Last night, we reported on a terrific deal running for the next few days that allows you to redeem Delta Sky Miles at a value of 2 cents each toward vacation packages. That deal is special for two separate but equally important reasons: first, it’s a better value for SkyMiles than you’ll generally get when redeeming for Delta flight; second, airline vacation packages can often be a great way to save a lot of money on airfare (whether or not you need the hotel or car rental that’s packaged with it). Is that true with all airlines? Your experience here can certainly vary by routes / dates / airlines, but here’s a quick look at one example spread across several airlines).
Test case: Hawaii air + car rental
In the past, we’ve shown how vacation packages can save you a bundle on business class airfare (See: Build your own business class fare sale with vacation packages). It’s worth re-visiting that post if you haven’t looked at vacation packages before.
Often, the cheapest vacation packages include a bundled car rental with airfare. Sometimes the prices can be cheap enough that you will come out ahead even if you don’t need the car rental. Amazingly, sometimes the same can even be true with the hotel portion. Keep in mind that the Delta deal we reported last night requires a hotel booking with a minimum of 2 nights. However, a flight + car rental package is an example that allows for what is often the cheapest comparison, so for the purposes of this post I took at one specific trip: a round trip flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu from October 17-20, 2019 with a rental car. Here were the results across multiple airlines:
Google told me that the cheapest flights for our example dates were $428 (that price was available on several carriers).
However, going to Delta vacations, I found a flight + car rental deal for the same exact dates for just $807.14 for two passengers (that’s $403.57 per person).
Furthermore, those with astute eyes might notice that the flights in the vacation package book into Main Cabin (V). The cheapest Delta flights from Google Flights above ($428) are in basic economy; full main cabin tickets would cost you $487 each booked separately.
As you can see, the vacation package is a better deal even if you just want to book the flight, saving about $175 for two passengers booking main cabin.
Unfortunately, prices changed between when I looked up the Delta example above and when I went to check on Hawaiian for this post. When I went to write the post, Hawaiian was charging $467.20 round trip on the same dates.
The cheapest I could find the same dates in a Hawaiian package with car rental included is $1,006.60 for 2 passengers ($503.30 each).
While not a better price than booking just your flight, this one may still be intriguing if you do need a rental car since the price above includes an SUV for 3 nights / 4 days.
Again, at the time of writing, the United flights had gone up in price to a minimum of $473 for the same dates. In this case, $473 is the basic economy price. If you want seat selection and a free carry-on bag, it’s $533 per passenger.
Adding a rental car, the price increases to $581.55 per person.
Alaska was quite easy for comparison. Unfortunately, Alaska no longer offers vacation packages.
Southwest Airlines was downright expensive for cash fares on the same dates, coming in at $778 on the low end.
As a vacation package, the price didn’t get less expensive but rather increased to $813 per passenger, well above the competition thus far.
According to Google Flights, American was ringing in at $503 round trip for one passenger.
The same dates packaged with a car rental came in at $1,045.40 for two passengers (i.e. $522.70 per passenger). That’s a bit more than just the airfare alone. Once again it looks like a relative deal if you do need the car rental though — and I’ve often seen situations where packages through American offer a value more similar to the Delta package above (see the “build your own business class fare sale” post for some examples).
Vacation packages with each of the airlines are worth a look. The current Delta deal means that packages include a hotel can be a way to get a standout value from SkyMiles. On the other hand, vacation packages can also be a way to get good value out of cash. In the example used for this post, Delta is the only airline with which you would straight up save cash over booking the airfare alone, but I’ve seen that situation with other airlines at different times in the past. It may also be worth checking package deals through online travel agencies; Greg reports having run into a situation once in the past where a vacation package through a major OTA was much cheaper than the cost of flights alone. Even in the cases above where it was not cheaper to book the package versus the price of the airfare alone, the package deal included a few days of car rental at a rate that makes for a good deal if you need the car. The bottom line is that if you’re booking airfare, it’s worth at least checking the airline vacation package options before you go ahead and just book the cheapest fare you find through Google flights since it may not be the cheapest fare after all.