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How Tours are Priced

Company A offers a seven-day tour of Western national parks for $1,500 per person. Company B offers a seven-day tour that includes all of the same destinations but charges $3,000 per person. Which tour is the better deal?

If you’re an experienced travel planner, you know that the answer to this question may not be as obvious as it seems. The calculus that goes into setting prices depends on numerous factors, not the least of which are the taste and expectations of travelers.

If you want to figure out the best value in travel for your group, it’s helpful to understand these five major factors in tour pricing and to know what your customers expect in each area.

Hotel Rates

Overnight accommodations are usually the largest expense in a travel package and often play the biggest role in determining a tour’s price. Expect to pay significantly higher prices on tours that use full-service hotels, luxury properties or resorts, or for hotels that are located closer to city centers or points of interest. If you’re looking to save money, consider tours that use limited-service hotels or properties located in suburbs outside of major cities.


Transportation costs, including airfares, motorcoach charters and other similar expenses, are inherent to any group trip and are often set by market forces outside a tour operator’s control. Trips that involve flights are subject to the complexities of airline pricing. When comparing tour prices, it’s important to ask for details about what kinds of flights, airport transfers and incidental transportation are included.


The quality and quantity of meals, attractions and activities included in a tour dramatically impact its price. Some low-priced tours include only one or two meals a day and are more likely to feature buffets and other economy dining options; more expensive tours, however, might offer more included meals at nicer restaurants. Attraction tickets, guided tours, interactive programs and other expenses can add to a trip’s price, too.


The timing of a trip can go a long way in determining its price. Many popular destinations have peak tourism seasons that correspond with favorable weather or family vacation schedules, and high demand drives prices up during those crowded seasons. Groups can often save money by traveling during shoulder seasons, just before or just after the main busy season.


Some tour companies specialize in selling the same itineraries over and over. Others operate only custom trips, which are built from the ground up for the needs of specific groups. The prefabricated, scheduled departures tend to be cheaper. If you want a lot of special touches on your tour, a custom trip might prove to be a better value, even though it’s likely to cost more.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.