Increasing in popularity since the 1960s, many people have appreciated the worry-free nature of all-inclusive hotels and resorts. Frequently found in areas with gorgeous beaches, the Caribbean and Mexico are all-inclusive staples. However, luxury all-inclusives are now cropping up all over the world — from Brazil and Thailand, to the Mediterranean and South Pacific. In addition, some luxury hotels, safaris, and wellness retreats are all-inclusive as well. Once thought of as a cheap vacation with long lines and low-quality food, the demand for one-price luxury vacations has raised the bar tremendously.
The question of worth largely depends on what kind of vacation you want. While some frequent travelers absolutely love the worry-free benefits, others prefer a la carte vacations. However, if you’re looking for a vacation where you can leave money worries behind, enjoy numerous amenities, stay active or relax to your heart’s content, an all-inclusive may be a great fit for you.
Benefits of all-inclusive resorts and hotels
Always carefully read the fine print of your package before booking and find out what’s included. Typically, when you pay for an all-inclusive package, it can include everything from flights and transfers, to luxury meals, top-notch accommodations, and unlimited beverages. Often live entertainment is included, as well as dance clubs, resort shopping, and supervised activities for children. Some resorts offer free Wi-Fi, spas, free weddings with your stay (with a minimum stay), and other extras.
Traveling as a group, family or just the two of you?
Some resorts cater only to adult couples looking for a romantic getaway, such as Sandals resorts. If a family-friendly resort is your preference, a Beaches vacation with certified nannies, waterparks, and kid’s camps may be what you’re looking for. Many resorts cater to all kinds of couples, groups, and families, so with some research you can find the perfect fit for your vacation.
What kind of accommodations do you prefer?
All-inclusive accommodations can vastly differ in style — from a clean and basic hotel room to an elegant overwater bungalow. All-inclusives offer deluxe multi-room suites, beachfront villas, spacious rooms with private pools, and everything in between. Some resorts offer hundreds of similar room types, while others price them based on category and amenities.
Is flexible dining and food variety important to you?
Foodies appreciate the variety and accessibility of resort dining, often including specialty restaurants with cuisine from around the world. The all-you-can-eat nature of resort buffets lends itself to travelers who like to eat where they want, when they want, and how much they want. Swimming pool bars and lounges offer a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from early morning to late at night. Want a mid-afternoon or late evening snack? No problem. Not an early riser, but still want breakfast? Grab brunch. There’s usually something to please every palate.
What kind of activity level do you desire?
Part of the beauty of all-inclusive resorts is you are free to pick and choose your activity level. Want a simple day at the beach with a nap here and there? You can have it. Want to take a dance class by the pool, followed by paddle boarding and snorkeling? Not a problem.
All-inclusive destinations frequently include sports like golf, beach volleyball, water sports, basketball, tennis, and even a few free scuba lessons. There are typically work-out gyms with the latest equipment, and some offering complimentary classes. You can sign up for guided half-day or day trips for adventures outside of the resort (for additional cost, unless you get a deal). With options ranging from exploring local villages and ocean kayaking, to visiting famous historical sites or zip lining, there is something for everyone.
Read the fine print
Not all destinations include the same amenities, so examine the fine print before you book. Some resorts include all tips, taxes, and gratuities in the overall price of the vacation. Others may not include them in your stay, so you might need to bring some cash for tipping (U.S. currency works). The fine print should tell you everything you need to know, and if you’re still unclear — ask your travel agent or booking company. While not obligatory, maids and butlers are probably the exception. Most guests tip them at the end of their stay for the equivalent of about $20 to $40 per day, depending on the service.
Pro tip: If you plan on venturing out of the resort, you’ll want to bring cash as most vendors don't accept credit or debit cards. This way, you’ll also have cash to tip tour guides, servers, and others that may perform a service for you.
How to book all-inclusive vacations
These days, it’s easier than ever to book an all-inclusive vacation. Once you decide your budget range and have researched your preferred destination, you have options:
Call a travel agent — They have the inside scoop on the industry and can direct you to resorts that'll fit your travel style and budget. (Hint: you may even get bonus benefits)
Explore options on travel sites that specialize in all-inclusive vacations — like cheapcaribbean.com, applevacations.com, and Travelzoo.
Compare all-inclusive options on travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz.
If you know exactly where you want to go, reach out to the resort directly via their website or by calling. Sometimes they may offer a package that may beat popular online travel site prices.
Look at the online reviews and take heed.
If your package includes airfare, check the airline’s website for hidden fees.
When to book all-inclusive vacations
Play around with the dates you can travel and be flexible. Adjusting even by a few days can make a difference in cost. Think about the season — when you book during off-peak times of year, you can save big. Prices are often cheaper when kids are in school, mid-week, during the hottest times of the year, and during hurricane season. No matter when you book, don’t forget travel insurance to protect your investment.
Back to our original question: Are all-inclusive vacations worth it? Give it a try and see for yourself. We can already picture you with a frozen drink in hand, toes in the sand, soaking in the sunshine.
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