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The Key Questions to Ask Yourself Before Booking an All-Inclusive Vacation

Happy family in the pool, having fun in the water, mother with three kids enjoying aqua park
Written by Chris Osburn

This blog post was updated on April 20, 2020.

Wondering what to do for your next vacation? Have you considered visiting an all-inclusive resort as an option?

While you may be imagining crowded facilities, kids running around, loud music, and less than optimal food and drink, not all resorts follow this stereotype. Many all-in resorts offer top-quality accommodation, dedicated and knowledgeable staff, and other amenities; all this is done with an eye on making guests as happy as possible and giving you more bang for your buck than you otherwise would get if you had booked and purchased everything for yourself à la carte. But all-inclusive resorts aren’t for everybody. Especially for independent travels, a stay at even the swankiest of five-star resorts can feel like doing time in a prison.

To help you determine if an all-inclusive resort is right for your vacationing preferences, here’s a roundup of the key questions to ask yourself before booking an all-in holiday.

Do You Want to Rely on the Pros for Planning or DIY?

Guests checking in to a hotel

If you’re the type of traveler who doesn’t like the hassle of organizing a vacation, an all-inclusive resort could be perfect for you. Booking a stay at a resort means staff there will plan your days with no need for you to put much thought into how to pass your time. Whether you want a relaxed few days or a fun-packed weekend, there is a wide variety of choices to cover all tastes and preferences.

Of course, lots of folks actually find that planning a vacation is half the fun of going on one. Having everything previously organized limits your freedom and pegs you to a specific schedule. Furthermore, you could find yourself spending most of the time within the premises of the resort. In this way, if you are thinking of discovering and getting to know a location, you may want to plan a different type of holiday or look for a resort that is not far from the nearest city or popular tourist attractions – or simply look at other hotels or accommodation options.

How Busy Do You Want Your Vacation to Be?

Couple in loungers on a tropical beach at Maldives

If you’re looking for an agenda that’s especially active, then certain all-in resorts are worth checking out. The leisure offer at such places can range from tai chi to Zumba. There are even some that go a step further to include horseback riding and scuba diving in their program. In addition, if you are looking for the cheapest offer, all-inclusives can be a great choice, as prices are usually much lower than if you try to book services and activities independently.

It’s also important to keep in mind that “resort” is not necessarily always a synonym of “relaxation.” If disconnecting from your daily routine and resting on a beautiful beach or beside a large pool is your intended goal, be sure that’s what’s on offer at the resort you’re choosing. Consider factors such as how crowded the beach may be before deciding whether or not to book your trip. Is the resort more for families with small children, adult couples, singles, seniors, or some other group of people you may or may not mix with?

If your holidays tend to be an eclectic mix of activities and interests or if you like to cover a lot of territory and actually be on the move when you travel, staying put in one spot can be anything but engaging or relaxing. So if you need room to roam and prefer to march to the beat of your own drum, look past the private gates of the resort for your fun.

Looking for an escape to an exotic location? Check out these great flights to get you there for less!

Do you Want to Keep the Kids or Grownups (or Both) Happy?

Happy family splashing in blue swimming pool on a tropical resort

If your principal aim is to keep your kids entertained while you enjoy some child-free time, an all-inclusive resort could be your ideal vacation destination. Your kids won’t get bored as staff members will take care of them through a variety of activities. Plus, this gives Mom and Dad down time to relax or pursue more adult-oriented endeavors.

But if you see a vacation with loved ones as an opportunity to bond with them and create the sort of memories that will last a lifetime, it might be wise to consider resorts that encourage and enable all-inclusive family time.

What’s Cooking?

Selection of salads at a buffet bar in a luxury hotel restaurant

Some all-inclusive resorts have a reputation for sub-par food and drink. In a lot of cases, this is unfair and many resorts now excel at wowing their guests’ taste buds with culinary wizardry. But it should be noted that, depending on where you stay, it might be difficult to try a true representation of local cuisine and be stuck with more universal food such as burgers, pasta, and pizza. If you’ve got a hearty appetite and you’re not a fussy eater, then this might not be a problem as many resorts offer buffet meals with a wide variety of cuisines. Whatever the case, it’s in your interest to look into what’s cooking at any hotel or resort you might be considering.

Then again, whether the food is good or not at a resort might be beside the point. If you’re a major foodie, then what makes going away somewhere so much fun is the chance to try different restaurants, sample the local cuisine, eat street food, and shop for edible souvenirs. So being stuck with a limited selection of dining options might not be such an appetizing way to travel.

How Much “All” is Actually Included?

A waiter pours wine for a couple having dinner at a resort restaurant on vacation

Obviously – as it is with so many things in life – it’s important to read all the small print with respect to what’s really included. In some cases, not all services and activities are included in the overall price. What exceptions are listed? What surcharges, gratuities, and such are guests expected to pay? Does the resort offer airport transfers? Essentially, how much “all” do you want included in your stay? Does your resort offer that and is it worth the price to you? If you’re going to be spending extra on top of what you pay for whatever’s actually inclusive, you may find it easier and more cost effective to stay elsewhere.

After answering these crucial questions, now it’s up to you to decide to book your vacation at a resort or look for an alternative getaway that better suits your expectations.

Are you a fan of all-inclusive getaways? Tell us why in the comments. 

About the author

Chris Osburn

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, and curator and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world and has called London home since 2001.