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All Inclusive Vacation Resorts: 3 Things to Beware


Booking a sun-drenched Mexican or Caribbean vacation this winter? Thinking of an all-inclusive resort option? Here are my top three reasons to reconsider:

In This Resort Tourism Article You Will Discover:

  • Extra Costs Associated With All-Inclusive Resorts
  • What You Need to Know About The Food
  • How to Tailor Your Trip for Your Needs

Popular in Mexico and the Caribbean, all-inclusive resorts woo travellers with rock-bottom prices and an easy, trouble-free vacation experience. And they can be tons of fun! But before you book — here are three things you might not know about all-inclusive resorts:

Leaving the Resort Costs $100 Per Person

OK, not really. But here’s the inside scoop: all-inclusive resorts are designed so the tourist never has to leave its confines. After all, the more likely you are to stay, the less likely you are to spend your money elsewhere (yes, not everything is free at an all-inclusive). You will, however, usually find a concierge offering bookings at all types of day excursions: caving, cultural tours, fishing, shopping, nightclub tours in nearby cities and so on. However, expect a significant surcharge to do any of them. A ticket price of $100 US per person is fairly common for cultural or adventure day tours, and fishing charters or scuba lessons can cost more. Much more. Keep this in mind — if you and your spouse head to an all-inclusive for a week but plan on leaving the resort daily for fun and adventure, it can add $1,000 or more to your vacation bill. Furthermore, once there, consider booking tours off-site — you can usually find a better deal than you would in the hotel lobby.

Gourmets & Foodies, Beware

Most all-inclusive resorts tout their gourmet offerings: huge buffets, fancy a la carte nighttime dining… basically a glutton’s paradise. But if fine food is a major factor in your vacation plans, choose your resort wisely. After all — most all-inclusives offer a daily breakfast buffet, daily lunch buffet, and between three and six a la carte restaurants for dinner, plus a dinner buffet. Here’s the catch: the buffets rarely change and the a la carte offerings are usually the same every night. If you choose a two-week vacation at a resort with three a la carte dinner options and a buffet, you can expect to eat essentially the same breakfast and lunch every day and the same dinner every fourth night. Sure, you can leave the resort for dinner whenever you wish, but you already pre-paid to eat on-site… While the fare can be wonderful at these resorts, if you fancy yourself a foodie, do your research to ensure there is a wide selection of fine food on-site at your chosen resort — or consider a European-plan option with a nearby town or city.

No Unspoiled Paradise

Online photo galleries of Mexican and Caribbean resorts usually feature long, pristine stretches of sand, calm and relaxing oceanfront swimming pools and intimate dining experiences. Chances are this won’t be the case when you arrive. Pools can be filled with screaming kids, dining areas can be chaotic and the beaches can get very crowded. Much like with everything else, you can’t let price guide you all the way. If peace and quiet is vital to your vacation experience, ensure you stay away from “family oriented” resorts. Furthermore, it would be unlikely to find anything that even resembles tranquility if you choose a vacation metropolis like Cancun, Mexico — so perhaps Cuba or the uber-exclusive French Caribbean might be more your style? It’s always best to know before you go.

As with everything, you must do your research. You may find ultra-cheap deals — sometimes $600 or less for a whole week — at sites like Expedia or Travelocity, but such a resort could be totally unsuitable for your needs: packed full of noisy families, bare-bones food offerings, etc. Wouldn’t you rather cough up another couple of hundred dollars and actually get the resort experience you’re expecting?

Don’t be discouraged! All-inclusive resorts have a lot going for them, too. Stay tuned for the next installment — Three Reasons to Go All-Inclusive!


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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

8 comments… add one
  • Fausto Bautista May 12, 2017 Link

    I think many all inclusive Resort in the Caribbean are offering more expectation than they can give. It’s all about business. Be aware.

  • Tammy Harnett Nov 3, 2010 Link

    There are so many all inclusive options available now I don’t think it’s fair to say they’re not flexible. If travelers do a bit of research and choose a resort that suits their needs an all inclusive can make for a great vacation. For example there are many great adult only all inclusives if you’re not wanting to deal with “screaming kids” and family resorts with tons of kids programs for parents who want their kids to have some fun while they get some R & R. There are even tiny little all inclusives that have less than fifty guests at a time if you’re looking for something quieter.

    I think many unhappy all inclusive travelers don’t take the time to choose the right resort before they book – each all inclusive resort has it’s own vibe and it pays to know before you choose your vacation.

  • David Webb Oct 29, 2010 Link

    Yes, there is virtually no flexibility as well – they are very much a la carte. However, sometimes if you’ve got a week and $1,000 to spare, it’s hard to find an easier getaway…

  • Zablon Mukuba Oct 29, 2010 Link

    i didnt know there was so much to know about all inclusive resorts, i have never liked them because of lack of flexibility

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