Saga vs Independent Travel: Spanish Costa Holiday in Autumn

Arrange a week’s Spanish Costa holiday yourself, and save up to £400 compared with the Saga Holidays equivalent. That’s enough for an extra week’s holiday!

Spanish Costas

Seek the sun on a Spanish Costa

As autumn sets in with its cold, drizzly weather, it’s time to head south to seek the sun on a Spanish Costa holiday.

Prices have dropped considerably from their summer peaks. There are some good bargains out there for us fortunate senior travellers, who are not tied to school holidays.

But how does a hotel-based holiday on a Spanish Costa with Saga Holidays compare with the same holiday when arranged independently?

I’ve researched a seven night ‘All Inclusive’ holiday at the Hotel Best Western Salobreña on the Costa Tropical in the Province of Granada, as featured in the Saga Holidays 2014 brochure.

This 3-star hotel may well appeal to senior travellers in that it is situated on a quiet, secluded  hilltop with spectacular views over the Mediterranean Sea. On the other hand, its seclusion may be a problem for some visitors, with the nearest shops being some 3km away in the ancient Andalusian village of Salobreña.

I’ve chosen the week from October 7th to 14th for the holiday. This is when children are happily ensconced in their schools  (it’s not half-term by then), giving peace and quiet for us senior travellers!

The prices quoted for the Saga Holiday and for the same holiday arranged independently were as obtained online on September 13th, 2014.

Saga Holidays

Quiet Costa Promenade in Autumn

Quiet Costa promenade in autumn

If you book with Saga Holidays, in addition to seven nights at the hotel, you get:

  • Return flights and transfers
  • Full board
  • Wine and mineral water at lunch and dinner
  • Free bar open for 12 hours a day
  • Welcome drink, cocktail party and Saga dinner
  • Travel insurance and additional cancellation cover
  • Two excursions
  • Resident Saga representative

The total cost for two people in a double room for October 7th to October 14th, when travelling from Stansted Airport by Easyjet, is £1258.

This is reduced by £34 if you decline the travel insurance. We generally advise that if you are travelling more than once a year, then you should obtain your own annual travel insurance, see: Travel Insurance.

Hence the total cost of the Saga holiday is £1224.

Independent Travel

I used the hotel comparison site trivago to check out the best rates for the Hotel Best Western Salobreña for the same dates, October 7th to 14th. Travel Republic gave an “All Inclusive” rate for two people in a double room of £401.

Alhambra Palace and the Sierra Nevada

Alhambra Palace, Granada, and the Sierra Nevada

An alternative to an ‘All Inclusive’ rate can be obtained by booking the hotel directly. Using the Best Western Hotel link in the right-hand sidebar (not obtainable from the UK Best Western site), seniors can get a Senior Iberia room-only rate of just £266 for the seven nights.

This might be a good choice for non-drinkers who enjoy sampling local restaurants! However, as far as this comparison exercise is concerned, I’ll not consider this option further.

Flying Easyjet from Stansted Airport, on the same flights as used by Saga Holidays, costs £307 return for two people. This price includes two pieces of hold baggage and pre-selected seats.

Taxi transfer from Malaga airport to the hotel costs about £55 each way. The two Saga holiday excursions appear to be local ones, costing maybe £40 per person. Hence an extra £190 for transfers and excursions needs to be included.

Therefore the total for accommodation, flights, transfers and excursions when arranged independently comes to £898.

This is £326 less than the Saga holiday price!

What do you get from Saga Holidays for the extra £326?

On checking the Saga Holidays list above, the ‘Wine and mineral water at lunch and dinner’, ‘Free bar open for 12 hours a day’ and ‘Welcome drink, cocktail party and Saga dinner’ are all really part of normal ‘All Inclusive’ rates.

Watching the Sunset from our Hire Car

Watching the sunset from my Hire Car

That leaves the services of a ‘Resident Saga representative’. And, indeed, having a Saga representative at the hotel can be very useful if you have problems.

You also get holiday protection via ABTA and ATOL when purchasing a Saga holiday.

Of course, booking with Saga Holidays is much easier than booking the hotel, flights and transfers yourself. This may well be the key factor for many senior travellers.

How about a hire car?

If you are an active senior traveller, then hiring a car at Malaga airport for a week is a great option for airport-hotel transfers. It’s a 55 mile drive to Hotel Salobreña, taking just over an hour, but when you arrive, parking at the hotel is free of charge.

At this time of year, a week’s car hire costs only about £50. See: Auto Europe or Economy Car Hire/Zest Car Rental. We would however advise taking out Car Hire Excess Insurance to cover for tyres, keys, windows and undercarriage. This costs £2 a day, but will give you peace of mind whilst negotiating some of the narrower Spanish streets past awkward high kerbs.

Cathedral of Incarnation towering over Guadix

Cathedral of Incarnation towering over Guadix

With a hire car, you can sort out your own excursions at times of your choosing. You can travel widely along the coast and inland around the beautiful province of Granada.

Places to visit include Granada, with the Alhambra Palace, Guadix, with its Baroque cathedral and cave houses, and the Sierra Nevada National Park, with snow-capped peaks. See: Southern Spain, Alicante to Granada – Touring Holiday.

This hire car option can reduce considerably the transfer and excursions costs given above, even taking into account the cost of fuel. Overall an independently arranged holiday with the hire car option should save about £400 per couple compared with the Saga holiday.

That’s enough to pay for an extra week at the hotel!

Conclusion

So, the choice is yours! Either way, with a bit of luck, you should get a pleasant, autumn break under the Spanish sun. And, if you opt for a hire car, you will be free to explore at will this very attractive area of Spain.

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