Perhaps, like me, you considered the all-inclusive hotel an unexciting option. The same food, same location, and no fun. How wrong was I?
During our extensive travels we’ve managed to discover all-inclusive experiences all over the world that formed some of our favourite holiday memories.
“All-inclusive”. A word that generally means paying a single price for your room, food, drinks and activities. But as we learned, it’s not just limited to hotels.
1. The Hotel
We’ve stayed in our fair share of accommodation across the world. Anywhere from an ultra luxurious monastery perched on the hills of Florence, Italy to the cheapest and most treacherous hostel in Israel.
But an all-inclusive hotel is a whole different ball game. For some reason I had built an image in my mind of a boring, bland, soulless resort. But it turned out to be very different. In fact, I have been very pleasantly surprised many times now.
For example, we stayed at the Grand Mirage in Bali. The all-inclusive resort overlooking a serenely scenic tropical beach included delicious meals throughout the day, unlimited drinks, fun activities, non-motorised watersports and so much more. It seems we never ran out of things to do or food to eat. It particularly helped that there were several themed on-site restaurants to choose from – plus a swim up bar!
2. The Boat
Cruising is another all-inclusive experience. You hop on board a ship for a predetermined amount of time and most things are included from food to on-board activities. You can even choose optional alcoholic drink packages.
We’ve sailed several times – twice with Royal Caribbean on the Mediterranean and across the South Pacific. And twice with Carnival though the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
What I love about cruising is that you get to travel without moving your luggage, which is perfect for island hopping.
Then there is all that food. 24 hour buffets and on-demand room service can mean serious weight gain. But that is what the on board gym is for! Make sure you bring sea sickness pills if you get queasy.
3. The Theme Park
I had never heard about this option until I hit the shores of Mexico. Wet n Wild in Cancun is a completely all-inclusive waterpark. Your single entry price includes unlimited slides, food and drinks.
Imagine spending a fun day at a world-class waterpark with your kids. The parents of active youngsters hear “I’m hungry,” pretty regularly. I love that at Wet n Wild all I had to say was, “no worries,” and send them off to one of several on-site restaurants.
This is just one of the reasons why we have enjoyed all-inclusive experiences so much. But there are plenty of others:
1. Budget – as I’ve described, when you’ve paid once your spending is done. You have your food, activities and drinks covered and you know exactly how much you have spent. There’s no further cash outlay and no hidden surprises. It’s the over-spenders dream vacation.
2. Relaxation – there is no need to go anywhere. But there is also no pressure to stay. If you’re after a stress-free holiday where everything is done for you, you’re already. But even if you want a bit more action and adventure, there is nothing stopping you from heading out and hitting the town (or island).
3. Activities – all-inclusive holiday often includes more activities than your average hotel - even on a cruise. On the open seas you’ll find anything from rock climbing to water slides, basketball matches, and towel animal classes. There is always something to do. Most larger resorts and cruises include a kids club, which means the family holiday just became a romantic getaway!
When we were in Bali our all-inclusive resort experience included yoga classes, water volleyball, and even a PlayStation games room. There’s no wandering streets, bartering with taxis, overwhelming noise, or endless walking. It was all there, at my fingertips.
4. Food – sometimes taking young kids out for dinner in the evening can be tiring. Especially when the point of a holiday is to relax. With all-inclusive you don’t need to search for food. You can stay by the pool, have it delivered to your room, or select from several restaurants as you fancy.
Ok, so we all know that all-inclusive resorts may not be where you find the most authentic local culture, but you can be surprised. We watched a fascinating traditional Balinese dance at an all-inclusive resort. The culture came to us!
If you’ve been sitting on the fence, worried about the lack of variety and fun, then you needn’t be fooled by that stereotype anymore. All-inclusive resorts have a huge amount of variety. You just need to pick the right one for you.
So it is going to be the waterpark, cruise or resort next time?
Do you remember your first all-inclusive? What was your experience?
Reader Comments..."I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" - Josh Bender
Honeymoon on Long Island in Queensland. Was great!!
On the Quilatoa Loop in the mountains of Ecuador in a small Ecolodge.
We have just finished an all inclusive barge trip in France; 4 people 4 staff and it just made everything so much easier knowing that everything was up front.
I've only ever stayed in an all-inclusive once and that was a prize rather than a hotel I had booked myself. It really was lovely not to have to budget at all when it came to eating and drinking. The food was OK and varied but at the end of the day getting out and about to different restaurants, especially ones local go to, is one of the things I love most about being somewhere new.
I can definitely see the attraction of all inclusive for families, allowing you to stay on budget and still feel spoiled. I think you do have to choose carefully where you stay though as rock bottom prices could mean that the meal quality is not very high
Funnily enough we don't think of ourselves as all inclusive travelers at all, though over the course of my travels I've done all 3 haha! I think there's definitely something to be said for all inclusive in certain circumstances - we were doubtful when we traveled to a resort in Costa Rica, though it was actually an amazing experience, and we still managed to get out and experience the real country. It saved us money too on our costs for food and activities, as the resort had local vendors who they paid to come and offer surf lessons etc on the beaches :)
I have a travel loving friend who has done cruises all over the world and she RAVES about the food - and she is also very health conscious. The food on boats doesn't have to be as heavy and fatty as people remember from the 80s and 90s.
Interesting! People hate on cruises but I had a great time on the music cruise that I took!
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