An all-inclusive resort is typically one that includes the hotel, all your food, all your drinks (even booze!), and sometimes even activities. If this sounds too good to be true, that may be because it is. There are quite a few pros and cons to consider when deciding whether the all-inclusive price is worth paying for. We went to Cancun, Mexico and had to decide whether to do an inclusive resort or a “DIY” trip. We went with the all-inclusive option and learned quite a bit along the way.
There are many factors in deciding whether it’s worth it or not, but overall an all-inclusive resort package it probably be won’t be worth your hard-earned money. Read on to learn more about the factors and things to note.
How Much Time Do You Want to Spend Planning?
In my experience there are two main types of travelers:
- Planners: these types of people enjoy the process of researching their destination. They want to find the best restaurants, most fun activities, and the coolest landmarks. Some take this to the extreme with daily schedules while others have a more loose planning outlook.
- Non-Planners: these types of people would rather just book the basics (hotel, car, plane ticket) and pack their bags. Being a non-planner is nothing to be ashamed of, it just means that you want to relax and enjoy every second of your vacation.
You can guess that if you are a non-planner or someone who wants an easy getaway, the all-inclusive option is probably better for you.
What Activities/Facilities are Actually Offered?
Be sure to really thoroughly read the description of your all-inclusive package. Tons of travelers get duped every year because they thought that beach resort included endless snorkeling only to find out it was actually $20 a day to rent. Know what your hotel package actually offers and what limits come with it before booking your all-inclusive resort.
Your Cost Per Day vs. The Package Cost
“Hooray, free drinks!” said everyone, ever. But wait, what if you don’t really drink? Be sure to calculate how much you’ll probably spend per day on food, drinks, hotel, and activities before deciding if the all-inclusive package is worth it. There is no point in paying for things you won’t do.
Price is Relative to Quality
You can definitely find rock-bottom prices on all-inclusive packages on sites like Groupon. Don’t book anything without reading the 1-star and 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor first! You may find that your super-cheap hotel is cheap because it’s on top of a nightclub that never closes, or that the all-inclusive food package actually only includes one weird little restaurant on the resort.
Pro: You Never Have to Leave
Some people like to get to their beach resort and never leave! Why go anywhere else when there’s crystal-clear water, soft sand, and endless (free) margaritas? Many hotels also offer activities like yoga, snorkeling, and parties right at the resort. It would be pretty easy to visit an all-inclusive resort without ever leaving.
Pro: They Might Save You Money
Every vacation package is different, but there’s a good chance going all-inclusive will save you money. This, of course, varies widely on the package, your destination, and how you like to vacation. Hundreds of your exact vacation package are sold every day so you’ll probably get a discount when you bundle hotels, food, airfare, and more.
Pro: Free Food & Alcohol!
This is what makes all-inclusive resorts a favorite of drinkers everywhere! You can get unlimited free food and alcohol. Take note that just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it tastes good. We found that all of our drinks were watered down and it was actually difficult to get drunk even for a two-drink-maximum lightweight like me. We recommend bringing a Yeti or similar cold cup for hot destinations like Mexico so you can pour in your plastic-cup drink and keep it cold!
Pro: All-Inclusive is Easier
Worried about whether you’ll have enough local currency to cover your meal since they don’t take credit cards? Concerned that you won’t be able to find your way back to the hotel? Staying in an all-inclusive resort takes away all these concerns. These resorts are built to make your vacation easier.
Pro: Convenience is King
From airport pickup to on-call butlers, many all-inclusive resorts are set up to cater to your every need. You usually get a wristband that showcases your status as an all-inclusive guest and tells hotel staff that you don’t need to pay for anything. This also means you don’t have to carry around a wallet! This is key on beach vacations when you’d rather be snoozing under a palm tree or floating in the pool.
Pro: Tipping is Not Required
Most all-inclusive packages state that tipping is not required. However, if you’re from a country who tips regularly (like the USA) you’re still going to feel guilty for not tipping. We found that in Mexico tipping about $1 per drink or 10% of total cost for food was just the nice thing to do.
Con: Some Strings Attached – the Timeshare Sales Pitch
Would you like to buy a timeshare? Oh, you have no interest? That’s too
Be sure to read the fine print, especially on suspiciously awesome deals to beach destinations. Even if you don’t have to sit through a presentation, your resort wristband may be a different color to notify the salespeople that you just might be interested in buying some real estate.
Con: Lack of Culture
All-inclusive resorts are set up for tourists. That means that the culture and authenticity of your destination city may be minimized. Since the resorts cater to the masses, they will provide what they think is the best vacation experience. This means that their group excursions, activities, and food may be “dumbed down” for tourists. Most travelers know that if you want to experience the culture of a place, just go get in the middle of it!
Con: SO MANY PEOPLE
Since most of these resorts have hundreds of rooms, there’s usually hundreds of people to go along with them. This could be a pro or con depending on what kind of vacation atmosphere you’re looking for. Remember that all-inclusive cheap resorts tend to attract people with less money. Don’t be surprised when the fraternity bros of a Southern California college take over your formerly peaceful resort.
Noise can come in many forms. For us, it came in the form of house music blaring all night from a club called Cocobongo down the street from our hotel. Noise tends to come from other hotel neighbors, screaming kids, or loud local activity.
Con: Mediocre, Non-Authentic Food
For some travelers, the destination’s specialty food is a big part of the experience. You’ll find that most food in life that’s mass-produced isn’t very good (think weddings and large events) – all-inclusive resorts aren’t any different. In my experience, the food at these resorts is okay at best. Perhaps worst of all, it’s usually a minimal version of the food of the region. I’ve eaten better tacos in Southern California than any of the tacos I ate at our all-inclusive hotel in Cancun, Mexico.
All-inclusive can be a great option for people who want to spend their time relaxing on vacation! Consider other travelers’ reviews, price per day, and what you really want out of a vacation before you book all-inclusive!