Your next vacation should include lounging on a Caribbean beach, toes in the sand, palm trees overhead, and endless turquoise sea and sunshine. While this all sounds like a dream, choosing where to stay can be quite the opposite.
With accommodations for every taste and lifestyle in the Caribbean, all-inclusive resort options are a worry-free favorite, boasting affordable prices and a ton of amenities, all at one simple rate, which means no surprises at check-out. While more and more travelers are turning to all-inclusive travel, there are still a lot of myths surrounding these popular resorts, from lacking service and long lines to hidden fees.
We’re uncovering the pros and cons of all-inclusive vacations so you can decide for yourself.
All-inclusive resorts are easier to budget for because you know all of the costs upfront. No need to worry about how much extra you’ll have to pay for food, drinks and activities and if alcohol or activities aren’t included, you can usually upgrade at the time of booking. There’s a lot to be said about the convenience—you can leave your wallet in your room because that colored wristband gives you access to everything you want. Plus, you won’t be running the total expenses in your head to make sure you don’t exceed your budget. You’ve already paid for it all and you can simply indulge! Be sure to account for tipping the staff if your reservation does not explicitly say tipping is included. An easy rule of thumb, is to tip 15 to 20 percent.
Everything at an all-inclusive is typically provided for you, from your own beach chairs, towels and umbrellas to your piña coladas. All-inclusive vacations are renowned for easy living, with resort staff ready to serve you, along with plenty of restaurants, bars, activities, shopping and often casinos and golf courses. There’s often very little need to travel offsite other than to explore nearby landmarks or for a private excursion. Many resorts even include airport transfer in the price.
All-inclusive resorts are loaded with things to do, be it water sports, golf, yoga on the beach, spas, live entertainment, karaoke, horseback riding, dance classes and more. There really is something for everyone. Some activities like jet-ski rentals or spa treatments may come at an extra cost, but it’s all available on-site.
Limited exposure to the local culture
For travelers looking for a relaxed and worry-free beach vacation, an all-inclusive getaway is the perfect option. For guests wanting to explore and experience the culture, a boutique hotel or downtown hotel may be a better option. All-inclusive resorts are typically set within a huge compound, where every element is perfected, leaving a lot of the outside surroundings up to the imagination. With that being said, you are always able to leave the resort on a private excursion or to explore on your own. Ask the resort concierge for any reputable excursion companies.
While food is plentiful and always available at an all-inclusive resort, many find that it caters to the masses, rather than to a foodie clientele. Before booking your resort, ask about dining options – are there upscale restaurants onsite? Are they covered under the “all-inclusive” umbrella? If you’re really looking for an authentic sample of the local cuisine, head to the heart of your destination and try some local eats.
There are plenty of restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and activities, but be ready to share them with other people. Some resorts contain multiple hotels and villas, which translates into thousands of guests all vying for the same amenities. You might have to stake your claim for a pool or beach chair early in the morning; by mid-morning they may all be occupied by tourists glistening with sunscreen. Some all-inclusive resorts are so large, they actually have shuttles to take guests to different parts of the property. So if you are looking for a private, quiet, intimate island getaway, a large all-inclusive resort won’t fit the bill.
The Bottom Line
The cost of all-inclusive resorts is usually quite reasonable and for budget travelers, as well as large groups such as weddings or reunions, the availability, cost and convenience are hard to beat. If you simply want a stress-free vacation with plenty of food, drinks and beach time, then an all-inclusive resort is right up your alley. Travelers wanting to truly experience the local culture should consider skipping the mega-resorts and look for something that will put them closer to the pulse of island life, wherever that may be.
Not all all-inclusive resorts are the same. There are plenty of boutique and smaller all-inclusive resorts out there with five-star customer service, gourmet meals and more than enough breathing room. Before booking, do your research, read reviews and be open to things not being exactly as you imagined—often those surprises end up being the best part of your vacation.