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March 29, 2012


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We rent out an all inclusive Villa in Costa Rica. Our guests like the "not deciding on where to eat every day", more time for relaxing, getting to know a few locals (our staff) and my wife's favorite,- going home with clean clothes....Have a great vacation!

AI's are easier for guests as choices are made for them (food, where to eat, what to do and see). Fewer options ususally makes for less stress, which is what many people want on vacation. On the other hand, AI's are homogenous and don't really reflect the culture or environment of their locale, which is often Mexico or the DR or Jamaica. So you miss out (unless you go to seek it out) on much of the opportunity to expand horizons, which is also what some peoeple want on vacation. And the money you spend at the self-enclosed resorts ends up with a large company rather than the local business when dealing with AI's.

The closest thing to an all inclusive restort that we have been to is Walt Disney world that included some breakfast, lunchs and dinners but not all.

I think that is apples to oranges comparison but I think you can go up higher to include more dinners if your budget allows.

I enjoyed it and it was fun. I definetly would do it again seeing that we ate at some really nice places and would be too cheap to eat there if we did not have the food voucher.

My wife and I went to an all-inclusive resort for our honeymoon. My wife has been on Cruises but I have not. From a financial stand point it was five days and four nights in Jamaica price including flight from Texas of about $3,800 . That's resort and air fare. Yes I may have saved money not doing the all-inclusive, but all inclusive is just that. The only time we spent money was when we went off the resort and that was only once. It really depends on what the resort offers. Ours had food round the clock, kayaks, daily scuba dives ($100 for training class if you've never done that), catamaran cruise, glass bottom boat tour, very fun activities to encourage mingling with other people at the resort and a few other things I'm sure I am forgetting. We don't drink either but didn't see that as much of a waste since we did enjoy the rest of it so much. The biggest deal for me was the ease of it all, we NEVER needed to carry cash with us except the one time we left the resort.

If you plan on doing a lot of things off the resort than you may want to lean away from an all inclusive, but if you like their offerings on the resort it's so relaxing to just be able to leave your room head to the beach and grab some food along the way. Or just head down to the boathouse and get a kayak, or scuba, without worrying did I bring enough cash.

One note, when picking a room try to find a map and figure out if the 'Beach side' room is really on the beach as you like it. Some 'beach side' rooms are technically on the beach (meaning it has sand up to the door so to speak) but it might be a longer walk to where you would want to sit and enjoy the water or sun.

I don't think I'd ever go on a vacation to an all inclusive resort, even if it was cheaper. Staying in the resort the entire vacation seems to me like you're not really seeing any of whatever location you picked. When I was in high school I went to an all inclusive resort in the Bahamas with my then girlfriend's family. The resort was nice, the beach was nice, the food was good, there were a lot of activities, but the whole experience wasn't for me.

For me, all of the fun in a vacation is getting out and exploring a location. You get to actually see island/location, not a Westernized/Americanized faux-experience presented by the resort.

I also prefer trying out different restaurants in a location, whether they're nice, just a random hole-in-the-wall, or a food cart on the street. I've had some of the best food on a vacation from food carts and hole-in-the-walls. You might end up with a bad meal here or there, but it's part of the fun. Plus my wife and are usually pretty far afield around lunch-time.

Of course, my vacation philosophy is "It's not a vacation until you've exerted yourself." Lying on the beach all day isn't for me. I'd prefer going to the mountains to hike, rock-climb, or ski. My wife wanted to go somewhere tropical for our honeymoon. We chose Hawaii (Kauai, specifically) because in addition to beaches, there were also a ton of opportunities for hiking, which ended up being my favorite parts of the vacation.

I think it really depends on the type of vacation you want. As David said earlier, if the resort offers a fair number of attractions and you'll be spending most of your time their, the AI is probably worth it.
My wife and I also went to an AI for our honeymoon (Sandals in the Bahamas). We went on a few excursions outside the resort that were still organized by Sandals (though the activities cost extra), but mostly were happy to just relax and enjoy being together.
A few thoughts: we found that being flexible for our dinner time (ie: eating dinner closer to 5 than 7) allowed us to regularly dine at the far fancier AI restaurants (which also had far better food and a more romantic atmosphere). Also, though it took a bit of effort, ignoring concerns about "wasting" food helped -- order extra food if it sounds interesting (especially room-service breakfast if provided) and don't worry about actually finishing (or even starting) it.

Since that trip, however, we haven't gone to an AI for our longer vacations. We have felt that we'd rather be able to travel a bit more and experience the local culture (both the good and the bad). It takes a lot more planning, but also provides a very different experience. Plus, we like the extra control over where our money should be spent (for example, going on a really fancy "sunset cruise" in Santorini, Greece and staying in a somewhat cheaper inn outside of the main tourist spots).

We went to an all inclusive for our honeymoon and I would totally go again. There were 3 resorts on the island, which they had free transportation to each, so you could travel to all 3 resorts and eat at all the restaurants. There was every type of food you could think of, island specialties, French, Japaneses, Irish Pub.
You could eat whenever you wanted, drink whenever you wanted. The resorts set up lots of activities both in the resort and around the island that were free and some you had to pay extra for. (but something you could set up before you went, so it still felt as part of the all inclusive) Plus they had tour guides on staff, so if you felt like adventuring out on your own they could give you advice.
I thought it was a great vacation, because some days we stayed on the resort and did nothing, other days we went out on the island and experienced some really great things. I think it was relaxing because we for the most part we didn't have to worry about budgeting all the way thru the vacation and had some really great 4 star experiences that were all included in the trip. I would totally recommend it to anyone.

I've been on 2 all-inclusive beach vacations on Jamaica. Both vacations were for relaxation, not "seeing the sights", so missing the local flavor was not an issue. I think that all-inclusives can be good if you're with kids but otherwise I'd prefer to schedule my own vacation and pay as I go for a cheaper & more interesting vacation.

One vacation was with our 2 small children and it was great--everyone had their kids with them, so no one gave us dirty looks for having brought ours along. They also had 24 hr buffets of chicken sticks, hot dogs, fries, fruit, soft-serve ice cream etc available for the kids for those random times they always get hungry--awesome. They also had free kids activities, which gave us parents a chance to relax a bit for a change.

The other vacation was just me and my ex, and it was overpriced IMO. The beach was beautiful, so that was great. But the rooms and grounds were worn ie not even up to the level of a 4 star hotel let alone the luxury resort we were promised. We do drink but not a lot--only a glass of wine with dinner--so we didn't feel like we got our money's worth there. The food was acceptable but nothing special, and the "disco" and nightly "events and music" were nothing you'd pay to attend anywhere else. Sports equipment like ping pong paddles, pool cues/balls, tennis rackets, paddle boats, bicycles were free but mostly not available & when you did finally score some equipment it was usually in poor condition/broken. And amusingly, the housekeeping and staff kept hitting us up for tips despite the "no tipping" signs posted everywhere :)

Cruising is our preferred family vacation and we have been on dozens of cruises. I've looked into "all inclusive" resorts several times as an alternative, but they always seem to be noticeably more expensive than the cruises we go on.

From the financial aspect, I would run a rough budget for meals, activities, etc. for a non-inclusive and get the price for a comparable level all-inclusive and go from there. My guess would be that the non-all-inclusive would be less expensive, especially since you don't drink. On the other hand, all-inclusives sometimes have deals with airlines that take the overall cost lower like a free companion airfare. If the difference is negligible, maybe there are other intangibles that might make one better than the other.

Personally, we love the all-inclusive vacations we've done (different resorts and different chains). When I go on vacation to a tropical location, I'm there to relax, have fun in the sun, and not worry about expeditions and seeing the culture of the location. I don't want to think about budgeting and surprise expenses while on vacation, I just want to relax. Of course the budgeting is done during the planning phase before-hand. Financially, it worked out cheaper for the all-inclusive resorts too because of the nice amenities and activities included at the resorts we considered. We do also drink, any anyone who ever eats out knows how fast drinks can inflate a bill.

I've been to Couples Resort in Jamaica and Club Med in Turks and Caicos - both were a great deal. Couples in Jamaica was my favorite because the price covered all activities, including scuba, water skiing, sailing and drinks. We went in the off-season and it cost less than $3000, including flights, for both of us to dive all day and party all night on the beach. Great value! Turks and Caicos was great to because although Scuba was not included, they had a really fantastic fleet of hobbie cats.

I have found that AI's always seem to let me down with the food. The one exception has been our recent cruise, I was really not expecting such a good selection of food but it was a great surprise.

I feel like once an AI has you money, they have no incentive to give good service or food and that is what I have experienced with my multiple AI experiences.

I'm with Matt. I've only been to Disney on an all inclusive. The difference between us was that I did the all meals plus snacks. Like him I would not of ate at some of the places we ate otherwise because of price. It was much more relaxing because we didn't have to plan a thing out beyond which kingdom to go to on that day. And, the food served was so much, that beyond one place we went to, we couldn't eat it all.

Honestly IMO if you don't drink, A.I. is not the way to go. A.I. adds at least $100/per person/night. In Montego Bay and Cancun you can stay at the Ritz for 200-300/night and most of the high end A.I. are around $500/night.

I agree with Keith. All inclusive resorts are generally for those that will over-indulge (specifically geared towards drinkers). They also cater towards activities, so if you're the lounging type - an all inclusive may not be for you. Financially, you'll get a better deal booking a very nice resort and just purchasing food and activities a-la-cart.

In terms of non-financial matters, the benefit of doing an all inclusive (as already stated by others) is that you don't have to worry about budgeting. It's kind of nice going on vacation and not having to worry about how much money you're going to be spending on food and activities. It helps put you in a great vacation mood.

On the other hand (again, I'll echo what others have mentioned), all inclusive food tends to be mediocre. I'm sure since the resort knows they have you "captive" they don't really have to try that hard. But most of all, you miss out on experiencing local foods outside of the resort. You feel more inclined to dine at the resort, especially since you already paid for it.

Ultimately, I think the decision comes down to what kind of experience you want out of your vacation.

My wife and I have gone on several week-long all-inclusive vacations (Jamaica, Mexico, and soon Costa Rica). The main reason is because it's completely NO STRESS. My wife's job is very stressful, so it's luxurious to be able to spend a week not planning or deciding anything. When we're hungry, we eat. When we're tired, we sleep. The rest of the time, we're relaxing on the beach or by the pool, maybe reading a book. Etc.

Just the thought of having to plan meals, prepare food, clean dishes, etc., can be stressful. We don't even have to try to line up flights & transportation, because it's all included!

We've done other kinds of vacations, too, and we've enjoyed them thoroughly. I'm not saying all-inclusives are the best or only way to get away. But the ability to walk away from all responsibilities for a week is great, if that's what you need!

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