Editor’s Note: An all-inclusive vacation can sound appealing but it’s not for everyone. Some may want nothing more than to relax by a pool for a week, while others may need a little more adventure. Even if you’re not lounging by the pool, all-inclusive trips can sometimes restrict your movement. This article looks at the pros and cons of an all-inclusive vacation, and what you should consider before confirming your reservation.
A week in the sun by the pool or ocean with nothing more to do than relax and enjoy what’s on offer sounds like most people’s idea of a perfect vacation. And with an all-inclusive beach resort vacation, that’s pretty much how it works. Everything is taken care of for you so you can simply focus on doing very little: You don’t even have to decide what time to eat breakfast; you simply have to show up when invited.
However, this isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect vacation. Some would rather spend their vacation navigating newly discovered streets, map in hand, approaching anyone in sight, and generally immersing themselves in every aspect of the local culture, regardless of how exhausting it may seem (to them it’s not!).
But while these may be extremes, and most of us will fall somewhere in the middle, if you’re considering an all-inclusive vacation and are unsure whether it’s right for you, then you might want to consider the following.
What does “all-inclusive vacation” really mean?
Depending on the company you’re considering booking a trip with, all-inclusive can come with a variety of definitions. The most common examples are undoubtedly all-inclusive resorts, where you’ll spend a certain period of time using the resort as a home base during your trip. These vacation packages are typically listed with one “all-inclusive” price point for the accommodation, food and drink, excursions, amenities, and gratuities mentioned in the listing. Popular brands in this category include Sandles, Club Med, and Barcelo. On the ultra-luxurious end, there are examples like the Lily Beach Resort & Spa in the Maldives.
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Some travel providers and resorts offer “semi-inclusive” options, which you’ll typically find little hints of when browsing hotel listings. Semi-inclusive could be as simple as having your breakfast included, or, you might find booking options where everything is included minus alcoholic beverages. Semi-inclusive often provides a good middle ground for travelers, not locking them into higher fees for things they won’t use or care about.
Alternatively, some travel companies, agencies, cruise operators and hybrid tour organizers are getting more creative with all-inclusive trips. Many of our readers here at Winetraveler express interest in having one of our advisors plan and book everything from their flights to the hotel, to their winery excursions and dinner reservations. This white-glove service is typically a bit more expensive, due to the work required to arrange and manage everything, but it does ensure that you’re likely to get the right kind of memories out of your trip. This brings us to our next point.
What do you want to get out of your trip?
First, ask yourself why you want a vacation. Are you going to escape the winter? Are you going simply for a change of scenery? Are you going because you’ve been persuaded to join others on the trip? Also, ask yourself what you want from your vacation. If it’s just to escape the winter, then a week in the sun by the ocean with a few books you’ve been saving to read might be enough, and if that is the case, then an all-inclusive vacation could be just the thing.
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If you’re more the nomadic type who prefers to get lost in the moment and stumble upon the unexpected, you might consider simply arranging flights, transportation, and accommodation without all the bells and whistles.
How much time do you have to travel?
Also, consider how long you’re staying. If it’s longer than a week, ask yourself whether there will be enough at the resort to keep you satisfied for the duration. There’s no reason why you can’t go exploring when taking an all-inclusive vacation, but you might find it difficult depending on which country you’re visiting. If you think you might want to venture out beyond the walls of the resort, then check what’s around and how easy it will be to travel to those spots independently. Or consider hiring a local guide to help you explore (just remember to factor this into your budget!).
If you’re staying for only a week, or a long weekend, then you may find that after traveling to your vacation resort, you won’t want to do more than kick back and relax.
Who else is coming along?
Another factor to consider is your traveling companion(s). If it’s just you and your partner taking the trip, and you’ve enjoyed vacations together in the past, then you will have a good idea of how the two of you will want to spend your time. However, if you’re traveling with a group of people and think you might appreciate some space during the trip, then again, this is something to think about. Will you be able to spend time alone if you want to (or need to!)?
Will you be taking children with you on vacation? If so, then you might very much appreciate an all-inclusive vacation. Most resorts cater to families in some way shape or form. There will probably be an abundance of entertainment for the kids, and you can rest assured that they are being looked after by professionals employed to do just that. Be sure to ask the resort or your travel advisor ahead of time as to what is offered for the kids.
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If you’re still unsure, it might be possible to combine an all-inclusive vacation with a few days of comparative independent travel. For example, some travel companies will provide a few days in a city for travelers to do their own thing, and then arrange travel for them to an all-inclusive resort for the remainder of their stay.
On the plus side, with an all-inclusive vacation, all travel is usually arranged for you, which means that once you arrive at your destination airport, all forward and return travel will be arranged for you. This can be hugely helpful if you’re visiting a country where public transportation is limited or notoriously difficult to access.
What’s my overall travel budget?
As for cost, don’t assume that everything advertised on an all-inclusive deal is included. It could be that you will need to pay extra for certain water sports or more specialized excursions. This is another question that should be asked directly with your travel provider.
Am I ok with the food and drink that will be provided?
And last, but certainly not least, what about food and wine? If staying at an all-inclusive resort, the cuisine will almost certainly be plentiful, but it also may be a little generic; for example, to cater for the masses, the hotel won’t be able to offer those specialties you would perhaps be able to get off the beaten track. But you certainly won’t go hungry – and food and drink will likely be available round the clock.
If you’re a foodie, definitely ask the resort or your travel provider what the menu will look like during the duration of your trip. If your vacation includes advanced bookings at a variety of restaurants or bars, be sure to ask exactly what those are and check the menu, and reviews, ahead of time. This is especially important for those with dietary restrictions.
Should I book an all-inclusive trip?
So, as you can see, there are several factors to consider when deciding whether an all-inclusive vacation is right for you. Think about how you want to spend your time away, and what memories you want to create while you’re there. And whether you decide to go all-inclusive or independently, you will leave knowing that you’ve done your research, which should go some way to ensuring you have a great trip!
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