Why a package holiday is not the right thing for us
An all-inclusive holiday on the beach, good food, nothing to worry about or bargain hunters? Many people precisely book package holidays for these reasons – relaxing, without any organizational effort during the trip, preferably payment in advance, so you basically don’t have to worry about anything. Please do not get us wrong – we do not condemn these people in any ways, not everybody likes the same style of vacation and this is totally OK. We also do not want to make fun of this type of tourist or attack our vacation package readers here. We have decided to write this article because we want to point out our issues with the package holidays.
Why we decided to book a package holiday….
We actually did not plan to book another package holiday after our not so positive experience in Rhodos. The original plan was to take the TGV to Paris around May 1 this year, explore the city, drink too much wine & eat baguette with cheese, and run for hours through the streets of Paris, hoping to discover new and exciting places and to talk to locals. But unfortunately the SNCF (French Train Company) went on strike for several weeks on different days, and of course our departure day was on a strike day. Thus, our options were relatively limited at the time (2 weeks before). An alternative would have been another city trip but most of the flights were already fully booked over the holiday or so expensive that it would have been as expensive to fly to New York. As the weather in Luxembourg is not so good most of the time, we decided to somewhere warm and sunny. Our criteria for this trip were:
• Nice weather (preferably bikini weather)
• An opportunity for swimming
• Maximum cost € 500 per person
• Best flight / time ratio
• Relaxation (possibly with wellness)
• LGBTQ friendly
• good food
Where should we go if the flights are super expensive or fully booked ?????
We were so desperate that we even went to a travel agency to get offers. We don’t usually do that because we prefer to put together the trips ourselves and get more inspirations from bloggers than from catalogs lying around in the travel agency, and we simply cannot afford a lot of things in there. Our first idea was renting a small bungalow in Sardinia: acceptable and great prices on site. However, we decided to take it because we had to cook for ourselves and also had to get a rental car in any case. Too much effort for the few days we’ve planned to stay. Another possible destination would have been the coast of the Netherlands, but we had no weather guarantee there. The coast of the Netherlands is beautiful, but not if the weather is bad.
we discovered a package holiday with great flight times, a wonderful 5 star hotel in Greece, 100 km south of Thessaloniki, listed on a last minute website by accident . All our criteria were met and we kind of got excited to go on a great package holiday.
Trip booked, but how exactly does a package holiday work now?
One week before departure we received our travel documents: 2x Rail & Fly, 2x plane tickets, a 10% parking discount at the airport in Frankfurt as well as the hotel voucher. We could not use Rail & Fly because this offer is only valid for the German railway company, and we live in Luxembourg. The parking voucher looked interesting, unfortunately, the offered parking was full and we had to buy an extra one for € 30.
The first struggle was already the online check in. It is the most normal thing in the world for us to check in online one day before departure to get seats as close to each other as possible. Unfortunately that does not work with a package holiday. Package travelers don’t get a booking reference of the aircraft, even not on request. The airline information stand at the airport could not even provide us this info for whatever reason. So we had no choice but to use the queue with all the other package travelers (not the drop-off one unfortunately) and check in on the old way. Of course, our motivated companions were already there before us, and unfortunately we did not get seats next to each other.
Next Step – field trip to the hotel
The plane of the holiday airline was fully booked, and our flight was without significant events. The baggage claim, however, was the next challenge. The fear, that the favorite swimming trunks or the T-shirt that only worn on vacation has gotten lost, urged several holiday package travelers in front of each other to desperately get the suitcase earlier than others. Maybe they are just afraid that another tourist might accidentally take the suitcase and are therefore extra careful.
But it continued after the baggage when people are ready for their transfer to the hotel. Usually we either travel by taxi or by public transport, but this time there was even a transfer included. A friendly bus driver took our suitcase and we were allowed to take a seat in the air-conditioned bus. Unfortunately, our departure was delayed a bit, because not everyone despite a travel guide and signs found the correct bus at first attempt. We not only drove our hotel, but a few more after finally everybody got into the bus. It felt like a field trip in highschool. When we finally arrived at our hotel, about 80% of the passengers left the bus with us. Hm .. we were already annoyed by a few so that was going to be fun …
Hotel, food, facility and activities
Our garden view room in the Anthemus Sea hotel was upgraded to a wellness suite to the displeasure of some fellow travelers. We had requested the upgrade in advance and were super happy that we have actually gotten it.
A huge thank you to the staff of the hotel: the people were very competent, always friendly and made our holiday unforgettable.
We felt extra comfortable in our suite with the private pool, although we sometimes felt like the highlight in the hotel. We wonder why that was:
- Same sex couple
- Average age of other guests: 35-50
- No floral pattern shirts or other junk
- Super Wellness Suite upgrade
We were the eye-catcher of a few couples in our hotel. Well, since the offered activities were not that great, the favorite thing to do for a lot of people there was to watch other people.
The beach was very clean, the sea clear but a bit cold at this time of the year. Nevertheless, it was possible to stretch your toes into the water and enjoy the clear sea water.
The food in the hotel was ok, the service very good and the wines too. However, the buffet was sometimes stormed by hungry tourists in the evening, and it was not even main season.
The culinary highlight, however, was a small tavern called Boukadoura Akti Elias, not far from the hotel, but far enough to experience true Greek flair. We enjoyed delicious Tsatsiki, melted feta and meatballs – really highly recommended. Is also visited by many locals.
Well relaxed, tanned, but nothing actually seen from the country….
We spent 4 full days as package holiday tourists in Greece, and we were finally able to relax a little bit. 4 days were perfect – and the price / performance ratio was unbeatable.
The hotel is definitely recommendable, but unfortunately we had to realize that, although we were in Greece, we did not see anything Greek except the tavern. This was partly our own fault, as we were too lazy to take the hotel bus to the next village, but we did not want to spend more time than necessary with the other guests. And that is exactly the point. A package holiday is not the right choice for us, because we love to organize and plan our trips ourselves, to make mistakes, get lost and not hear our language in every corner. We do not want to be stared at by other couples all day, as they try to find out if we are together or what language we speak (it is Luxembourgish). Our time in the Wellness Suite was relaxed, we played way too much Uno and definitely had a good time at this hotel – but we are not the type of tourists who spend days on the same beach, eating out in the same restaurant and to have a regular daily routine on vacation. We are the kind of tourists who need vacation after vacation, are broken and possibly bankrupt, but had a great adventurous time.
The hotel Anthemus is highly recommended. The staff is accommodating and the hotel is definitely a good spot for LGBTQ’s! We were always treated with respect, even though everyone in the hotel knew we were a couple. We cannot say anything about the rest of the region, as we only stayed in our hotel.