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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are All-Inclusive Resorts Really “ALL”-Inclusive? 3.7.12

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When planning just doesn’t sound like very much fun to you, then all-inclusive sounds pretty sweet. It implies that you go there, have everything taken care of for you and you don’t have to worry about anything. Too bad all “all-inclusive” resorts are not created equal and without getting all the facts, you may end up spending more than you have and having a crummy vacation, knowing that you are going into debt to pay for all the extras that you thought were built-in to your price. Many all-inclusive resorts also cater to regular guest show don’t want everything included and just want to pay for their room rate and then go out and do other stuff every day.

So, who are all-inclusive resorts for?
·         Sun worshippers and beach bums. If you just like to lie on the beach all day, then you’re set.
·         Families. Entertainment, food, the beach and kids clubs all within easy walking distance is convenient, but so is not having to pull out your wallet every five minutes.
·         Vacation non-planners. Do you hate to plan trips? Well, everything is taken care of in one bundle with all-inclusive vacations.
·         Light sightseers. If you aren’t really interested in doing too much outside of a resort, beyond beach activities, they have plenty to keep you from wanting to wander off-property.
·         Luxury vacationers. If you’re used to having someone take care of everything and just sitting back and feeling like a VIP, all-inclusives have that feel. Splurge a bit and head to the spa for a treatment.
·         Ocean lovers. Is your idea of a great vacation going snorkeling, diving, surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking and swimming?
·         Budget travelers. Many resorts offer big discounts that just can’t beat booking hotel and airfare separately, that include activities and dining that maybe are better than could be afforded if paid out of pocket each day.

Who aren’t they for?
·         Moderate to heavy sightseers and city explorers. Once you get to your destination, are you dying to get out and SEE EVERYTHING THERE IS TO SEE? Chances are, an all-inclusive is not for you. Most likely, you will be out and about during meal times and won’t be able to take advantage of included dining options.
·         Solo travelers. Like most packages, all-inclusive rates are based on double occupancy. If you pay for just you, it’s likely you will spend 150% of the price posted (and in some cases more), which isn’t saving you any money at all.
·         Those that need to be doing SOMETHING. Like the sightseers and city travelers, you may not get your money’s worth out of an all-inclusive resort. If you have to be out doing something during the day, the monotony of seeing the same resort all day every day likely will make you stir-crazy.
·         Those wanting to get the most out of traveling. If you travel to “see” the world, then resort vacationing is not really for you. You will feel obligated to spend as much time as possible on-property when what you really want to be doing is discovering a new destination and seeing everything there is to see. You’ll pay for meals out that were included had you stayed at the resort and spend money on things you really wanted to do and see.
·         Foodies. While many all-inclusive resorts offer several different dining venues, nothing beats hitting the pavement and finding local cafes and restaurants that serve authentically native foods. On a resort, you will have the options of dining at different locations on the property, but much of the cuisine will be appealing to everyone, meaning you won’t get a truly regional dining experience.
·         Social butterflies. Yes, you could spend each day chatting up a new family or couple to learn all about their lives and city they’re visiting from, but true travel social butterflies like to converse with the locals whenever possible. You probably already know a bunch about Texas or Melbourne. You could talk to these same people at home. Not that they aren’t nice people and life-long friends could be made, but when traveling, it’s way more fun to learn about your destination and the people that live there.
·         Control freaks. I’m in this category. I like to know everything about my vacation and plan it all. If you’re the same, possibly you don’t want to hand the reigns over to someone else and “go with the flow”.

What questions should you ask before booking your vacation?
·         Are ALL meals included? Food is the first thing I think of when going all-inclusive. Are all your meals included or just some of them? This can make all the difference in the world when it comes to cost. If only lunch and dinner are included or you can only eat at designated times, then maybe you want to rethink making a reservation.
·         Are alcoholic beverages included? Maybe you don’t drink, but if you do, then booze really adds up. Having to pay for it is going to be a sad day at the end of your trip when you see your bar tab. If you some relaxing margaritas and mojitos are on your itinerary, then make sure to ask about this.
·         What about fine dining? How disappointed will you be when you’re all excited to try that different dining room with the fancy white tablecloths and filet mignon only to find out it’s an extra charge to your bill? Try not to cry on the buffet food when you end up back in that line.
·         Snacks? Can you tell that I am a lover of food? It’s surprising that I can fit into my pants when I come back home from trips. LOL! Snack costs can add up quickly. Especially, when you have kids and they are constantly saying they are hungry and want to snack on something. A perfect family vacation would include trips to the snack bar 24/7. It would save you a bundle, right? If not, you better start a tote bag with munchies for your trip.
·         What activities are “free”? Motorized activities are usually something you need to pay extra for. If you are just interested in surfing, kayaking and snorkeling, this could be a benefit, but if parasailing, jet skiing and the like are must-do things on your list, having to pay out of pocket (and possibly more than usual, because there’s no other place close by to rent such things from) might be a deal-breaker.
·         Do kids stay/play/eat free? While there are plenty of resorts that include up to two kids with two adults and they can do everything they want for no extra money – except those dreaded taxes – there are just as many that view kids as an additional guest. So, while $65/night sounds like a deal, that is also the rate per person. $130/night is a lot different than $260/night (for a family of 4).
·         Are transfers included? If your resort rate doesn’t include airfare – still you would be better off getting everything in a package, usually – how will you get from the airport to the property? Many all-inclusive resorts are far from the city center (in order to be private, though some will argue that it’s so you don’t try to leave and spend money elsewhere) and getting there can be a bit tricky, as well as expensive.

Hopefully, this covers all the basics of an all-inclusive holiday and what to expect and not to expect. All-inclusive usually comes with a few (or a lot) of stipulations. Make sure your bottom line is really one you can live with and isn’t something you would have paid less for to do more at your destination had you planned it all yourself. The one time I went all-inclusive, I was not all that thrilled with my entertainment or dining choices. Great for a few nights. Not so great for 7 nights. I got bored and wanted to do stuff at my destination that was outside of my resort and eat food that was different than what was available there.

Tip for Southeasterners: If you live close to Florida beaches and just need a quick (inexpensive) getaway, there is a wide range of all-inclusives there that could be perfect for your needs. They don’t require a passport and it’s warmer there than many other beaches. It’s the closest you can get to the Caribbean and Bahamas resorts without leaving the country.
Have you ever been on an all-inclusive holiday? Did you feel like you got your money’s worth or were you bored to tears for a week+?  

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