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Package versus independent for Belize?

Newbury, United...
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Package versus independent for Belize?

My fiancée & I have been looking at Belize for our honeymoon location next April - having looked at a LOT of photos and read a lot of reports I think we're agreed it ticks all our boxes! :-)

However, after getting itineraries and quotes from both Trailfinders and Travel Counsellors*, we were a bit surprised to find they were coming in a lot more expensive than the independent itinerary we'd worked out. Not just a few hundred pounds - around £1100 difference for an 11-night B&B only trip!

So we're now thinking about whether it would just make sense to book our flights and hotels ourselves? Am I missing some key part of the value a tour operator adds, or anything unique to Belize that makes booking a package worth while?

Would be really grateful for your thoughts!

(* The quotes from both agents were very similar; turns out they both use Journey Latin America as a local operator. Sort of questioning what value TF or TC are adding at this point...?)

Davie, Florida
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1. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

the components would be air fare, hotel, food, drink and surface transport. Figure out are they all included in the package and did you cost out each to do it seperately.

Newbury, United...
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2. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

Thanks for the reply... Should have said, yes we were definitely comparing like-for-like, both our independent itinerary and those provided included air fare, transfers, B&B accommodation but NOT any other food, excursions or activities.

To be honest, that's what's got me so puzzled; if we'd specified packages with lots of activities & trips I could see how the extra charges could creep in, but just for flights and B&B only?!

Saint James City...
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3. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

I generally book everything by myself when I travel. Belize is easy to do yourself.

If you'd like a bit of guidance, contact Katie Valk, she posts on this forum and is a travel agent based in Belize.

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Davie, Florida
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4. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

go ahead and book yourself. I have been traveling for 40 years and not once used a travel agent, dont much care for them.

Hopkins
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5. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

I agree, book it yourself. One suggestion is not to limit yourself to B&B's. It sounds like you want small mom & pop type places for accommodation. Most do not include breakfast. You can either go out to a restaurant for a full meal or enjoy the local fruit and whatever else you prefer at your cabana, most will have a fridge. If you nave questions on working out the logistics, you always have TripAdvisor.

Placencia, Belize
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6. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

It isn't really necessary to use an agent although sometimes they can help if you are undecided where to go as they have first hand information on the resorts trips etc and a good one will get to know you as a person. The agent should just make her money from commissions from hotels etc, not from you. Use an agent in Belize, rather than the UK.

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Herts, UK
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7. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

Hi JimMillen

Thought a UK perspective would help although I will not be taking a different point of view.

I too agree with the independent route; there's something to be gained in researching and coming to understand what you're going to be experiencing by planning one's own itinerary. This is Belize we are talking about, not Malaga or Bodrum......

The cost differential is partly explained simply by the fact that the agencies are in business to make a profit and have their margins on top of the time it takes to plan out what you yourself can do independently. Using Trip Advisor and the folks here as your unpaid travel advisers - bringing wealth of local knowledge that you couldn't get from any travel company and in addition you'll get the feedback from people like myself who've done or are about to do something similar. JLA and Trailfinders have their place for helping folks who are less comfortable with independent research, want a one-stop shop for sorting things out and security in dealing with bonded or secured companies. That has a premium to pay as you've discovered.

Now a couple of tips; as you're UK based, unless you're desperate to connect with an overnight stop in the US, look into coming direct into Cancun and spending a couple of days in the Mexican part of the Maya Riviera before crossing to Belize. The transatlantic flights are cheaper than flying into Belize City

Secondly, I do think that there are some place you may consider visiting that DO require local tour guides and land agents to help arrange and without which you cannot do the trip - places like ATM, Curacol & Tikal come to mind; but at least this is money going more directly to the local economy rather than corporations here in UL.

Happy planning!

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Placencia, Belize
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San Ignacio, Belize
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8. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

If you have the time to read reviews on TA, then you can easily do it yourself. If you want it all done for you, then hiring an agent might be better.

New York City, New...
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9. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

If you dont want to do all the legwork yourself, you may be able to save significant money by booking with a Belize-based travel agent like Katie Valk rather than someone in the UK who doesnt know the area well and is marking up substantially to cover their UK overhead.

Katie booked my first trip in 2003 when the lodges at Tikal were hard to reach and tended to bump independent travelers for a large group. You can usually find her here, or her site is belize-trips.com

suitcaseready.com

Edited: 18 July 2011, 17:11
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Newbury, United...
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10. Re: Package versus independent for Belize?

Many thanks for all your replies - much appreciated! :-) I've been in touch with Katie and think going independent - or at least semi-independent - is definitely the way forward.

Thanks again!