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2003, 07:05:08 PM »
Mike

You say you would find negotiating the price of a taxi or accommodation on arrival a hassle, well, why leave it till then? We do it either when we are in the resort for the next year or sometimes leave it till Jan/Feb time. If you book through Anso Travel in Plakias (in person, by phone, fax, or email), they will send you photo's and a detailed description of suggested accommodation. They know all of the accommodation and can help you find something that is right for you. They will book your taxi and tell you how much it will cost. The taxi will then be waiting at the airport for you. It really is that easy.

Another point worth making is that when you book direct, the owner of the accommodation gets a much larger slice of the money. The tour operator's can and do rip the owners off.

Susan

Offline alisos

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« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2003, 07:45:22 PM »
For the last five years we have booked both independently and with  tour operator depending on who works out cheaper.  Either way we always get a car for the length of the stay which cuts out the very tedious transfer times and the reps attempts to part with our money.  I don't attend the welcome parties etc but did make use of the hotel facilities provided the one time we had a 7 hour delay.  Going with a tour company doesn't mean you can't be independant.

Whatever you do enjoy your hols.

Offline Mike G

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« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2003, 01:16:02 PM »
Susan makes a good point, which I can go along with as I concede that the internet has made going independently much easier. I also accept that the choice of accommodation offered by Olympic and First Choice is quite limited. Like Alisos I tend to be very independent even though on a package tour, often never seeing the rep, other than maybe passing in the street, after the welcome meeting. I never go on excursions (rip off) but travel around independently.

No one from the independent camp has shared costs in the way I set out yesterday. I suspect that at the time I holiday (May and Sept/Oct) John R's experience is typical in that it is cheaper to go with a tour operator, expecially if you take the heavy early booking discounts.

One question I have. If you book the accommodation as Susan does either the year before on on the internet, it means you have to find a flight on that particular day. Is this easy to do? I don't know what the frequency of charter flights to Crete is- maybe one of the "independents" will enlighten me.

However and wherever you go, ENJOY!

Offline Susan K

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« Reply #11 on: August 19, 2003, 01:40:50 PM »
Mike

Booking a flight is really quite easy especially as you travel in May, September and October. There is a huge choice available to you and you can either book direct with the airline or pick up a cheaper deal from one of the flight sites on the web, of which there are plenty. We always book an Air2000 flight purely because it is the first flight out of Gatwick at 6am and we are in the resort for about 3pm. We can have a late lunch, stock up on essentials and unpack our luggage. All this before the sun sets and our first V & T.  If you would like details of some of the sites please just send me a PM.

As for cost, we save about £50 each when you compare prices with the Operators but we do find that the strandard of accommodation is better booking directly and often much larger.

Susan

Offline alisos

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« Reply #12 on: August 19, 2003, 10:24:19 PM »
Mike

I booked independently this year and paid £155 for a flight, got a room off the internet for an agreed price of 20 euros a night after e-mailing the owner and not going by the price on his site, and hired a car through cheapest flights for £140 a week.  Two of us are going to share the cost of the car but as I want a room of my own this works out much cheaper than paying single room supplements through a tour operator.  

Total cost of my holiday is approx £370 including airport parking, my own studio, a weeks car rental, flight and insurance.