Are all-inclusive vacations the way to go?

By Keith Still

All-inclusive resorts and vacation packages have been around for a while, but they seem to have become really popular during the economic downturn for obvious reasons. Your room, food, often your entertainment and just about everything else to do with your vacation is included in the cost upfront.

On top of that, already-stressed Atlantans find much of the stress related to planning activities, setting up transportation and other normal holiday hassles melts away at all-inclusive resorts set up to make your one-stop shop vacation run as smoothly as possible. That is the point of a vacation, right – to take a break and get away from the everyday things that can wear you down?

Years ago, we took a romantic, anniversary vacation to a small, all-inclusive destination, and I remember thinking several times how nice it was that we didn’t have to worry about grabbing our wallets before we walked out the door. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were fabulous. We dressed up for cocktail hour, and ordered whatever we pleased. We grabbed bikes, canoes and small boats whenever we wanted to go for a ride or hit the water. If we wanted to go horseback riding, we just had to give the staff enough time to saddle the horses up and we were off. It was also nice that there were only about 12 other people (not including staff) on the island with us at the time. That vacation was exactly what we were looking for at the time – romantic and relaxing.

For some reason, though, we have never taken another all-inclusive vacation. Now, with five people in the family, I find myself thinking that we really need to consider an all-inclusive holiday this year – this time at a bigger, more activity-filled resort. So I have begun researching possibilities, and have found that you don’t have to travel too far.

A short flight away, the Caribbean is home to many all-inclusive options. Travel guide publisher Arthur Frommer recently included some notable bargains at resorts in the beautiful Dominican Republic for less than $900 per person for seven-night stays in the month of March. The all-inclusive arrangements included lodging, meals and unlimited drinks at the Ocean Blue Ocean Sand Resort and the Sirenis Cocotal Resort in Punta Cana.

Further south, Frommer has also highlighted an all-inclusive 10-night motorcoach tour through every major site in Costa Rica for less than $1,000 per person. (Arrangements included meals, accommodations, daily escorted sightseeing and entrance fees, though airfare to San Jose is not included.)

Caribbean resorts that welcome children and include activities like boating, scuba diving and the like in the package can easily be found through an Internet search. Among those I saw were Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas and Caneel Bay in St. John. If you want to stay stateside, Amelia Island Plantation in Fernandina Beach, Fla. and Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port Saint Lucie, Fla. are two family-friendly all-inclusives within easy reach for Atlantans.

Have you ever taken an all-inclusive vacation? What are the upsides and the downsides of an all-inclusive getaway? Do you have any tips for all-inclusive first-timers?

Where is your favorite all-inclusive vacation destination?

6 comments Add your comment

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Frank Rudd

February 24th, 2011
8:28 am

My wife and I love Cancun’s all-inclusive vacations. Their all-inclusive rates includes tips also. Our favorite resort is the Cancun Palace Resorts. The all-inclusive rate allows you to eat and enjoy the ammenities at all of the Palace properties in Cancun. My advise for all-inclusive first-timers is to take the 2-hour property presentation to get free activities not covered in the all-inclusive package such as golf and spa services. You can also get resort bucks to purchase souvenirs in the gift shops.

Marlon

February 25th, 2011
4:40 pm

We went to Sandals Ocho Rios for our honeymoon. Overall, we had a good time. Once you get off the plance and pass customs Sandals has a little waiting area for you with drinks and food which nice. However, there was a two hour bus ride from the Montego Bay airport to the resort. However, I think they just opened a new international airport closer to Sandals Ocho Rios so that drive time should be down dramatically now. You have to sit thru a quick little greeting/presentation when you get to the resort and they you are off to get checked into your room. The food was ok…..not spectacular….pretty much the same thing on the breakfast buffet everyday. The dinners…you had to dress up…..and you had to make sure you get reservations far in advance of the time that you wanted to go to dinner. Also, you had to “pay” for any type of excursion for example Jet Ski’s or tours so that’s something to consider if you go………

My recommendation……..if you want pretty much everything to be taken care of…then I would pick an all inclusive trip. However, if you want to plan different things and eat at a variety of places in the local area that you go to….just plan it yourself…. We really have gotten in the habit of utilizing trip advisor to plan our vacations because you can see pictures of the hotels where you will be staying and get reviews that will help you plan an awesome vacation……we have used trip advisor on every trip that we have been on and have not been dissapointed yet.

Ernest

February 27th, 2011
8:03 pm

I have to agree with Frank, the Palace Resorts on the Mayan Riviera was a nice resort with many amenities. I compare that to Club Med in the Dominican Republic, which was a nice place but didn’t offer as much ‘off the compound’.

Ed

February 28th, 2011
11:36 am

Where is the best place to book an all-inclusive vacation??

justmy2cents

March 1st, 2011
2:29 pm

@ Ed

http://www.discount-all-inclusive.com best rates I can get when I travel, and no I don’t work for them. I always book the Couples Resorts in Jamaica, more inclusions than Sandals and no discrimination between booking levels. No wristbands to wear either!!