Saving time and money is a good thing. And choosing an all-inclusive resort package — which typically includes accommodations, activities, food, alcohol and even tipping (and sometimes airfare) — can take a lot of the hassle out of planning for many would-be vacationers. Knowing what you’re spending before you go also reduces the worry of being away.
But before making a decision about a package plan, ask yourself some questions.
What do you want to do?
If you want to get away from everything, just lie back on a beach and catch up on your reading, an all-inclusive resort might be a perfect fit. There are plenty of all-inclusive sun-and-sand destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico to suit beachgoers.
Likewise, if you’re interested in focusing your vacation on a single activity like golf, going with an all-inclusive package at, say, a golf resort may well make sense.
How long do you want to stay?
If you want a long weekend away, an all-inclusive package may be just the thing. You won’t have to spend a lot of time planning how to get where you’re going or what to do during your stay. But if you’re planning a longer break, you may find yourself bored with your options in an all-inclusive package and long for a change of pace.
Who is coming along?
Are you traveling with your children and grandchildren? With a group of old college friends? One of the distinct advantages of all-inclusive packages is they can minimize the need for group decision-making, which can be a challenge with a larger and diverse group. Two other advantages: Most offer a range of activities to suit many tastes and many venues for easy socializing.
How important is it for you to keep to your budget?
Lola Albright, a hairstylist from Ashburn, Va., bought an all-inclusive resort trip for five nights at the Riu Cancun resort in May 2013. She traveled with her two daughters, both in their 20s.
“It’s a much better deal when it’s all rolled together,” Albright says. She and her daughters found that the resort provided what it advertised. The resort was on the beach, and the room looked like it did in the brochure.
Albright has taken pay-as-you-go trips, too. That’s how she visited Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. “The downside was a ginormous credit card bill when I got home,” she says.
How important is good food?
All-inclusive packages rely heavily on buffets, and despite the quantity and variety of food, quality can suffer. Also, a resort’s food may start to look and taste similar after a few days. That’s less of a problem if the kids are along. But if you know you’ll want a meal or two off-site, consider that you’ll be paying for those meals twice.
Do you like big hotels?
Although some all-inclusive resorts offer privacy in intimate settings, you’ll generally find the biggest bargains in big hotels with rooms that are smaller than you might like.
How do you feel about vacation planning?
Does keeping track of details stress you out? If so, there’s a definite advantage in letting someone else take care of everything.
Travel writer Julie Beer says she understands the convenience of the all-inclusive travel package but wouldn’t want to miss out on researching and planning the annual vacations she enjoys with her mother, her children and a variety of friends. Says Beer, “It’s the best way to get excited about a trip.” She plans way in advance and works within a budget, saving money by making flight reservations early. She drafts a rough itinerary and books places to stay in advance, too, so she “won’t end up looking for a hotel all bleary-eyed.”
Do you like certainty or serendipity?
For some people, a closely planned vacation is a good vacation. But for others, serendipity means fun. While Beer irons out transportation and a rough itinerary well before a trip, she enjoys flexibility. “While we may have thought we wanted to explore Edinburgh for three days, we were done in two,” she recalls. “That gave us an unexpected day to wander in some nearby villages, hang out in a bookshop, go in search of the perfect sterling silver ring, go back to that awesome pub for a second time.” Beer also likes to ask locals for restaurant recommendations. They often lead to great meals — and new friends.