To Stay At An All-Inclusive Resort Or Not?

Have you ever been scrolling through Instagram or Groupon and see amazing all-inclusive travel deals that are just so tempting to buy with a click of a button?

I often have this problem because I am always looking for deals and always wanting to be on vacation. $2,500 for 7 days all-inclusive in the Caribbean? That just sounds simply amazing. But then I think about it a little more. How fulfilled am I going to be from that? Am I going to enjoy the many tourists and mediocre food? What am I really going to get out of this vacation? Will it actually be relaxing? So many questions and so many thoughts.

Centara Grand Resort and Spa – Maldives

I’ve only stayed at two all inclusive resorts in my life. And when I reflect back about what I usually try to do on vacation, it makes sense that I haven’t stayed at more. Sure, I would love to not have to worry about carrying my wallet around and trying to figure out what restaurant to eat at. But I actually love doing the research and trying local restaurants. I also love collecting local currency, it’s so colorful and fun.

My sister Marsha, who has 2 kids, recently asked me what I recommended for a good vacation spot for her and her family. So that got me thinking. Should I recommend that they stay at an all-inclusive resort or not? The analytical side of me said – make a pros and cons list. So I decided, let me make a blog post about it because I am sure there are others out there contemplating the same question.

Prices + Packages:

The Pros:  All-inclusive resorts can be pretty economical. At most all-inclusive resorts, you pay one price that will cover your room, food, drinks, and even some activities and entertainment. There are usually tons of deals to choose from and so many all-inclusive resorts, especially in the Caribbean. These can come out so much cheaper than going to Disney World and spending $4000 in 3 days! The best part is that you know in advance how much your whole vacation is going to cost. You book your flights, pay for your hotel and you know that once you get there, all you are going to have to spend on is for transportation from the airport and back and cash for tips!

Sandos Playacar in Playa Del Carmen

The Cons: Make sure you do plenty of research and know what is actually included in the so called “All-inclusive”. One of the all-inclusive resorts we stayed at in the Maldives only allowed club access members to use a certain pool and dine at certain restaurants. Thank God, the room we chose included the club member access. I would have been pissed if I flew 9000 miles to not be able to use every part of the resort. It is very commons that tours, excursions and spa treatments are not included and the staff will try to persuade you to try and sign up for them. At the all -inclusive resort we stayed at in Mexico, the staff was pretty annoying about trying to get us to sign up for a massage on the beach. My sister Moira, and I finally gave in because its so hard to say no to a massage on vacation. We imagined it to be nice and peaceful with the noise of the waves crashing into the sand but all we heard was loud music from the beach and the sound of the DJ screaming on the microphone because there was an activity going on at the beach. Watch out for those and just say NO if you are not interested in add ons when you are there.

Club Member Access pool at Centara grand – Maldives
Brazilian theme day at Sandos Playacar – Mexico

Food + Drink:

The Pros: One of peoples favorite things about an all-inclusive resort is that food and drink are included in the price. This means you do not need to worry about carrying your wallet around the resort and can eat and drink as much as you want. For most all inclusive resorts, alcohol is included as well. This is very convenient because all you need to do is have some cash for tips and can leave your credit cards at your room. There are usually tons of restaurants available all around the resort with buffets open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With buffets, there are always different stations of food that can help satisfy people of all ages. Vacationing with a child who is a picky eater? No problem! You will have a kids station, pizza, burgers, pasta, ice cream, desserts. If you don’t feel like leaving the pool, you will see that most places will also have a pool bar and restaurant with a grill where you can eat without having to dry up and walk over to a restaurant.

Some resorts will also have specialty restaurants of various cuisines that you may need to make a reservation for but is still included. At the resort we stayed at in the Maldives, most of the restaurant were reservation style and we really enjoyed that instead of the buffets. Our Mexican resort had a Brazilian steakhouse, Thai restaurant etc. If you do not feel like leaving your room, order room service and that is included too!

Club member breakfast at Centara Grand – Maldives

My favorite part about all inclusive resorts is the fully stocked mini bar in the room. No need to have to make small talk with people at the bar, just crack open a cold beer or pop a bottle of champagne and enjoy watching the sunset from your room!

Watching the sunset from our room while sipping on Champagne – Centara Grand Maldives

The Cons: The food is usually mediocre. Most resorts cater to tourists so you hardly get to experience any authentic local cuisine. Although there is so much food and plenty to choose from, the taste and quality is not the best. However, some resorts do have great quality food even though it’s an all-inclusive. This is why doing your research about the resort is an important step. Personally, my favorite part about traveling is getting to indulge in local cuisine, eating street food and trying foods that I haven’t had before. This is hard to do at an all-inclusive resort. So if you want to experience this, you will have to get a cab/bus and go off the resort strip. I’ve also found that often the quality of alcohol is really bad. Ofcourse I want the fancy mixed drinks, but this means a bad hangover the next day due to the low quality alcohol. Stick to beer or wine rather than mix drinks to get your moneys worth here!

Hibachi at Centara Grand – Maldives
Dinner at one of the Italian Restaurants (reservations required) in Sandos Playacar – Mexico

Resort Activities + Services:

The Pros: All-inclusive resorts always have activities going on. Activities on the beach, yoga on the beach, dance clubs, kids club activities, waterparks, dance shows etc. Some places also include snorkel gear, kayaking, parasailing etc. There is usually nightly entertainment with live music, dance shows, comedians, karaoke and more! You can dance your ass off at a beach party or in the nightclub. In regards to services, there is of course daily housekeeping service and sometimes you may even get turn down service with goodies left on your pillow. Some kid friendly resorts also included a nanny that is assigned to you that will stay with your kids through out your stay. There are plenty of staff around the that are always willing to help. Whether it is to maker a reservation for a restaurant or order cab for you to the airport, they are there to help with anything you need.

Water Aerobics class at Sandos Playacar – Mexico
Snorkel equipment and life vest included in our stay at Centara Grand – Maldives . Read the fine print as not all resorts offer this!

The Cons: Because of the numerous activities going on, its loud and crowded. It is sometimes hard to find a spot on the beach where you can get some peace and quiet without having to worry about getting hit in the face with a volleyball. There is usually music blasting on the beach to keep people entertained so this can be annoying. If you are on vacation for a romantic escape, it can be hard with the many little kids screaming down the waterslides. Look for the resorts that are either “adults only” or sometimes some resorts have an adults only section that is quiet. The downside is that these are sometimes away from the beach since the kid activities are closer to the beach. Even with all the activities going on, for someone like me that needs to be trying something new and hopping on a local mode of transportation, all-inclusive resorts can get boring if you stay for too long.

Nightly entertainment at Sandos Playacar – Mexico

All of these cons are not really bad depending on what you are going for. So here are my thoughts on when its a good situation to go for an all-inclusive resort

When its best to go for an all – inclusive resort

  • If you are vacationing with kids or old people, this is a great option with all the restaurant choices, resort activities and the many resort options to choose from.
  • If you are a picky eater and don’t care for trying local cuisine, this is the place for you. You will not have trouble finding something that you will love.
  • If you are traveling on a budget and just want to have a quick get away, this is a good option.
  • If you just want to sit on a beach and relax without having to do any other activities, all-inclusive is great. For example, if you are on your honeymoon and you just want to spend time with your significant other rather than the hustle and bustle of traveling locally, all-inclusive is perfect. We did this for our honeymoon in the Maldives and we have no regrets!
  • If you are traveling with a very large group for example: a bachelor or bachelorette party, a wedding etc, all-inclusive is the way to go. This way, people can wander off and do their own things but its easy to meet up and all have dinner together without having to stress about how to get reservations for a group of 20 people!
Easily made reservation for 20 at the Brazilian Steakhouse in Sandos Playacar – Mexico
Sandos Playacar beach area – Mexico

So bottom line, everything has its pros and cons and it really depends on what kind of vacation experience you are looking for. If you ask me today if Ryan and I would go on an all-inclusive vacation for $1000 for 5 days, I would say heck yeah! That is because I’m in the middle of tax season and just relaxing and unwinding sounds amazing. But if you asked me in June, I’d say, sorry pal, I would rather be backpacking through Europe.

Brazilian theme at the beach in Mexico!

So, what will I tell me sister about whether to go for all-inclusive vacation or not? The answer is GO ALL-INCLUSIVE! Its the best kind of vacation to go on with a 4 year old and a 2 year old.

What are your thoughts about all-inclusive resorts? Comment below and let me know!

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