We’re not your average package holiday clients. The idea of staying somewhere with more than 20 rooms brings us out in a cold sweat, we go out of our way to avoid socialising with strangers on our trips, and we’re usually tucked up in bed by 10 pm. On our last holiday I didn’t have a single alcoholic drink, and when we went to Mauritius we didn’t even bother going to the beach. So what the hell were we doing on a package holiday in Tenerife, staying at a huge resort just down the road from the infamous Playa de las Americas?
A few weeks ago Jet2Holidays issued us with the mother of all challenges. Could we put aside our prejudices and preconceptions about package holidays and see if we could use one as a basis for independent travel, and enjoy the same style of trip that we normally do?
I loved their optimism.
Sceptical doesn’t even begin to cover our initial reaction, but not being ones to shy away from new experiences, we agreed to give it a go. Plus it would be nice to have a bit of winter sun, even if the masses were thinking the same.
There’s a certain snobbery amongst us Brits when it comes to the ‘package holiday’. Those of us who have never even been on one believe that these sorts of breaks are full of drunken louts on stag weekends, and overly-tanned multi-generational families who have been going to the same resort every year for the past couple of decades. So that they can lay by the pool, start drinking at breakfast, and never explore beyond the beach. Yeah, we’d been travel snobs for years, and couldn’t ever see that changing. So we felt rather embarrassed to admit to family and friends that we were heading off on a package trip. Especially since it was to the Canary Islands…could it get any more stereotypical?
Still, what was the worst that could happen?
We were going in with low expectations, yet willing to be pleasantly surprised. So what was our experience really like? Are the package holiday myths true? Or do TV documentaries have a lot to answer for?
Here’s our verdict…
Package Holiday Presumptions: Myths or Truths
The flights will be like hen parties with wings
Once at the boarding gate we glanced around at our fellow passengers, concerned we were in the wrong place. Where were the loud groups of youths off for some sun, sea and goodness knows what else? Where were the screaming kids, or the middle-aged couples who had already cracked open a few beers despite it only being 8 AM? Instead we found ourselves surrounded by the older generation, and were surprised to find we were pretty much the youngest people on the flight by many moons. One elderly gentleman across the aisle from us spent the flight taking various pills, and spent over 2 hours on a single sudoku puzzle. Nope, these people weren’t the sort to be making scenes or disruptions on our holiday. We relaxed and finally allowed ourselves to look forward to the next few days.
Our flight was delayed and we ended up sitting on the tarmac at Manchester Airport for a couple of hours before having to change planes (something to do with a warning light on the dashboard). The crew were super chirpy throughout it all, which rubbed off on all our travelling companions who were all chatting away amenably rather than issuing the disgruntled complaints we’d expected. We’ve been on more unruly flights to other less ‘touristy’ destinations in the world, and certainly weren’t expecting this convivial calm.
In the interests of balance, we did find the cheesy Jet2 jingle rather irritating as it was played before nearly every announcement on the plane. But at least no-one clapped when the plane landed!
Read More: Our favourite places to visit in Tenerife
The hotel will be soulless with rowdy entertainment and no personality
After a very civilised flight we arrived in Tenerife, hopped on our coach transfer (okay, so that was a bit embarrassing, but admittedly incredibly easy) and headed to our digs for the next 5 days. On paper the Hotel Gran Tacande in Costa Adeje wasn’t really our sort of place, despite holding a 5 star rating. It had 250 rooms, 4 pools and horror of all horrors, a buffet. Yet the moment we stepped through the rather impressive entrance, our shoulders relaxed, we breathed out sighs we hadn’t realised we were bottling up, and glanced at each other with a little grin on our faces. Maybe this was going to be okay after all.
The lobby was just stunning, with sky-high ceilings, marble columns and a serenity we’d not expected to find at a resort. We wanted to immediately rush around with our cameras, but the smiling staff and a refreshing welcome drink reminded us we had all the time in the world for photos. One thing we had been looking forward to on this holiday was being able to relax, not normally something we allow ourselves to do. It felt deliciously indulgent, and we were going to make the most of it.
The entire hotel was bright, spacious and calm, and the few other guests we came across were again generally older, very polite and kept themselves to themselves. And only entertainment was some local Canarian musicians performing during dinner, with no discos or kids clubs in sight. Just how we like it.
Our enormous open-plan suite was tucked away in one of the quiet colonial-style blocks, and was easily one of the biggest rooms we’ve ever stayed in! The modern décor was fresh rather than the faded grandeur of days gone by that we’d expected, and we even had our own little balcony for evening drinks overlooking some of the pools and the skyline beyond. We did a little giddy dance of excitement and settled in to a few days of utter luxury.
Every day will start with sun-lounger wars at dawn
It’s a well-documented fact that life on a package holiday revolves around sun-loungers, and your trip enjoyment depends on whether or not you’ve managed to bag a prime spot by the pool. People often queue up before the pools are open, and then there’s a mass sprint and sometimes fisticuffs in the life-or-death mission to grab the lounger of choice. Not being remotely interested in lounging by the pool, the mere notion made us giggle. Yet when we trundled down to the pool at around 10.30 one morning, this was the scene that greeted us…
Where was everyone?
Apparently they were all out exploring the island, just like we were planning to do. And we’d thought we were being revolutionary in using a package holiday as a basis for independent travel. Late to the game as always.
The pools at Hotel Gran Tacande were actually gorgeous, and had we been so inclined we could have happily spent much of our time relaxing out here. Surrounded by lush green gardens and lots of gently swaying palm trees, this is exactly what a true ‘holiday’ is all about.
Yet the lure of the island with its national parks and misty mountains to explore was just too much, so rather than relaxing by the pool, we hired a car and went in search of some Tenerife adventures.
The food will remind us of school dinners
It was with a little trepidation that we headed down to the buffet restaurant on our first evening. We’d seen those documentaries about resort life, and the school-dinner style slop they all tend to serve, dumped unceremoniously on plates that probably hadn’t been washed properly. All of which couldn’t have been further from what greeted us at Hotel Gran Tacande.
There were lots of scrummy-looking buffet stations, offering everything from exotic fruits and freshly baked breads, to Chinese dishes and an incredible spread of seafood, the likes of which we’d never seen before. Hubbie was like a little boy in a sweet shop, zooming around trying a bit of everything. I reminded him we’d be here for 4 nights so he’d have plenty of opportunity to indulge.
Reassuringly there was also a dress code for dinner, which meant no-one turned up in their beach-wear and ensured the restaurant vibe was relaxed yet sophisticated, a far-cry from what we’d expected.
We also sheepishly admitted to ourselves that it was great being on an all-inclusive package, since we didn’t have to worry about spending money on meals, or having to keep an eye on our budget. And perhaps the best bit? There were no wrist bands in sight (something we’d been stressing about for weeks)! This was a 5 star resort after all.
The Reps will be annoying and persistent
Okay, so I admit I have actually been on a package holiday before. I was 18, and my friends dragged me to Spain on a package trip to celebrate finishing our exams. It wasn’t the best experience, in no small part thanks to a rep who lived up to all the stereotypes and made my evenings a trial to endure rather than an experience to enjoy. Which was what I was expecting on this trip to Tenerife.
There was a rep at the airport, making sure everyone got on the right transfer buses, and a handy card given to us all with emergency numbers for our local rep, but that was it. Which was brilliant. If we wanted help it was there, but if not, we could just carry on by ourselves. Funnily enough (although it wasn’t funny at the time), a day into our holiday, we actually needed our rep. We were exploring Teide National Park when some complete and utter bastard broke into our hire car and stole all our cameras, money, clothing and passports out of the locked boot, leaving us stranded on a foreign island, and in a bit of a state.
Having the Jet2Holidays rep, Zaf, on hand to answer our questions and give advice about how to get to the British Consulate for our emergency travel documents was invaluable. We spoke to him several times on the phone and he even came up to the hotel to talk it all through with us. We kinda liked that he called on our last day to, just to check we were okay and everything was in order for our return journey. Julien, the concierge at the hotel was superb too, and sat with us through an excruciatingly long telephone call to the police in Spain, as well as helping us arrange another hire car. It was a good feeling to know there were people here looking out for us, and that we weren’t alone. Sure, we could’ve coped with it all by ourselves, but having a rep made the whole process a lot less stressful.
Read More: Having our passports stolen in Tenerife
So would we go on a package holiday again?
As we get older, inevitably things change. We have more wrinkles than we used to, we become less tolerant as the years go by, and one of us has a few more grey hairs than he’d like to admit (or silver, as he prefers to call them). Our travel habits have changed too. We’re no longer the arrogant backpackers we perhaps once were, and accept that there’s no right or wrong way to travel. But is it okay to actually have fun on the type of holiday we once would’ve dismissed out of hand? I guess it is, because that’s what we’ve just done. Yep, aside from the theft, which of course would have happened to us no matter what sort of trip we were on, we really enjoyed our package holiday in Tenerife, and are no longer embarrassed to admit it.
Of course just like any other sort of trip, we’ve realised that all package holidays are different. Sure, the stereotypical ones where our preconceptions will have been spot on do exist…you just need to do a little research and choose wisely. Taking a package holiday is basically a cheap way of getting accommodation and flights. There’s the bonus of having it all arranged for you too, which is no bad thing. Once we were back home several of our friends came out of the woodwork and admitted that they too sometimes take package holidays for this very reason. You don’t need to take part in any of the hotel activities, and can of course come and go as you please. So really, it’s not much different from doing it all independently.
Would we go on another package holiday? You’ll just have to watch this space…
Thanks to the wonderful folks at Jet2holidays for sending us out to Tenerife to experience something a bit different. We received flights, transfers, and half board accommodation in return for this review. As always, opinions remain entirely our own.
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We are just retired and have gone on our first package holidays since about when we were thirty or so when we tried a few. Everyone was encouraging us to go on them, particularly cruises, which, to tell the truth, we had a horror of doing! My husband used to travel a lot for business, so has done business class a good few times and was worried about noisy passengers etc. We also have extended family in Finland (Finnish people who married into our family), several have settled in UK, but others have returned to Finland and we try to see most years, or they come to us. All that of course needs scheduled flights, as no charters or cheap flights to Finland. We use some of that time to explore Scandinavians countries around, as well as Russia etc. Well, the packages were completely different of course, but the cruises were the most surprising, really relaxing, loved the dressing up (I usually am a jeans and package type of girl) and the cocktails and arriving at a new place every day. The packages, well we went to cities not beach places, my idea of hell is stripped of clothes lying in the sun (although naked in a sauna in Finland with strangers is OK!). These turned out just fine. Packages are great value and if you choose selectively, great fun, but we will be taking a break from them after a couple of years now. Our main concerns – just too many people and worry about some of the environmental aspects of it all. So back to the Nordic and Scandi countries again, which really are our second home now.
Hi Trisha, thanks for stopping by! Love that you’ve gone from not liking the idea of cruises to actually really enjoying them. You’re right, it’s all about choosing the right one, and I think maybe one day we might bite the bullet and give it a try, most probably a Scandinavian one funnily enough, maybe the fjords of Norway. But yes, the environmental impact is huge, and certainly something to consider.