Are They Worth It?
Article + Photos by | Kelley Austin, Couples Travel Concierge
The all-inclusive resort used to be considered the “budget inn” of travel.
Images of rowdy crowds drinking in the Jacuzzi, bland food, forced group activities, and limited entertainment was the norm. Today, the all-inclusive concept has expanded to luxury resorts, upscale and intimate resorts, gourmet meals, and extended activities such as golf on a championship golf course.
The reasons for the popularity of all-inclusive resorts are time and value. Travel experts say that pre-paying for food and drinks ahead of time allows you to have a more enjoyable getaway because you don’t have to think about how much you are spending and it’s a great way to know vacation costs up front. Think of it as a no-hassle, stress-free vacation. All-inclusive resorts usually include accommodations, meals, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), daily activities, entertainment, some or all tips, and more. Some resorts or specific room categories at resorts may include room service, concierge, or butler service.
Most resorts also have tour desks to help schedule local excursions in the event you didn’t plan in advance. It’s one-stop shopping both in pre-planning and upon arrival.
All-Inclusive resorts are located in many of the sun-drenched islands and countries of the Caribbean and Mexico.
The largest concentration are in Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. There are others scattered throughout the Caribbean—such as St. Lucia, Antigua, The Bahamas, and Costa Rica, to name a few. There are 3 main types of all-inclusive resorts: Couples Only, Adults Only, and Family Friendly.
Couples Only resorts cater to romance and celebration clients—think honeymoon, destination weddings, and anniversaries. Of course no special occasion is required to enjoy the adult only, couples only atmosphere. Most often, couples only resorts are 4-star resorts or above.
Adult Only resorts are restricted to adults only, but not couples only. (Insider Tip!) Some resorts will allow guests as young as 16, others require guests to be 18. These resorts are great for honeymoons, destination weddings, as well as bachelor or bachelorette parties. Most often, the adult only resorts are 4-star resorts or above.
Family Friendly resorts come in a wide variety of quality and budget. Some family friendly resorts will have adult only areas or sections. While obviously a great fit for families or multi-generational travel such as destination weddings, they can be a great option for couples as well.
How do you wade through the sea of resorts? There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of resorts, and that’s just in Mexico!
The most efficient and effective way is to work with a romance travel specialist that has vast experience with all-inclusive resorts.
One little known fact (Insider Tip!) is resorts rate and give themselves their star ratings in many instances. An experienced romance travel specialist has visited many resorts in many countries, has contacts in many countries, and can provide firsthand knowledge about the resorts and destination. Some of the details that need to be considered and discussed with a romance travel specialist include the following:
Which type of resort is preferred?
• How important is dining? Do you prefer buffet or à la carte dining?
Are you willing to make reservations?
• Is room service important to you? Butler service? Concierge service?
• Do you prefer premium brands of alcohol or domestic brands? (Consider the country you will be in!)
• Are you a beach bum or a pool person?
• What type of activities are preferred
• Do you like a large mega-resort, smaller boutique resorts, or something in between?
• Do you want to stay mostly on the resort, or do you want to enjoy the area and local culture?
When it comes to budget, it is best to have a budget or budget range in mind when first working with a travel professional.
It’s important to know that a travel professional’s job is not to “spend all of your money,” but having a budget assists with knowing the quality of resorts that are suitable. As a general rule, resorts fall into the following categories:
• Budget: Usually 2 to 3.5-star properties
• Moderate: Usually 3.5 to 4-star properties
• Luxury: Usually 4.5 to 5-star properties
• Exceptional Luxury:
Usually 5-star +
The timeframe for planning can vary widely between destinations or resorts. A good ballpark can be 6-8 months for most destinations. Flight availability also plays a roll in this. Some airlines release their flight schedules 9 to 11 months prior to travel, others as close as 6 months prior to travel. Working with a romance travel specialist will be very helpful in determining the best timeframe for planning. In some cases it is best to book a resort then add air later, but in other cases, it can be best to package them all together. No worries, if time slipped away and it is inside the ideal timeframe, there may still be great options available.
An All-Inclusive Resort may be just the stress-free getaway to start the Happily Ever After!