As much as I love travelling solo and independently, sometimes, a girl just wants to sun herself on the beach and enjoy an all you can eat buffet! There’s no doubt that last minute package holidays are a great way to explore the world in a low-cost way. For freelancers with a little bit of flexibility, you can usually find some incredible last-minute deals if you’re willing to travel during off-peak seasons or put up with a few extra flight transfers.

A friend recently forwarded me a link to a stupid cheap holiday to Cuba, and I couldn’t find a reason not to take it. It included the flight from a local airport, an all-inclusive hotel and food and drink package for the full 12-day stay. I booked it in a heartbeat.

I immediately started dreaming of sunning myself on the beach and drinking endless mojitos. It was going to be bliss. But then I started researching Cuba more in-depth. And I was stunned at how much there is to do in the country (I know, I’m sheltered!). I suddenly had a bucket list of items I couldn’t miss, but no real way of knowing how to experience them from the comfort of my hotel.

There was a package of excursions available through the hotel, but I always find these minibus tours to be full of unimaginative travellers and quickly get tired of the same faces. I needed more!

I connected with a friend who had been to Cuba before and she told me that getting around in Cuba is fairly simple, if unreliable. So, I set about creating my own travelling bucket list that would take me out of the resort between days by the pool or on the beach. I found a local travel company that organised a Havana to Vinales day trip that was the highlight of my whole holiday. I also took independent trips into the heart of Havana (from Varadero) and ventured as far as Cienfuegos on the bus service.

If you’re thinking about getting out of your resort on your next package holiday, I would recommend the following steps…

Take local transport

Requesting a taxi from your hotel is going to be expensive, so if you need a ride to the nearest town, ask the staff how they get around. There will probably be a local bus service that will get you out of the resort so you can start exploring! Public transport was prevalent in Cuba, if a little unreliable. If you don’t have a strict schedule, you can soon relax into this syrupy-slow way of life.

Go direct to rental companies

I found that having tours and rentals organised through the hotel was always more expensive, so I saved a lot of money by booking a bike rental through a private company. The service will be the same, but you can be sure that your money is going directly to helping a local family.

Take lunch with you

You can save a lot of money on day trips by taking your lunch from the breakfast buffet. Grab some bread, meat and cheese and you’ll be able to make sandwiches. Throw in some fruit and a sweet treat and you’ll save a load of money on eating out every day. You don’t need to feel bad as you’ve already paid for it!

Make friends!

Just because you’re staying in a hotel, it doesn’t mean you can’t make friends with the DIY travellers! If you’re travelling solo and want some company on day trips, it makes sense to make friends with some fellow explorers. Check message boards before you go and see if anyone is looking to meet up for day trips.