When you don’t have a lot of time off and you want to make the best of it, all-inclusive vacations can be your answer. These types of holidays offer a great mix of value and convenience, especially for the budget-conscious. Not having to worry about paying for your drinks, meals and activities makes it definitely easier to relax and unwind. After all, that’s what vacations are for.
Over the years, we’ve done a lot of getaways to all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Central America. From the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cuba and Mexico to Panama and Costa Rica, these types of vacations worked for us at the time and we took them frequently. During these trips, we made great friends and enjoyed numerous adventures that will last a lifetime.
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The popularity of these types of vacations hasn’t diminished and many still prefer going to all-inclusive resorts for all they have to offer. Not sure if this type of travel is for you? Here are some pros and cons to consider.
The pros of all-inclusive vacations
No matter how you feel about all-inclusive resorts, there is no denying that there are several benefits that make this a great travel option for many.
Value for money
One of the reasons we often went on all-inclusive vacations was that they were very cost-effective. In those days, we were limited with vacation days and funds, so this was a great way to get away without breaking the bank. It was also cheaper for us to get a week-long package deal to fly south than it was to travel across Canada or go to Europe.
All-inclusive packages include flights, transportation to and from the resort, food, drinks and resort entertainment. The companies offering these deals do so in bulk, which makes it easy to get sweet deals. You don’t have to spend time figuring out how to get to where you’re staying from the airport and risk getting ripped off by a shady cab driver. Once at the resort, you can simply enjoy the amenities and focus on relaxation.
You also don’t have to worry about procuring your food as there are plenty of choices available at the various restaurants, buffets and snack bars at the resorts. The same goes for drinks. If you like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or a few on your vacation, you know that this can get pricey. At the all-inclusive resorts, beverages are included. Always a good bonus when you’re trying to stay on budget.
All-inclusive vacations are all about convenience. From the moment you get to your resort, everything is done for you. Want to lounge by the pool or snooze on the beach? Lounge chairs, umbrellas and towels are provided by the hotel and you don’t even have to get up to get your own drinks.
Someone else prepares your food and drinks, cleans your room and provides clean towels. For many, that alone is a rewarding break from their daily grind. You are there, after all, to relax and unwind. Each resort also offers daily activities like beach volleyball or pool aerobics for their guests to enjoy. Nightly entertainment is there to liven up your evenings, making every night a night out.
All resorts offer a varying degree of services for you to enjoy. You can go for a workout at the gym, enjoy a massage at the spa or get your hair done. Want to get off the resort and explore? There are always numerous excursions available that fit every taste. Whether you want to go ziplining or enjoy a sunset cruise with your partner, you can book that at the resort and then show up on the day of the adventure.
Make new friends
While every vacation offers an opportunity to make new friends, at all-inclusive resorts you are even more likely to do so. By spending time in close proximity to others for an extended amount of time, you’re more likely to bump into people who jive with your than you would by yourself in a foreign city. We were lucky to meet many great people during our stays at all-inclusive resorts. Some of those people became very close friends that we have travelled with to other destinations.
Resorts are great for socializing with other travellers. Whether you’re travelling with friends, your special someone or as a family, you can easily connect with other resort guests. Friendships made during travels are often with people you wouldn’t necessarily run into if you haven’t ventured away. Even if those people live in the same city as you.
Something there for everyone
Just like cruises, all-inclusive vacations offer a variety of options for travellers. Some resorts cater to families with kids, offering onsite kids clubs and child-friendly amenities that make it easier for parents to relax. Your kids are likely to make new friends as they play while you can take a breather.
No kids? There are adults-only resorts that cater to couples and adults without kids. Make sure to read the fine print to make sure that the resort is what you’re looking for. You might want an adults-only resort while vacationing with your friends, or you might be looking for one geared towards couples and singles hooking up with others. There is a resort out there with your name on it, no matter what you’re into.
Great for first-time travellers
All-inclusive resorts are great for first-time travellers and those feeling overwhelmed about planning a vacation. This is a great way to get your travel feet wet since everything is done for you. All you have to do is pick your dates, select where you want to go and book. Your vacation awaits.
Resorts come in many different shapes and sizes, depending on the country you select. You might want to go to a very exclusive, five-star hotel with all the bells and whistles, or opt for a large, family-friendly resort that caters to a variety of travellers. The prices of all-inclusive vacations also vary depending on when you’re planning on travelling, so make sure to keep an eye out for deals and offers.
The cons of all-inclusive vacations
As with everything else, there are two sides to everything. While all-inclusive vacations offer a lot of pros, there are also many cons that turn people off from this type of travel. Keep in mind that not all all-inclusive vacations are made equal. The country you travel to, the type of hotel you stay at and when you travel all play a factor in how much you’ll pay for the experience.
Not always all-inclusive
Always make sure to read the fine print. Even all-inclusive resorts might have additional fees for certain services or products. Your resort might have specialty restaurants that are not included in your package that require you to pay for eating there. The same goes for alcohol. If you like your liquor top-shelf, you might have to pay extra for the brand you want instead of the standard brand used in the bar.
If you’re not into disconnecting while you travel, you might want to check the hotel’s WiFi access and availability. Your resort might only offer connections in hot spots in public areas or require you to pay an additional fee to use it. Do research before you book to avoid unnecessary fees and frustration.
Depending on your package and resort, you might have to pay for the premium services (think spas or treatments). The same applied to excursions and experiences offered by the hotels, often considered as extras.
Many all-inclusive resorts cater to tourists from North America and Europe. They cater their menus to appeal to guests, which means you’re not getting an authentic local culinary experience. The quality of food, especially at the buffets, can suffer as it’s made in large quantities and is geared to as many people as possible. This might prove problematic if you have dietary restrictions or simply don’t enjoy the food.
While you might want to leave the resort to explore, it might be located in a secluded part of the island that makes it difficult to connect with the locals. The resorts, after all, are created to offer an idyllic getaway for travellers, which is not always reflective of what the rest of the place looks like. For many visitors looking to relax that might be enough, but if you want to learn more about the country you’re visiting and the culture, this could be frustrating.
One of the biggest issues I have with all-inclusive resorts is the lack of sustainability. Drinks with straws served in plastic cups are everywhere and there is no effort (at least on the resort) to recycle any of it. There is tremendous food waste which is especially easy to spot in the buffet as people pile food on their plates and don’t bother eating it.
When someone else does the laundry, it’s easy to request fresh towels in your room every day of your stay. Grab a new towel every time you go to the pool or the beach. Many people don’t even consider how much unnecessary laundry gets done every day at these resorts, not to mention the resources like water and electricity used in the process. Just thinking about it gives me anxiety.
All-inclusive resorts are often owned and operated by large international companies that don’t boost the local economy. Even the souvenirs you buy from on-site gift shops go to those companies, not to the locals. You also won’t have the same type of authentic interaction with the locals working at the hotel since many of them are encouraged to upsell and promote activities and services that make money for the resort.
Can be limiting
Staying at an all-inclusive resort can feel limiting, especially if you don’t leave the resort. Doing the same thing every day and seeing the same people can get monotonous. The food can get tiring and repetitive, especially if the options are limited and you can’t go off to find your own nor do you have the ability to prepare your own meals.
All-inclusive vacations are great for those wanting to relax but are not always suited to those seeking more adventurous experiences. There is no guarantee that you’ll find exciting excursions and even if you do, you’ll likely have to pay extra to participate. If you don’t want to spend money on excursions you’ll have to rely on daily entertainment, which may not be your thing.
Not for everyone
When it comes down to it, all-inclusive vacations are not for everyone. One of the big draws for many is the unlimited alcohol and lots of people spend the whole week getting drunk at the bar. In addition to drunks, you’ll likely run into your share of obnoxious travellers who use the resort as their personal playground. While that can happen anywhere, it’s worse when you’re stuck with them at the same resort for days.
Depending on the size of your resort, you might be surrounded by people all the time, which makes it harder to find solitude. Not to mention finding free beach umbrellas or pool chairs, or signing up for free activities. We always avoided very large resorts for this reason, but even smaller ones can have similar challenges if you go in high season.
Tips for choosing all-inclusive vacations
As with any vacation, do your research before picking a destination and the resort. Consider whether leaving the resort is important to you and whether is safe to do so alone. We have been to resorts that were located near small towns that you could walk to from the resort grounds. However, we’ve also been to resorts that were in remote areas of an island that made it difficult to venture out on your own.
Before choosing a resort, read reviews and check out other travellers’ photos. Ask your friends and family who have travelled to the destination you are considering about their experience. When in doubt, consult a travel agent that specializes in all-inclusive vacations. They are likely to provide you with more detailed information about the resorts, locations and paid extras.
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There is also nothing wrong with wanting to stay at your resort and sit by the pool or the beach if that’s what you’re looking for. All-inclusive resorts are often set in stunning locations that make it very appealing to stay put. They are great for relaxation and for many, the only opportunity to get away from their busy lives. Sometimes, that is what matters most.
Have you been on an all-inclusive vacation before? Are there any other pros or cons you would add to this list? Let me know.