I love a good all-inclusive vacation, especially if I’m looking to relax and do absolutely nothing. Over the years I’ve been on 12 all-inclusive vacations to destinations including Cuba, Mexico, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia and Jamaica. I’ve experienced the good and the bad of all-inclusive vacationing, and have listed out what I think are the pros and cons to this type of holiday.
- Everything is included for one price: flights, shuttle to and from hotel, hotel room, food and alcohol. You literally do not need to pay out one cent after purchasing your vacation. However, tipping is at your discretion and can help ensure your room is kept clean and stocked with essentials (like mini-fridge items, toilet paper and clean towels), and for faster service at the bar and the buffet.
- Pools and Beaches: the resorts we’ve stayed at have always had both beach access and at least one pool. This gives you variety, you can spend your days at the beach in the sand and sun, or relax by the pool. Typically, there are restrooms near the pool and food and drinks located at both the pool and beach areas.
- Entertainment: the resorts we’ve stayed at have always had some sort of entertainment or activities throughout the day, as well as evening entertainment. It’s usually beach volleyball, bingo, dancing lessons or other water sports, followed by karaoke, dancing, live music and an evening show. The entertainment and activities are not for everyone, but if you are looking to be more active and social, the nicer resorts typically have an entertainment crew whose job is to ensure people are having a good time.
- Relaxation: You can literally do as much or as little activity as you want on your all-inclusive vacation. I prefer to do as little as possible – aside from reading, tanning and floating in the pool.
- Excursions: If you want to leave the resort, you can usually book excursions through the resort to see local attractions. This is a popular pick because you know that you will be returned to your resort. If you are more adventurous, you could do your own sight-seeing – it totally depends on your comfort level.
- Food and drink: There is typically a variety of food and drink available 24 hours a day. As I will mention below, the nicer resorts (in my experience) have always had better food.
- Crowds/Lines: There can often be a lot of waiting and crowding at all-inclusive resorts. Especially during arrival at check-in, at pool or beach bars and at the buffet.
- Bad weather: If there is a lot of rain, there may be limited indoor space to hang-out in at the resort, which means you might be stuck in your room.
- Food selection: In my experience, I’ve had both terrible and excellent food experiences. Typically, the nicer the resort, the better the selection. So, buyer beware if you are staying at a cheaper hotel.
- Comfort: Depending on your preferences, the rooms may not meet your expected level of comfort. For example, in Cuba the beds were rather firm and rooms were less luxurious (even at the 5-star resort we stayed at), however in Mexico, the beds were more comfortable and rooms had more amenities.
- Excursions: The excursions can be pricey and some of the ones I went on previously were of questionable safety. If you plan to do excursions, research them in advance.
- Available beach/pool chairs can be scarce: Let’s be real here – people are reserving chairs at the pool and the beach. You know, just in case they want to sit somewhere else later in the day. I don’t mind chair reservations, if the people are actually using the chairs. Most resorts say you can’t reserve chairs, but people have done it at every resort I’ve been to.
It’s important to remember that other countries don’t all have the same standard of what 3-star, 4-star, or 5-star service mean in Canada or the United States. If you do your research, read reviews, and book carefully you will be better-prepared.
Ultimately, when it comes to all-inclusive vacations, I think it’s safe to say: you get what you pay for.