Are All Inclusive Resorts for You?
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Are All Inclusive Resorts the right choice for your next vacation? We’re sharing our experience with all inclusive resorts today, along with some pros and cons of staying in one.
Last year we had several opportunities to stay in all inclusive resorts. It made me wonder why I had waited so long to try it.
You see, I like planning vacations… I like hunting down the best restaurants and finding those out-of-the-way treasures. I like researching activities, and reading travel forums. I like hunting for great deals, yet knowing when it’s worth spending more for a particular element of our trip.
Real Mayan Ruins at Sandos Caracol
Because of this, I always felt staying in all inclusive resorts wasn’t for me. That it would take the fun out of the planning experience.
Yet, that’s not exactly the case. On our recent trip to Mexico, we stayed in a unique family-friendly all inclusive resort and still ventured out into the surrounding areas each day. I think the key is to determine what kind of vacationer you are, and then spend your money and time accordingly.
The all inclusive resort we stayed in most recently was Sandos Caracol Eco Experience Resort. A wonderful place with multiple restaurants (including a fabulous ocean view vegetarian restaurant) pools and a water park, pristine beachfront, and endless activities that incorporated the Mayan culture, water sports, nature, animals, and other ecological elements.
When we wanted to not think about meals and activities for the kids, we had that option, along with conveniences at every turn. Yet, when we wanted to leave the resort, we were close in proximity to other attractions, and the resort was reasonable enough that we didn’t feel we couldn’t spend extra money here and there.
Of course there is a wide array of all inclusive resorts with varied attractions, and level of luxury. You can certainly find budget all inclusive resorts for vacations on the cheap, and you can also find all inclusives with top-shelf liquor, butler service, and daily in-room massages.
Determining what you are trying to gain from your trip, within the realm of your budget, is the best way to get started.
Pros and Cons of All Inclusive Resorts
Pros: Less Thinking, More Convenience.
1) At most all inclusive resorts: accommodations, meals, snacks, liquor, resort activities, and gratuities are included. That means, you can eat whenever you want, drink as much as you want, go to shows, play games, participate in crafts, tours, and numerous other resort activities without carrying around a wallet for payment and gratuities.
2) Good All Inclusives usually offer food and beverage 24 hours a day, multiple restaurant options to suit various tastes and dietary needs, kid’s clubs for parents who need a moment alone, fitness center, room service, and provide water sport equipment for checkout. The Sandos resort we stayed in provided snorkel equipment, boogie boards and kayaks on the beach. On top of that, there was a natural sea cave to swim in and rivers to kayak through right in the resort.
3) At a good all inclusive resort, there is never a reason to leave. Everything you want is available on premises. This makes all inclusives extremely attractive to stroller-toting families with small children, families gathering for reunions, newly-weds who want to relax after intense wedding planning, or couples and families that simply want to escape life and lounge at the pool or beach for a week.
4) Whether you want an ultra kid-friendly all inclusive, or one for adults only, you can find what you are looking for. Some all inclusives offer both, on different parts of the resort grounds.
Sandos Playa Car has a special Culinary Tasting Tour through their main kitchen. Carson making sushi after the tour.
Cons: Quality vs. Convenience.
1) As mentioned above, all inclusives vary. Just because your meals are included, doesn’t mean they are going to be quality meals. For our foodie friends, do your research before selecting an all inclusive, or you could be sorely disappointed at meal times. Sandos Caracol offered some marvelous restaurant options, however other all inclusives have at times been a major let down in the food department. (Sandos Playa Car even has a Cupcake Boutique!)
2) Along the same lines, liquor is generally included, yet the resort you select may not offer the brands/beverages you are accustomed to. (Do your research.)
3) Most all inclusives offer spa services, but these are usually an extra change.
4) Because all inclusives make it so easy to stay on their grounds, it’s very possible to travel to a unique part of the world and never experience it. This may not be important to you, but if it is, make distinct plans to leave the resort on certain days, or most likely you won’t.
Ava helping preserve the rain forest at Sandos Caracol.
Are All Inclusive Resorts for You?
Questions to ask yourself before booking accommodations…
Is your vacation an adventure or a time of relaxation? If you like dealing with transportation, and seeking out your food and daily activities, all inclusives might not be for you. However if you are going away to relax, or want half-relaxing and half-adventure, all inclusives are a great way to remove some of the stress of travel.
How important is the food and beverage element of your trip? This sort of ties into the question above. If you are dying to get out and experience restaurants you’ve been reading up on, all inclusives might not be for you. Yet, if you want the convenience of rolling out of your lounge chair and sashaying to dinner, all inclusives are fabulous. Again, just make sure the resort you choose is known for offering quality meals.
How flexible is your budget? We all know, when we go on vacation it’s easy to spend more than planned. However, all inclusive resorts are a great way to control spending. If you know your main expenses are accounted for upfront, it removes the majority of surprise expenses that can occur.
Wild monkeys at Sandos Caracol.
All in all, I’ve changed my tune about all inclusive resorts. The kids had so much fun in Playa Del Carmen, they did not want to leave. They were exhausted every night by the endless resort activities and water play… Which made it nice for Dan and I to lounge on our balcony, alone, and take in the warm ocean breeze under the stars.
All Inclusive Resorts are a marvelous option for:
- Family Reunions
- Care-Free Honeymoons
- And those that really like to stick to a budget.
How Do I Find a Good All Inclusive Resort?
Glad you asked! Here are a couple tips and sources to help you get started. I suggest reading up, asking questions in forums, and emailing or calling the resort before booking.
1) Look up all inclusive resorts in the location you plan to vacation on TripAdvisor. Pay attention to the ratings and read through the comments.
2) Google articles on Best All Inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean or All Inclusive Resorts for Families or Best Affordable All Inclusive Resorts. Make sure the sources are somewhat reliable, and again, read the comments. The readers often have a lot of insight that the article doesn’t mention.
3) Ask questions on Facebook. Your pool of friends may have some experiences to share.
Disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored by Sandos Resorts. We were hosted by the Mexican Tourism Board. I just really liked Sandos Caracol.
Thanks for sharing your experience and insights. I have never stayed at a resort of any kind, so it’s good to get the inside scoop!
Your pics are fabulous! I love an all inclusive myself. We’ve never done one with the kids (so I’ll be keeping your review in mind!) but as a couple we loved the simplicity of it.
I guess I always felt that all inclusive resorts aren’t a good value for me. I like trying the local food, so it feels like paying double since the resort food is included. I guess it would depend on location. When we went on safari, it was all inclusive but it’s not like there are restaurants in the middle of the Serengeti.
Great post on an age-old question! I’m totally into the right all-inclusives as well. Just have to do your research and make sure you get a good one! Loved that they had green juice btw!
My husband and I were married at and honeymooned at an all inclusive resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica 12 years ago….and it was absolutely awesome!! We were not first timers, so having a big, grand, crazy wedding just was not our thing!! We wanted to be able to step away from our lives of high stress jobs, very busy days and weeks (we have five kids), annoying, nosey, relatives who always wanted to put their two cents worth in (even when they weren’t asked), and truly enjoy our wedding and honeymoon!! The resort was based on the old world, British type architecture, with gorgeous flowers and other foliage, pristine beaches, and the most welcoming, kind, caring, polite people that I have ever had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with!! There were seven different restaurants…everything from jerk chicken by the pool to Italian overlooking the Caribbean to five star French cuisine!!! The food was amazing, abundant and if they didn’t have it, they would find it, if they had to, and make it for you!! Gratuities were not allowed…in fact if the staff were caught accepting them they would be fired….although, we had a few staff members who went above and beyond the call of duty and we got close to them so we very carefully found a way to give them a nice thank you gift before we left!! We had the most beautiful and romantic wedding ceremony…just the two of us with the minister and two witnesses who were provided by the resort. The wedding coordinator met with me in the morning, and stayed with me through getting my hair done, getting made up and dressed, giving me help when I wanted and needed it and space when that was what I needed. She seemed to intuitively know what I needed, before I needed it!! I have been on many trips, to many different places in my 54 years, and this was the most wonderful of all the trips I have ever taken and the only time that I have ever wanted to go back and do the exact same trip all over again!! My husband and I still talk of our desire to return to Jamaica, and to the same resort. I would do another all inclusive vacation again in a heartbeat!! We loved being able to never worry about having money on us, and if we wanted to go explore the island we could, if we wanted to laze around all day we could do that…and be waited on hand and foot….unless we didn’t want that! That trip was fabulous…and I got the most amazing, wonderful souvenir….my husband!!
It has been awhile since I have done an all-inclusive vacation, but the first one I ever did was in Mexico and I had really fond memories. All inclusive resorts are very popular in Europe (where my hubby is from) and while we were living in France we did an all-inclusive ski vacation every year that was phenomenal – for couples, and families alike. I think it is a really great option if you do your research!