Airlines and hotels "best" rates, really mean, the "best" rates they are willing to show publicly. That doesn't mean someone else isn't paying less, in fact, they more than likely are. Air, hotel and car rental packages often unlock the "secret" non public rates, as they offer the perfect opportunity to undercut competitors without showing the price for each specific part of your package. The airline sells for less than normal, the hotel sells for less than normal, and the customer is happy because they got a "secret" package deal. What's not to like? Well, it can be perfect, and it can be painful and actually, sometimes it can be more expensive...
The Short Answer Can Be Yes
In short, YES; air, hotel, and other packages can lead to great savings. Every travel company doesn't want some of your booking money, they want all of it, and they will do their best to get you to book every piece with them. There's money at stake and they love to show you just how much you're saving by booking on their site, together.
Often, it's absolutely the truth, and it's not uncommon to save $100 or much more. Before booking it's absolutely worth comparing the various booking sites, seeing who has the best rate for optimal flights and hotels. Sure, the seven flight connections, with accommodation at an airport motel, thirty miles from the city may be the cheapest package, but for just a bit more, or perhaps actually less, a different site may have a direct flight and a central, luxury hotel, right where you'd like it to be. Shop around from site to site. Don't stop reading...
When Packages Are Brilliant
There are two times when packages can be a brilliant solution. Of course, the best way to find out "how brilliant", is to search for yourself. For spontaneous travel, packages are the only way to beat the fare gouging and penalties for late airline booking. Booking the two together can literally mean flight and hotel, for less than just the cost of flight, if booked separately. Second, in peak season, to peak places, you are hedging your bets. Rather than struggling with fluctuating airline prices, waiting for the right option while simultaneously wrestling with hotel availability, strike while a package is hot and let everyone else sweat.
For Flexibility And Changes Packages Are Dreadful
When I book an airline ticket or hotel, individually, I see the fare or room classes and ALL the red tape behind what happens if my plans change. When booking with a third party site like Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak and so forth, changing or cancelling all, or part of your plans will not only be a large hassle, but costly. Changing any piece will likely affect every piece, which can throw off all the savings.
Best Case, Find The Deals And Book Direct...
I would consider the best advice in this situation to find amazing deals, see how much you'd save versus booking each separately on the site, and then see if it's truly cheaper than booking directly. If it is in fact the same, book direct; if the third party site like Orbitz wasn't lying, and they are cheaper, try again on the airline site with a hotel package, see if that does the trick. If it does, I recommend an airline package over a third party package. It will save you some hassle should plans change, and also in some cases make you more eligible for upgrades and miles. If neither work, firm up your plans and book the savings.