There are pros and cons to booking an all-inclusive holiday. They may not be for everyone.
We've done a few in our time. Some good, some bad and one which was downright ugly! So thinking back to our experiences both pre-booking and at the resort, here's what we hope is objective, helpful advice when considering an all-inclusive holiday.
There are many things to consider as to whether an all-inclusive holiday is right for you and hopefully we may do a little all-inclusive myth busting too.
They're not all tacky
There is sometimes a misconception that all-inclusive hotels are noisy, overcrowded, music-blasting, activity filled places. Yes, there are those resorts, including some 'hedonistic options' and if that floats your boat, then great. Disclaimer: we've never partaken in hedonistic resorts so can't comment on what happens here. Suggest you google or use trip advisor to find out about them!
In our experience, if you're looking for something that is a little bit quieter with good food and drinks, then you get what you pay for: if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Do your research before booking. (Disclaimer: research is fundamental every time you book a holiday, whether it's all-inclusive or not). Start by searching similar standard hotels in the same area. If they are offering a bed & breakfast or half board package that is costing more than the all-inclusive deal you've found, then alarm bells should ring!
We once booked a 'cheap' package deal and it didn't turn out great. The food was bland and repetitive. So much so that at breakfast one morning we were welcomed by the previous evening's Brussels sprouts. They also appeared again at lunch time. Branded drinks were not seen or heard. Gordons - who? Malibu, Peroni, Hendricks or Jamesons - nope. Instead, the own-brand alternatives were reminiscent of paint stripper.
But if you like bland, repetitive food and find pleasure in drinking esophagus-stripping own-brand alcohol, then fill your boots and go ahead and book the trip.
Not all all-inclusive packages are the same
Check out exactly what you get before booking. Some resorts now offer added extras and unique bits and pieces that could make your holiday. For example, some resorts include snorkelling equipment for the duration of the stay. This is a huge saving both in terms of cost and baggage space.
Make sure that you know what you're getting - after all, it would be a shame to find out on your last day that you could have had a free introductory massage, taken advantage of non-motorised watersports or dined in the a la carte restaurants. To avoid an unexpected bill on check-out make sure you know what isn't included: things like kid's clubs, in-room WiFi, room service may incur an additional charge.
Resorts are not always huge, sprawling buildings with hundreds of rooms
Resorts do vary in size. As well as the places with hundreds of rooms, there are also boutique and adults-only options too. Here are just some examples:
Bluefield Bay Villas in Jamaica offers a small number of exquisite cottages and villas from 2 - 6 bedrooms which are perfect for a luxury family getaway.
Serenity at Coconut Bay in St Lucia - is an adults only 36-room hotel that offers superb facilities including 24-hour gourmet dining. You can also take advantage of the bars and restaurants at the adjacent sister property - Coconut Bay Resort & Spa.
Zawadi Hotel, Zanzibar has just 9 villas dotted along the clifftop and is exclusively for adults-only.
L-R: Bluefields Bay, Serenity at Coconut Bay, Zawadi Hotel: photo resort's own images.
The food isn't always 'slop'
I always take a look at what the dining options are and if there isn't access to one or several a la carte restaurants on site then we tend to avoid. All-inclusive restaurants are usually buffet style. In my opinion, food cooked to order is always better and fresher. Plus, it's nice to relax and be 'served' at an a la carte restaurant. There are some resorts who truly celebrate food, claiming to offer a real gastronomic treat.
Jade Mountain, St. Lucia - has 28 open-air suites overlooking St. Lucia’s towering twin Pitons. The view is just as impressive in the resort’s restaurant, where James Beard Award–winning chef Allen Susser turns out epicurean twists on island favorites. Arrange a multi-course tasting menu (that can be delivered to your room). The resort also has a chocolate lab for cacao tastings and truffle making classes.
They're not always impersonal
There are some super-sized chains out there, but there are ways that you can receive a little more personalised service - and hotels are usually more than happy to oblige.
Bored with the daily buffet - opt for a picnic instead: Ask staff (nicely) to pack up a picnic which you can either enjoy on the beach or in your room.
Book a la carte restaurants - don't leave things to chance. Spaces at a la carte restaurants are limited so avoid disappointment and get your reservations made when you first arrive.
Let them know if you're celebrating - contact the hotel in advance if you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion. It gives the hotel the opportunity to celebrate with you and they may provide a cake or fresh food platter in your room.
You know what you're spending
The beauty with all-inclusive is that you've paid up-front, so come check out (as long as you've done your research) there should be no unexpected charges.
When all-inclusive is the best option to take
An all-inclusive is sometimes the best option when visiting some destinations. Take the Maldives, where there is one hotel per island and dining options are relatively limited (unless it's a very large island). Drinks and food are incredibly expensive and it would be easy to rack up a huge bill. There could however be more than one all-inclusive option. There could be the standard option where all food and drinks are included but you have to eat at the main restaurant. Others, allow you to 'dine around' at various a la carte options - pick which one would be more your style.
Hope you find this helpful. Please leave a comment - we'd love to hear your feedback.
Please note: The resorts listed within this post have not been personally visited by the Food Travel More team, but have been selected following extensive online research.
Image credits: cover photo by Food Travel More, hotel images are resort's own, other images via Pexels / Pixabay.