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All-Inclusive Resorts - Is It Worth It?
Added: Sep-08-2006, Hits: 8,057, Rating: 4.00, Reviews: 0, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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When referring to hotels, the term "all-inclusive" might be a new concept to you as most places use what is called a "European Plan". However, in some places, this is a common program to find in hotels. So what is it? All-inclusive means exactly what it says for the most part. The idea is that you pay a higher rate at your hotel, but you have "run of the house" which means you can eat, drink, and use other services offered by the resort for free during your stay.

The places that I have found that most utilize this pricing scheme are in Mexico, particularly in Cancun. Some hotels will offer a choice between the regular European plan and all-inclusive, and it can be a tough choice. Here are the things you need to consider:
  1. You will obviously only get your money's worth if you heavily use the free offers at your hotel. If you plan to spend a lot of time roaming around, you will inevitably wind up eating and drinking at other locations.
  2. While most all-inclusive resorts have multiple restaurants, you might be out of luck if you don't like the food at any of them. To some degree, it is a gamble.
  3. Over the years, there have been many complaints about resorts running cheezy all-inclusive programs, particularly with regards to alcohol. Some resorts have been accused of cutting off all-inclusive patrons after a couple of drinks, while others make it difficult to drink much by serving very small portions or weak drinks.
  4. Alcohol costs can really add up. If you are a light drinker, you might not be getting the best deal with an all-inclusive plan.
  5. Not all plans are created equal. The things that are included for free will vary widely from resort to resort. Research them carefully.
  6. At a strictly all-inclusive resort, it is impossible to tell how much of the rate covers the hotel cost and how much covers the rest. This makes it difficult to determine if you are getting a good deal.
Why don't we take a look at an example from a previous trip of mine to Cancun and see if we can make any sense of it. We stayed at the Gran Costa Real which only offers all-inclusive plans. If memory serves, we payed $1,300 for 2 of us for 6 nights. That comes to $217 per day. As for the accomodations, they claim to be a 5 star resort, however, there are nicer places in Cancun. Don't get me wrong, this place was very nice, just not a Four Seasons. I would estimate that the hotel portion of the price was likely in the $120-$130 range. If my calculations are correct, then we needed to consume approximately $90-$100 per day (total for the 2 of us) to break even.

We would have spent much more than that if we had spent more time at our resort. Unfortunately, we had never been to Cancun before and had a lot to see and do. We spent a day at Isla Mujeres, a day at Chichen Itza, and ate a couple of dinners out at recommended restaurants.

The Costa Real had 2 restaurants to choose from (one of which served alcohol), and there was a lobby bar and a beach bar. All in all, we probably ate about half of our meals at the resort, but were lucky as the food was pretty good. The best part of the deal was that we were able to eat and drink for free at their sister resort, Gran Caribe Real, which was a much nicer place with better restaurants. Many of the hotels in Cancun are owned by the same companies, so check with your all-inclusive plan to see if you will have access to other resorts.

As for drinking, very little was done at our resort. We tried to drink at the beach bar a couple of times, but the beers were served in 8oz glasses (we eventually figured out that ordering 2 at a time solved this problem), and the mixed drinks were pretty watered down. We drank some of our own liquor in the room until we realized that we could have buckets of beer delivered for free.

Overall, I think we probably lost a little on the deal. To make the plan equitable, we would have needed to eat a few more meals at the resort and definitely done more drinking there.

Your choice should be determined by your plans for your vacation. If you are planning to just relax and get away from it all, spending the majority of your time at your resort, then an all-inclusive plan is a good idea. If you are the adventurous type, want to experience local cuising and culture, or are heading to a destination with a lot of attractions that will keep you away from your hotel, you might consider opting for a resort with a European plan.

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