ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORTS - ARE THEY WORTH IT?
Saying "That depends" to this oft-asked question seems facile and flip, but it isn't. Many factors go into the consideration of an all-inclusive resort stay, factors that have to be carefully weighed and considered. There is no easy answer.
All-inclusive resorts can be costly. On the other hand, they can also provide great value. If you are going to a destination where the cost of meals, snacks, liquor and activities are expensive, and your hotel or resort is high-quality with an expensive nightly rate, an all-inclusive might end up saving you money.
Entertainment, Grand Lido Braco
You have to consider your lifestyle. If you like to stay up all night partying and drinking, if you want to take advantage of all the included watersports and activities, if you want to have food and snacks available all day and if you don't want to have to worry about the final bill when you check out, an all-inclusive is definitely a viable option.
If, on the other hand, you don't drink much, you enjoy lazing on the beach and getting an early nights sleep, you are dieting and choose simple salads for your meals, you would probably be overspending in an all-inclusive.
There are some destinations that make North Americans and Europeans uncomfortable whether or not they are safe, and some that really are dangerous once you leave the resort grounds. In those instances, an all-inclusive resort is an ideal choice. It allows you to have all of your meals, entertainment and activities in one spot, and while you won't be "exploring the culture" of the destination, you'll have a worry-free vacation.
Are you traveling with children? Many all-inclusives have, as part of their program, child-care facilities that are often a resort-within-the-resort for children, a "day camp" that is special and that kids look forward to attending.
This allows mom and dad to have days (and often evenings) free to play or relax on their own, or to choose to spend time with the kids. And many all-inclusive resorts give incredible price breaks to children (they don't drink liquor, after all,) while some even have no charge for children up to 17 sharing their parents' room.
Gran Flamenco Puerto Plata
Do you golf or play tennis? Some all-inclusive resorts include free golf in their packages; almost all include free tennis and often night-lit courts at no charge. In most cases you have to rent a golf cart, but compared to the price of play on most courses, that cost is negligible. Avid golfers might look closely at the benefits of an all-inclusive because of the included play; some resorts offer two tee times a day as part of their packages.
Divers, too, might find an all-inclusive cost-effective. Tanks have to be paid for separately, but diving excursions are included in some of these resorts.
If you want to experience "naturism," there are several high-class all-inclusives
that offer the nude beach experience in a setting of upscale tranquility. There are also some that offer clothing-optional activities that have nothing tranquil about them. For obvious reasons, most of those don't allow children under 18.
Grand Lido Negril
BUT, there are also "family" all-inclusives that are upscale and elegant for adults while being great fun for kids. In other words, you don't have to sacrifice quality so your children can enjoy the experience.
Many all-inclusive resorts offer spa treatments as part of their packages, with the option of paying for more intensive therapies. Some offer gourmet dining and some offer private plunge pools while still others offer everything from circus training to golf and tennis clinics with renowned pros.
Many North Americans think of the Caribbean
In the end, choosing an all-inclusive is a personal decision. It's a good idea if you want a cashless vacation in a secured environment, if you are satisfied that the dining options offered will be suitable for your tastes, if you take advantage of the watersports, child-care and bars.
when they think of all-inclusive resorts, but there are actually several in the United States as well. Club Med has all-inclusives in Florida and Colorado, there are many in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, and Smuggler's Notch, in Vermont, guarantees a family's good time.
Pool, Grand Lido Braco
It's true, however, that most all-inclusive bookings are for destinations like Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Sandals and SuperClubs have most of the upscale market cornered, but Coral by Hilton, Iberostar and Palace Resorts are catching up quickly, offering deluxe experiences at reasonable prices. Moderate properties, like Occidental's Allegro and Jack Tar Village resorts, Riu and Holiday Inn Sunspree All-Inclusives offer terrific value for the money spent.
If you are adventurous and want to spend your days exploring the country you are visiting and your evenings trying in-town dining options, you would be better off choosing a resort that offers that kind of flexibility instead of an all-inclusive.
A NUDES-worthy Event
Magical Playa Conchal (now an all-inclusive Paradisus resort)
The Naked Truth
All photos ©Jana M. Jones
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