One common question I get asked is “Are all-inclusives worth it?” and it’s a controversial topic on a lot of travel forums. The answer obviously isn’t a definitive yes or no, so let’s look at when it is worth booking an all-inclusive vs when you shouldn’t
Are all-inclusives worth it… compared to what?
There are plenty of vacation alternatives I could compare it to and devote countless paragraphs giving the pros and cons, but for this post, I’m going to focus on an all-inclusive vs a traditional beach resort. I’m assuming most people who are comparing all-inclusives would be considering a vacation at a beach resort anyway.
One thing to note is that all-inclusives have gotten a bad rap from many of the lower-end ones that have mediocre buffets, watered down drinks, and 100 pool chairs for 600 rooms. Those types of complaints frequently show up across the internet, but as long as people do a little research ahead of time, those resorts can often be avoided.
When you should choose an all-inclusive
The biggest reason I became a fan of all-inclusives is the fact that you pay one price and you’re done. Most of my all-inclusive trips end with spending $0 on the resort, except for tips. You aren’t debating if you want to spend the money on another margarita or dessert with dinner. There’s no compromising with “well we’ll bring our own snacks and alcohol to save money”. Everything is available to you.
If you want a trip with some excess where you want to enjoy multi-course dinners every night or drink more than you usually would, an all-inclusive is a great place to do it. Cocktails at typical large resorts in Mexico or the Caribbean are generally around $10 each and meals anywhere from $15-$50pp. A couple keeping it fairly tame (for vacation! 😉 ) with 2-3 drinks each across the day, a relatively cheap breakfast/lunch on the resort, and then minor splurging at dinner can still expect to spend over $200/day on food and beverages alone. The same amount spent on just food and beverage can often be spent for an entire stay at a great all-inclusive during the off-season.
If you have young kids, it’s even better. They can go get food without needing you to sign for everything they buy, there is no worrying about spending money on food for them to say they hate it after one bite, and most family-friendly all-inclusives have a kids club included in the room rate.
When to avoid an all-inclusive
It goes without saying that an all-inclusive is not for everybody or every vacation. While all-inclusives remove the need to think about each individual purchase, it also makes it harder to decide to leave the property: Why go to a local restaurant nearby when you already have the meal included at the resort? If you want to head off the resort regularly for food/drink/activities, you may not want an all-inclusive.
I’d be remiss not mentioning food in general, but food at an all-inclusive generally isn’t much different than food at other resorts. When talking about the true luxury resorts, that may not be the case, but if you are considering staying at a resort where the room alone costs more than most all-inclusives, you probably aren’t here trying to figure out if all-inclusives are worth it.
Additionally, if you don’t drink, there’s probably little reason to go if you are thinking about it from a cost perspective – you’ll still get some other benefits, but overall it probably is not for you.
Are all-inclusives worth it for your next vacation? For most people considering a beach resort, I’d say the answer is a strong YES, but if you are someone who wants to spend a good amount of time off the property, a more traditional resort may be better for you.