by: Yuri Smolyansky
Is An All Inclusive Resort Right For You?
All-inclusive resorts can really help vacationers get the most out of their travel dollars. Today, over 400 hotels in the Caribbean and Mexico are either all-inclusive resorts or offer all inclusive packages.
Destinations such as Aruba, Cancun, St. Thomas, and The Bahamas have an infrastructure that is well suited to all-inclusive and not all inclusive resorts because there is a wide election of restaurants and amenities for tourism. Jamaica and the Dominican Republic on the other hand don't have the tourism infrastructure in place and are best suited for all inclusive vacations.
You'll want to consider carefully before choosing an all inclusive resort. Resorts do vary -- some are designed for couples, some for singles, some for gays and some for families. Some cater to a younger or older crowd. There are also some that offer clothing-optional activities. For obvious reasons, most of those don't allow children under 18.
The resorts come in all shapes and sizes. Some packages sold by tour operators include airfare and hotel. Some include airfare, hotel, transfers, and some meals. Others include all meals and activities, but not airfare. Often, purchasing airfare as part of the package can be a better deal than doing so separately, unless you are using frequent flier miles. Try using the "packing" features of your favorite online travel company - Expedia, Orbitz etc.
Many all inclusives have, as part of their program, child-care facilities that are often a resort-within-the-resort for children, a "kids day camp" that is special and that kids look forward to attending. And many all-inclusive resorts give incredible price breaks to children (they don't drink liquor, after all,) while some even have no charge for children up to 17 sharing their parents' room.
What are the advantages of all-inclusive vacation resorts?
The security of knowing that one price covers everything, with none of those nasty surprises that can blast a hole in any family's travel budget. All meals, entertainment, activities and sports, as well as airfare and accommodations, are generally included in one price. You can forget your worries about carrying lots of extra cash for expenses, and just sit back and enjoy your vacation.
Who should check out an all inclusive?
Travelers who are: on a tight budget, traveling with the kids, receiving the trip as a wedding gifts or getting married on the honeymoon.
So, is an all inclusive resort right for you?
If you are the type of traveler that enjoys sampling all of the local fare, then spending all of your time at an all-inclusive resort is probably not for you. If you like to go somewhere just to relax and not worry about taking out your wallet every couple of hours to pay for food, drinks, or activities, then there's probably an all-inclusive resort that's just right for you.
If you like to stay up all night partying and drinking, if you want to take advantage of all the included watersports and activities, if you want to have food and snacks available all day and if you don't want to have to worry about the final bill when you check out, an all-inclusive is definitely a viable option. Some resorts even boast 24-hour room service.
All-inclusive resorts can be costly. On the other hand, they can also provide great value. If you are going to a destination where the cost of meals, snacks, liquor and activities are expensive, and your hotel or resort is high-quality with an expensive nightly rate, an all inclusive might end up saving you money.
If, on the other hand, you don't drink much, you enjoy lazing on the beach and getting an early nights sleep, you are dieting and choose simple salads for your meals, you would probably be overspending for an all-inclusive resort. Bear in mind the drinks are only the cheap local which are not very strong.
On the down side of all-inclusive vacations, some folks get a bit weary of dining in the same restaurant night after night. The resort rooms may be smaller than standard hotel rooms. Some, not all of the all-inclusive resorts provide shows. And some of them have different show every night.
Some resorts have kids clubs for the little ones. Kids clubs begin at any hotel at 4 years of age. Nannies or babysitters are extra costs not included in the all-inclusive package. Almost all the allinclusives have activities from beach volleyball to bingo and other games.
It's a good idea if you want a cashless vacation in a secured environment, if you are satisfied that the dining options offered will be suitable for your tastes, if you take advantage of the watersports, child-care and bars.
If you are adventurous and want to spend your days exploring the country you are visiting and your evenings trying in-town dining options, you would be better off choosing a resort that offers that kind of flexibility instead of an all inclusive.
What is usually included in all inclusive vacation package?
All meals and drinks, beer, wine, premium liquor and tipping, government taxes, gratuities, entertainment, activities and sports, as well as airfare and accommodations, are generally included in one price.
Airfare and hotel transfers are optional when buying all inclusive package. Tipping is not allowed. One benefit of the all-inclusive resort is that the single up-front price covers unlimited activities.
Phone calls and items purchased at the gift shop are included. The more expensive all-inclusive resorts is going to have the nice sit-down restaurants. The next step down will have all buffet dining.
Tennis and squash courts may be free and often night-lit courts at no charge, but bring your rackets, as you'll probably have to pay to rent them. Most packages do not include golfing fees. In most cases you have to rent a golf cart, but compared to the price of play on most courses, that cost is negligible. Sailing craft are free as often as not. Snorkels, masks and fins are usually free, but may have a time limit (note: bring masks from home if you can, keeping in mind that the one-size-fits-all variety is often useless on little faces, leaving kids to snorkel miserably with a face-full of salt water). On-property snorkeling is free, but the most interesting underwater sights are usually somewhere else. The latter will cost you, if not for the snorkeling itself, then for the transportation to get there and back. With motorized sports costs can climb upwards of $60 an hour. Parasailing is another costly venture.
Divers, too, might find an all-inclusive cost-effective. If you are not certified, most resorts offer a "resort certification" which will allow you to go on closely supervised guided dives. A resort certification is a great introduction to the sport. If, however, you are already a certified diver, some resorts, such as Sandals, Beaches, and Gala Resorts, offer one or two tank dives a day in their all-inclusive packages.
Many all inclusive resorts offer spa treatments as part of their packages, with the option of paying for more intensive therapies.
Do not forget to budget extra cash for some excursions that weren't included in all inclusive package. A swim with the dolphins, for example, runs about $100 per person -- more than small change if you're traveling with a family of four.
Consider carefully these additional factors before purchasing an all inclusive vacation package.
Price is often relative to quality. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. However, sometimes it's possible to get an amazing and legitimate deal, as long as you're looking in the right places - Apple Vacations, Funjet Vacations, TNT Vacations and numerous smaller wholesalers.
Look for deals. Check websites for details. Check to see what's included in the price, so you don't incur any additional costs that you're not prepared to pay for.
Organize any visas and travel insurance policies well in advance. Your tour operator and travel agent should advise you on all of these but you should also contact the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting for information about visas.
When you're traveling in Mexico, you must take extra care when it comes to drinking water, or fresh beverages that may have tap water added to them. Check ice also - ask if it was made with tap water - it is unlikely that your ice will have been made with tap water; but its worth asking in more rustic establishments and rural areas. Salads can also be dangerous if they have been rinsed with tap water. The rule is - if in doubt, ask first! All main hotels and good restaurants use purified water throughout
In order to be eligible for special honeymoon offers and discounts, it's wise to take a copy of your marriage certificate with you as proof that you are on honeymoon.
If you are a single parent, or if your partner will not be traveling with you and your children for whatever reason, you must get a notarized letter from the absent parent, giving consent for the child or children to be traveling with one parent absent.
If you are estranged from your partner, and you are the legal guardian of your child / children, you can take a copy of the court order (note: original only - no copies!) with you and this will suffice to get your child or children with you.
If you are a widow or widower, you will need to write a letter to explain this and get it, and a copy of the death certificate, notarized and carry both of these documents with you when you travel.
If you are under 18 and want to travel without your parents, you will need to carry with you a notarized letter of consent signed by both parents.
If you are a lone parent or will be traveling with your children but without your partner, or under 18 traveling alone, get the required paperwork together before you leave. Airlines are now refusing to board lone parents and children and children traveling unaccompanied without this notarized letter of consent.
Always have a way out. Ask about cancellation policies, and look into travel insurance, especially if you are booking through an online agency. Choose wisely and make sure the resort's amenities and programs fit your lifestyle and character, and you'll have the time of your life!
Yuri Smolyansky is a webmaster for www.sunvacations.org - The most comprehensive all inclusive resorts directory which features over 400 resorts.