Have you ever vacationed at one of those all-inclusive resorts? We have and it can be pretty cool. We’ve liked the fact that you don’t have to budget for meals and some excursions though we’ve always had a pay for our drinks. This brings us to 10 things that an all-inclusive-resort won’t tell you.
1. It’s probably not really all-inclusive
If you have dreams of flying down to Mexico or to a Caribbean island leaving your wallet behind at home, you need to dream again. The idea of an all-inclusive resort was originated more than 60 years ago by Club Med. Its concept was to charge you just one price for food and accommodations. That idea worked so well with vacationers that there are now hundreds of such resorts around the world. For that matter, some luxury hotels and cruise lines have also embraced this business model. But it’s important to understand that the term “all-inclusive” doesn’t really mean everything. You might think of it as “all-inclusive” but with an asterisk. This is because at some resorts the only things that are all-inclusive will be some basic activities and food. Of course, the more upscale the perk, the more likely it is that you will have to pay for it. As an example of this even Club Med now charges extra for things like motorized water sports and spa treatments. Of course, paying for those extras can still be a pretty good deal if it actually includes a lot.
2. An All-inclusive trip may not be cheaper than a regular vacation
The advertisements for all-inclusive vacations typically emphasize that it’s cheaper than arranging your own hotel, meals and excursions separately. But do the math and you may find that an all-inclusive vacation isn’t necessarily the cheapest way to go. Here’s an example of what we mean. There’s a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic that has a four-night “Prone to Play” all-inclusive package that includes drinks, meals, horseback riding, access to non-motorized sports and other activities – starting at $723 a night, based on double occupancy. In comparison, this resort’s standard, non-inclusive package starts at $187 a night for double occupancy. You would have to really pile on the extras to drive up your bill to that all-inclusive price.
3. Unless you like iced tea, you’ll pay more for your drinks
If you’re eyeing an all-inclusive cruise, you may find lower prices but they may come with more limited choices, especially when it comes to food and beverages. As an example of this, one cruise line charges $49 a person a day for its beverage package – that is if you want, beer, wine and mixed drinks. If you don’t buy this package, you will be limited to iced tea, water, regular coffee, lemonade and juice. And if you choose the beverage package, you might have to purchase it for every day of your cruise.
4. Construction could be part of the “all-inclusive”
If you don’t call in advance and ask what’s going on in a resort you could arrive to find out that it’s undergoing construction or renovations. Before you book that vacation you should go to a travel website such as Oyster, Trip Advisor, Zoover or Holiday-Check where you would find information about renovation and construction projects and other potential drawbacks to a dream vacation.
Even cruise ships and resorts that are truly all-inclusive often have some extra charges you need to be aware of. As an example of this, some of the cruise lines charge extra for Internet access. There may also be a “resort fee” or “convenience fee.” These are common in the hotel industry and can be as much as $30 a night. The hospitality companies justify these fees by saying that they pay for things like access to the gym, the pool and the Internet.
6. You will tip us whether you are aware of it or not
If you’ve ever taken a cruise, you will know that most cruise lines automatically charge gratuities for their dining and stateroom staff, which is usually about $11.50 per guest per day. However, at some of the all-inclusive resorts such as Club Med, the staff will actually refuse tips as they are already part of their pay. Other resorts will say that while tipping isn’t required they do see it from time to time.
7. Good luck getting a refund even if there’s a hurricane
In some cases, the term “all-inclusive” could include a hurricane. This is especially true in the Caribbean where the hurricane season runs from May until October. If you run into a serious storm, getting a refund can be difficult. There are some Caribbean resorts where your reservation will include a hurricane “guarantee” that means a refund. But this may apply only when there are hurricane-force winds as defined by the US National Weather Service and if it directly hits your resort and interrupts your activities. And even if your resort suffers a direct hit while you’re there, the refund won’t include the cost of your flights.
8. Your travel agent will love you
All-inclusive vacations can be good for travel agents as well as for the resorts. The commissions from these vacation spots can range from 8% to 16%. Plus tour and package reservations (that’s the category that includes all-inclusive resorts), accounted for 31% of US travel agent revenue last year or $10.2 billion. Critics of all-inclusive resorts say that these higher commissions incentivize travel agents to book their trips even if they aren’t the best deal for their customers. What the travel agents say in response is that those commissions don’t come out of the travelers’ pockets because they are paid by the resorts.
9. A low price might equal a low-end experience
If you check travel deal websites, especially for trips within two months of when you plan on traveling, you may find some very deep discounts on all-exclusive cruises and resorts. However, seasoned travel agents will tell you that these deals are often inexpensive for a reason. In fact, the lowest prices tend to appear during hurricane season, for rooms that don’t have really good views or at inconvenient times for families to travel. Before you start searching the internet for deals on an all-inclusive vacation, be sure to check out all the resorts’ website prices as a baseline. And you should definitely contact the resort or the cruise line to confirm what will really be included in a special rate. You could also call the booking company and ask for an explanation of its customer-satisfaction policy.
10. Local color may not be included
An all-inclusive resort may not be the best option if you’re the kind of person who likes to explore other communities and cultures. The reason for this is because all-inclusive resorts tend to offer so much shopping, dining and activities onsite that you may be cut off from the culture of the surrounding country. For that matter, the all-inclusive strategy doesn’t benefit the local economy period. So, if your dream vacation includes sightseeing nearby towns, mingling with the locals, exploring hidden beaches and coves and shopping in quaint, little stores, then an all-inclusive vacation may not be your best bet.
As you can see, all-inclusive resorts and cruises may not be all-inclusive at all. And they may not be your cheapest option. Talk with your travel agent or go online and do your research before you book an all-inclusive vacation. You might actually be able to do better by booking your hotel and excursions and paying for your food yourself. Plus, it might give you a better opportunity to see and experience the local culture.