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The popularity of all-inclusive resorts continues to rise, especially with travelers looking to book an entire vacation without the added hours of research. But are these resorts actually a good deal?
When weighing whether an all-inclusive resort is a good deal for you, here are some of the generally accepted positive aspects to booking an all-inclusive:
Convenience: Many travelers prefer having everything right at their resort - different types of bars, round-the-clock dining, activities, and even nightclubs.
Safety: Most all-inclusive resorts are tucked far away from town and have ample security wandering the grounds to ensure all guests feel safe.
No Money: You typically wear a wristband and/or your pass to show you're a guest, and this covers you if you purchase anything that is not included in the package.
Budgeting: Most supporters of all-inclusive resorts say they prefer to know up front what their entire vacation will cost and not be surprised by bar bills, expensive restaurants, and activities.
Adult-only Options: Honeymooners especially prefer to stay at resorts that are geared to adult travelers only.
While there are many advantages to booking an all-inclusive resort, the list of negatives is important to consider as well.
Stuck at the Resort: One of the biggest complaints is that most all-inclusive resorts are so remote that it's an expensive cab ride into town.
Limited Food Selection and Mediocre Food: While the amount of food you can eat is pretty much endless since it's primarily buffets, the quality of the food often suffers. Also, you are at the mercy of the resort restaurants, which may feature only two or three options.
Forced to Get Your Money's Worth: If you aren't a big drinker, splurging on an all-inclusive with alcoholic beverages included may cost you more in the long run.
More Expensive: Just because everything is theoretically bundled together, an all-inclusive doesn't mean you are saving anything on your vacation.
Activities Not Included: Unfortunately, many tours, spa treatments, and sports equipment rentals (like personal watercraft) may not be included in that all-inclusive package after all.
Lacking Authenticity: Spending your entire holiday behind the resort walls certainly doesn't give you the vibe of a destination or a chance to interact with the locals.
Huge: Most all-inclusive resorts are massive, meaning crowded pools, lengthy buffet lines, and hefty wait times for sit-down restaurants.
No Savings in Bad Weather: If you find bad weather at your destination, you pay the same amount whether you get to actually partake in activities or not. Be sure to purchase travel insurance, as that should cover you in many cases.
When contemplating your vacation booking, you have to really ask yourself what it is you want from your holiday away from home. Do you care about seeing a destination, or are you simply looking for a place to relax for a few days? If you just want a fancy resort on a beautiful beach somewhere, then an all-inclusive resort may be the ticket.
How long are you staying? A few days at an all-inclusive is not a bad getaway, but 10 days or more, and you might find you're going stir crazy. If trying local cuisine and different restaurants are not high on your priority list, the repetitive buffets and limited dining options aren't likely to bother you at all.
If you like to explore and want to do tours, go off property for dinner, or just check out the bar scene, you'll be adding quite a bit to your budget and technically throwing away a portion of the money you've already spent. And, if you are a wine connoisseur or prefer top-shelf liquor, you'll find those are not included in most all-inclusive packages either.
Travelers who love immersing themselves in the local culture or learning about a destination's gastronomy are likely to be disappointed in many all-inclusive resorts. That's not to say there are not some well-known chefs opening restaurants in all-inclusive resorts, so it all depends on the destination itself and resort options available.
It really comes down to travel style and what your vacation goals are. For some, all-inclusive resorts make the most sense, but for others, it's a struggle to get your money's worth by the end of your holiday.
Have you stayed at an all-inclusive? What was your experience like?
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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