Should I Stay at an All-Inclusive?
Here’s a question travelers often ask themselves: Should I stay at an all-inclusive hotel or resort? What is the benefit to staying at an all-inclusive resort anyway?
While all-inclusive resorts can come with a stiff price, there are some definite benefits to forking out the money to take advantage of one. I’ve identified 6 benefits to staying at an all-inclusive resort:
Benefit #1: All of the meals and drinks are provided
Let me say that again…ALL of the meals and drinks are provided. It’s kind of like being on a cruise ship, but never leaving the port. This means that you do not have to trek around in an unknown territory to conjure up meals three times a day for your family. Meals, plus snacks, are always available at nearly all hours. And they are all-you-can-eat with lots of choices for your picky eater. You will not starve at an all-inclusive. You will also never wash a dish.
Benefit #2: There is always something to do
The day at an all-inclusive resort is chock full of activities. The morning may start with water aerobics in the pool which evolves into dance lessons by the pool and from there you can then head over to the scheduled beach volleyball game which leads into flag football on the sand…you get the picture. The resort will offer plenty of scheduled activities in which you can choose or not choose to be a part of. Plus, the resort grounds will offer plenty of un-scheduled activities including pools, beach volleyball courts, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, trinket shops…the list goes on.
Benefit #3: The nightly entertainment is a hoot
All-inclusives never cease to keep you entertained and that includes into the night too. Nightly shows with singing and dancing are popular forms of entertainment. For example, we really enjoyed the night of Michael Jackson tribute songs at Iberostar Bávaro Suites in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Our family still echoes the announcer’s introduction from that show whenever someone mentions MJ…"the Michael Jackshon show, clap, clap, clap, clap”…yes, you must say the "clap, clap, clap."
Benefit #4: There is a pool to suit every need or desire
All-inclusive resorts are not short on beautiful pools. There are kiddie pools with the oversized bucket that will dump water on your child and nearly drown them with one pour, there are medium depth pools that are great for the water aerobics and just generally hanging out in all day, there are deep pools for diving, there are pools with slides, there are salt-water and chlorine pools, lazy rivers…the list goes on. Oh, and more likely than not, the all-inclusive resort will be located on the ocean, so there’s the beach too.
Benefit #5: All-inclusive resorts are great places to vacation with small children
Their every need is attended to…by someone else! You do not have to cook for them, clean up after them, make sure they have a dry towel for the beach, or keep them entertained with activities. You just get to relax and enjoy your time playing with them. And if your child needs some structured activities, chances are there is even a day camp they can attend on-site. Just be sure that the all-inclusive resort you are visiting is family-friendly, as there are some that are adult-only resorts.
Benefit #6: The resort will offer off-site adventures
All-inclusives usually offer at least a few options for off-site excursions during your stay such as zip-lining, snorkeling, diving, ATVing, or a tour of some nearby historical location or popular city. This is a great way to see the surrounding area outside your fortress of solitude. If you’re itching for a change of scenery, these are some great options. However, there will be an additional charge for these guided adventures.
While staying at an all-inclusive may sound ideal, there are a couple of caveats that I must share for your consideration:
Caveat #1: Staying at an all-inclusive can be expensive
As I said earlier, all-inclusives are often not cheap. However, be sure to factor in that food and drink is included in the price, as is transport to and from the airport, and any other benefits your particular all-inclusive offers. Also consider visiting during their off season. Some all-inclusives give major discounts during their off seasons and may even include the cost of airfare in their price.
Caveat #2: You will have limited interaction with the local community
If you are someone who likes to live among the locals and experience the local people, food, and atmosphere, then an all-inclusive resort is not for you. You are typically whisked away from the airport in a hotel bus that drives directly to and from the sprawling resort compound and your only glimpse of local life for the duration of your stay is out the window of the bus. There is no stopping at road-side stands to taste the local fare, or shopping in their market district. And, once you’re on the resort compound, other than the sanctioned off-site activities, you never really have an opportunity to leave as you do not have your own transportation and the resorts may be too far from town to walk. So, be prepared to be content on the resort’s property with their scheduled activities for the duration of your stay.
Caveat #3: You are not alone
If you are looking for a vacation where you spend hours on a desolate beach where you are the only person around for miles, then an all-inclusive resort is not for you. All-inclusives are typically large, sprawling properties with lots of people and lots of action. While they are relaxing in their own way, they are not quiet or intimate.
In the current age of Airbnb, couch surfing, and boutique hostels (which sounds like an oxy-moron to me), the idea of staying at an all-inclusive resort may not cross your mind. But if you're looking for a vacation where all your entertainment and culinary needs are met, consider an all-inclusive (and this list of pros and cons) before you embark on your next travel adventure.