Package vs self assembly

On this page: Packages | Self assembly / Independent travel | The third way

Package holidays are a British invention, and remain popular because being island dwellers, if we Brits want a holiday abroad we are need not just some accommodation (in this case a yacht), but also some transport to cross the water! However, the internet has encouraged increasing numbers to self assemble their own holidays; known in the trade as FIT – Free Independent Travel.

Package holidays - a very British invention

Package holidays – a very British invention

The differences between buying a package and self assembly are often poorly understood.  Traditionally, package holidays were seen as the  budget option but this is certainly not always the case with sailing holidays.

There are also false assumptions about where you can buy; many people think packages are only available from tour operators (not true) and that self assembly means having to deal with multiple companies, one to book the yacht, another the flights and so on (not quite true, though will probably have to deal with at least two if you’re travelling from the UK).

The range of holiday options is also not always understood; many suppliers will custom make your holiday or tailor an standard package. Conversely, you don’t always have to buy the entire package!

Finally, there is often a presumption that you are better protected with a package, though in truth this depends on what you buy and how you pay for it. You could get all the cover you need as a independent traveller.

So don’t confuse the issue of how you book your holiday with who you buy it through, what’s available and the protection you’re getting. Lets explore this further by looking at the real pro’s and con’s of each approach. Then we’ll look at a third way, that might give you the best of both worlds.


Tour operators have worked hard to sell the benefits of packages – it’s traditionally been their main market and main source of profit, though this may be changing.  The usual advantage given are

  1. The one stop shop approach means less work than sourcing the yacht, flight and transfers separately.
  2. ATOL protection – if the Tour Operator goes bust, you’re covered.
  3. One point of contact for tickets, complaints etc, and single responsibility for ensuring all elements are delivered and co-ordinated (particularly comforting if you need two flights with different airlines to reach your destination).
  4. You can’t buy the same holiday any other way.
  5. Prices are clear and you can see the total holiday cost easily.
  6. It’s cheaper.


  • This assumes that self assembly requires you to buy your yacht, flights etc from separate companies, the equivalent of having to buy your bread from Sainsbury’s, your meat from Tesco’s and your veg from Asda! In fact you can buy some of the individual elements separately from one place.
  • Buying from an ATOL holder doesn’t guarantee ATOL protection, which in any case only covers you against failure of the company you buy from, not problems with the end supplier, (for more about this read the page on Financial Risks).
    Tour operators want you on their choice of flight, which may not be yours!

    Tour operators want you on their choice of flight, which may not be yours!

  • The terms and conditions for most packages do allow some changes by the operator such as yacht substitutions and changes of flight times and airports. So you could book a package with daytime flights from your local airport only to end up on a night flight from an airport further away. The operator isn’t obliged to pass on the you the cost savings he may make from this.
  • With smaller operators, you may still find yourself initially addressing any problems with local suppliers, rather than the tour company’s staff. For example, the tour company may not have their own airport rep but rely on a local firm.
  • Faced with the choice of selling you a part of a package or nothing at all, most suppliers will chose the former over the latter. For example, whilst flotilla holidays are often promoted as flight inclusive packages, many can be booked without flights or with flights from alternative airports. In fact, several flotillas are now organised not by tour operators but by yacht suppliers who don’t offer flights themselves. So you can buy the same holiday without buying a package.
  • That said, a supplier of a flight inclusive holidays may be keen to shift his seat stock or yachts he has already committed to using, so may encourage you to use these by ramping the  price of alternative arrangements.
  • Suppliers minimise the risk of missed transport connections by planning long waiting times eg delivering you to the airport well ahead of your return flight.
  • A single total price may seem attractive, but comparisons are difficult because even offerings from the same company may have different inclusions (eg flotillas with and without fuel included). What’s more advertised prices may be subject to additional charges such as flight or fuel supplements!
  • The package cost may actually be higher than buying the individual elements. Logic says the package cost should be cheaper in the same way a large tin of beans should be cheaper than two smaller ones.  But there is a cost to putting together a package and with small volume operations such as flotillas, these may be greater than any savings available from bulk booking yachts or flights (never mind the risks of not selling all this stock). Protection such as ATOL cover is also a cost which has to be recovered through the package price.

In this cash rich (ok until recently)! and time poor society, a package can still be a very good solution.  But as the above hopefully demonstrates, it won’t be for everyone and it may not give all the benefits you think it does.

Self Assembly / Independent Travel

By contrast, the reasons usually given for making your own plans are:

  1. It provides the opportunity to pick the best choice of yacht, of flight etc
  2. You can design the holiday you want, not what someone else thinks you might want.
  3. It can work out cheaper and it’s easier to compare prices
  4. You can still afford yourself some financial protection but have more control over the extent of this – after all, one way or another, you usually pay for it!
  5. There’s no alternative as yacht operators rarely offer flight inclusive packages or because no one offers packages to your chosen destination.


  • Despite the internet, finding the best yacht or flights yourself (be that judged on price or quality) is not easy.  The chances are you’re not a specialist in the sailing holiday industry and there are some traps for the unwary and cowboys on the ridge!.
  • Doing it yourself can be more work. Consolidation websites that compare flights can save time but are not entirely reliable. I don’t know of any websites that compare more than a fraction of the available yachts and again accuracy is not 100%.  And as there are a lot more individual suppliers than there are companies offering packages, if you want to canvass the entire market, I’d suggest taking several weeks off work!
  • It may not work out cheaper if you factor in the cost of your time, nor if you are prepared to be flexible about where, when or what you sail on – somebody will be offering a discount on something somewhere that beats what you will manage yourself.
  • In the event of problems, they’re down to you to resolve.  This seems to fly in the face of popular culture where people want to make their own choices, but want someone else to pick up the tab if it all goes pear shaped. For every airline that goes bust, travel operators get calls from passengers who booked flights themselves, demanding to know what’s being done for them!  Such events are rare but they do happen.
  • On the plus side, although bareboat charterers tend to assume that because prices are quoted for the  yacht only, packages aren’t available that often isn’t the case.  Many agents and tour operators are often happy to organise flights to go with your chosen yacht.

The internet has undoubtably improved the amount of information available to help you plan you’re own holiday and I hope in a small way this website adds to that.  Planning your own holiday can be more work but can give you a better result, opening up opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise exist and maybe saving you a fist full of dollars (or euros or pound in to the bargain).

However, the ideal solution would be to have the freedom to tailor your holiday as you wish, and buy it as packaged or unpackaged as you want, giving you the full range of choices.  After all it is your holiday!

Well the good news is, there is a Third Way (and it’s better than Tony Blair’s version)!

The Third Way

Good news – if you want the benefits of someone doing the hard work for you but the ability to pick each element as it best suits you, it is possible. The more work you do, sorting out your preferred holiday type, destination and departure airport, the better the chance of getting what you want and the better the deal you’re likely to get. But in any event, it shouldn’t cost you any more, and it could save you money.

So this is what I offer.  If you’d like me to source you a yacht I can do it.  If you want flights as well, many yachts I offer are available as a flight inclusive package with ATOL protection. You don’t have to go on a Flotilla holiday just to get a yacht with flights. And you can fly from airports other than Gatwick and Manchester!

If you prefer to arrange your own flights, I’ll tell you the best deal I can find when you book the yacht, to save you hunting around. I’ll also give you advice on getting from the airport to your yacht. You pays your money, you takes your choice.  Just as it should be.  All you need to do is drop me an email or give me a call.

You might end up booking a package, or you might end of booking different elements booked through different companies. You can be as much of an independent traveller as you want, and with my help, you get the benefits of independence without having to do all the hard work yourself.