What are all-inclusive vacations? In reality, there are many different ways to define “all-inclusive,” which presents travelers with a challenge.

For some travel providers, such as Viking River Cruises, “all-inclusive” means that everything – food, beverages during meals, featured shore excursions, port taxes – is included in the trip price, but airfare, spa treatments, optional excursions and gratuities are extra.

For others, such as Club Med, “all-inclusive” means that your airfare, meals, child care, most sports activities and lessons and beverages are included, but SCUBA diving trips, spa treatments and gratuities are not.

Let’s have a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of all-inclusive travel deals.

First, let’s look at the advantages of all-inclusive vacations…

All-Inclusive Vacations and the Ease of Planning

Once you’ve booked your trip to an all-inclusive resort or cruise ship, you’re done. Someone else handles the daily details. The most you’ll have to do is reserve seats at one of the restaurants or sign up for a sailing lesson.

Budget Control

With an all-inclusive vacation, you know what your vacation will cost. It’s easy to add gratuities and budget a bit extra for a spa visit or day tour, and you’ll have control over the bottom line.

Unique Experiences

Some all-inclusive resorts offer vacationers experiences that might be hard to find or arrange easily on your own. Hacienda Tres Ríos, on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, for example, has a private nature park on-site. Guests can snorkel, kayak and swim in cenotes (freshwater sinkholes) and in the rivers for which the resort was named.

All-inclusive vacations - Cenotes

Sports Equipment

If you enjoy adventure travel, a vacation at a sports-oriented all-inclusive resort might be a great option for you. For example, Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands, gives guests access to the Club’s sailboat fleet as well as opportunities to take sailing lessons, go on snorkeling trips and participate in boating excursions.

Total Relaxation on an All-in-One Vacation

Because you know exactly what you’re getting when you book an all-inclusive trip, you can truly relax and enjoy the experience. No worrying about hidden costs, no lugging surfboards to and from the airport, just peace of mind.

However, despite all of these advantages, all-inclusive vacations are not without their challenges. Here are a few things to watch out for…

Not Completely All-Inclusive

As mentioned above, each resort and cruise line defines “all-inclusive” differently. Once you’ve decided what you’d like to do on your vacation, you will need to do some careful research or work with a good travel agent to find an all-inclusive deal that includes the activities and amenities you want. Otherwise, you might end up paying more than you had planned.

Availability

It’s easy to find online advertisements offering great deals at all-inclusive resorts. It’s a bit harder to find available rooms at those prices on the dates you’d like to travel.

You’re more likely to find availability if you book your trip well in advance, but you’ll probably find better deals if you can plan a trip at the last minute and be flexible with your travel dates. In either case, be sure to check the cancellation policy and purchase appropriate travel insurance.

Limited Dining Options

If you’re a foodie, you may find it frustrating to have a limited choice of dining opportunities. Typically, an all-inclusive vacation includes three meals per day at on-site restaurants and cafés. If you want to eat somewhere else, such as in town, you’ll have to pay separately for that meal.

The Noise Factor

Some – not all – all-inclusive resorts offer nightly entertainment, discos and/or special events, some of which may take place outdoors or near open windows. If your room happens to be near one of these venues, you may have a hard time falling asleep early. To avoid this situation, ask for a room away from bars and discos, find out whether any wedding receptions are planned during your stay and bring earplugs.

The Fine Print

Be sure to read every word of the terms and conditions before you book an all-inclusive vacation or cruise. Understand what is included in your vacation price and what is not included.

For example, the Hotel Britannia Excelsior, in Cadenabbia on Italy’s Lake Como, offers three different all-inclusive packages, but the fine print reveals that the Lido Pool and Bar are open to the public on Wednesdays through Sundays, generally with live music, and the bar is not all-inclusive during those public hours if you choose the Silver all-inclusive plan.

All-inclusive vacations- Motorboats anchored at Lecco and white seagulls flying.

Are All-Inclusive Vacations a Good Value?

They can be, depending on when you go and the type of vacation you choose. If you enjoy relaxing by a beach or lake or participating in outdoor or water sports, prefer to eat three good-sized meals a day, accompanied by the beverage of your choice, and can adjust your travel dates to avoid high season, you can probably get a decent deal on an all-inclusive vacation.

If you prefer to travel from town to town, changing hotels along the way, an all-inclusive resort or cruise might not be for you.

Where Can I Find All-Inclusive Deals and Discounts?

Yes, especially if you live in the United Kingdom or Canada. Canadians can travel to Cuban resorts, for example, and many British and Canadian travel agencies offer holiday packages to all-inclusive resorts in Europe, the Canary Islands and northern Africa. However, you should take the time to compare all-inclusive prices with the cost of a regular hotel room and meals in the same area.

According to an article published in the Telegraph on June 30, 2014, travelers who book a hotel room with breakfast included (called “bed and breakfast” or “B&B basis,”) and eat out on their own can save quite a bit of money in many European resort areas.

Some all-inclusive deals include incentives for solo travelers, such as no single supplement during certain times of the year. You’ll need to do your own research and decide which type of vacation is best for you.

Have you gone on an all-inclusive vacation? Was it a good value? Would you go on another all-inclusive trip? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

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