The Pros & Cons of All Inclusive Resorts

by SharonKurheg

All-inclusive resorts have been around for about 70 years. Although there had been some similar resorts in the U.K. back in the 1930s, the concept of the all-inclusive as we know it today was created by Gerard Blitz, a Belgian, in 1950. Blitz’s goal was to create “a place to be happy.” With a slew of people who wanted a place to relax and recharge in those post-war years, the idea that “life was made to be enjoyed” worked well.

Blitz’s idea turned into a company called, you guessed it, “Club Med.” The first Club Med resort was in Alcúdia, Majorca, Spain. Blitz was able to charge one price and “eliminate extra charges that can sour the sweetest of vacations.”

BONUS! Click here to see our visit to “the worst Club Med on earth.” šŸ˜‰

Club Med in its early years wasn’t exactly like the all-inclusives of today. From Incentive Marketing Association:

Originally, guests stayed in simple straw huts clustered together on the beachfront. The menus and other literature at locations like Club Med were only in French, and on-site purchases had to be made with colored beads. Under this unique system, Club Med thrived. Over the next several decades, Club Med continued to evolve and expand with the addition of included activities and increasingly luxurious amenities.

Just as Club Med evolved, so did all-inclusive resorts. For one, Club Med quickly got competition from companies called Sandals, Riu Hotels & Resorts, Divi Hotels & Resorts, Occidental, SuperClubs, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts, Sol Melia and Couples Resorts, to name a few. In recent years, the “big” hotel chains such as Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and IHG are also starting to invest in all-inclusives.

Nowadays, an all-inclusive resort is a vacation resort that includes, at minimum, lodging, three meals a day, soft drinks, most alcoholic drinks, gratuities, and possibly other services included in the price. Many also offer sports and non-motorized water sports and other activities included in the price. They’re often located in warmer regions, mainly Mexico and the Caribbean. (thanks, Wikipedia!)

Staying at an all-inclusive definitely has its plusses. But it also has its minuses. Here are some of the things to consider before visiting an all-inclusive:

Pros/Plusses

Pay one price

For the most part, all-inclusive resorts are one reservation. You won’t have to search around for flights or accommodations. Sure, there can be more to add in (we’ll get to that later) but once you’ve paid, you’re good.

You don’t have to plan

Save for “of everything they have to offer, what do you want to do,” there’s very little planning involved in an all-inclusive. You don’t have to worry about searching for restaurants or activities in your budget; they’re right there. That’s very convenient.

And, of course, the larger the resort, the more options you’ll have right on the property.

It’s great for new or first-time travelers

My very first trip as an adult (read: without my parents to do/plan everything) was to Walt Disney World. My second “adult” trip was to Japan. That second trip? You have never seen someone so overwhelmed in her life.

Because everything’s included, all-inclusive resorts are a nice stepping stone for someone who hasn’t traveled much.

They’re beautiful

All-inclusive resorts are, of course, manufactured areas. They tend to have beachfront property, and each palm tree and hibiscus bush has been planted with certain visuals in mind. So chances are the resort will be gorgeous.

This would be the case for any beachfront resort, of course, not just all-inclusive ones. šŸ˜‰

Something for everyone

The early years of all-inclusives were focused on adults. In more recent years, many all-inclusives have focused on families. So they have stuff for parents, grandparents, teens, tweens and younger kids.

Easy way to make new friends

Being at an all-inclusive is like being on a cruise – you see the same people for days on end. That’s a great way to start friendships.

Cons/Minuses

It’s, well, manufactured

When some people travel, they may be looking for authenticity. You usually don’t get that in a resort (any resort, not just an all-inclusive one) since, as we said above, they’re manufactured. If your goals are to learn more about a country, immerse yourself in the language, explore and discover something new, you’re generally not going to find it in an all-inclusive resort.

It may not be cost-effective

If you’re at an all-inclusive, you’re paying for “all the things,” whether you utilize them or not. Case in point, alcohol. Assuming your all-inclusive cost includes booze, if you’re not a drinker, or are just a light one, you may be paying for a lot of alcohol that you’ll never drink.

Your fellow travelers may be obnoxious

Granted, you run the risk of obnoxious travelers everywhere. But remember what we said about alcohol? There may be people at the all-inclusive who drink all day, to ensure they “get their money’s worth.” Yeah, I’m sure they’ll be fun to sit next to in the dining room.

It still doesn’t include “everything”

Want any spa treatments while you’re at the resort? That’ll cost you extra. Premium spirits and wines will probably be optional add-ons, as might certain more expensive meals (i.e., a prime cut of steak, lobster with your dinner, etc.). You may have to pay for that high-speed Wi-Fi, and the transfers to/from the airport may be extra, as well.

Interested in some excursions to see the country you’re visiting? Those will be extra, too. And the tour directors can be pushy if they get a commission on however many tours they sell, so be ready for that, too.

You may miss the free stuff

Of course, not everything at an all-inclusive is an add-on; some activities are 100% included in your “pay one price.” They’re also the ones that will “sell out” faster, because who can give up “free?” So you may not get to do everything you want.

Oh, and about the food

All-inclusive resorts have to satisfy a lot of different palates. Flavors and preparation methods tend to be more on the “basic” side so that they can appeal to a wide range of guests.

You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all

Obviously, there will be some differences from one all-inclusive resort to another. One may have lots of blue decor, while another may have more greens.

But otherwise, all-inclusives are still basically the same. Since they tend to be in warmer areas, they’ll almost always have a beach, palm trees, etc. The amenities and services will be roughly the same.

Of course, an all-inclusive resort might be for you if you like predictability in a vacation. But if you’re looking for “different” experiences wherever you go, you might want to venture outside an all-inclusive resort.

Feature Image: Club Med

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