Why I Don’t Like All-Inclusive Resorts

all inclusive resorts
Customer testimonial at all-inclusive

While traveling I tend to look into spending as little as possible for a decent place to stay. I do so by mixing up stays at hostels, local hotels, using Airbnb and using hotel points.

Generally speaking, all-inclusive’s are really not my thing. My thoughts on the topic are that if you’re spending a lot of money to stay at an all-inclusive, you’re less likely to leave the resort to experience the food and activities in the area.

I feel that if you’re paying for the amenities, you might as well take advantage of them…

Now of course all-inclusives might make sense at some destinations but it usually isn’t a factor where Kim, Lucas and I tend to travel.

Through all of my travels I can only think of a couple of times that I’ve ever stayed at an all-inclusive.

Years back, before really doing much travel, a couple of friends and I wanted to go to Club Med (the destination was secondary for us). After looking into Turks & Caicos, we settled on Cancun due to better flight times and prices. While there, we didn’t venture out of the resort for any meals or activities. If this was today (or in the last 15 years, I would’ve definitely looked into taking a day trip to Chichen Itza which is a couple of hours away).

My other all-inclusive experience was last year. Our trip to the Dominican Republic was only booked due to a super cheap Cyber Monday deal. While the resort was best described as OK (decent looking property, crappy food unless you went to one of the average restaurants), we still had a really good time. This was only due to the fact that Lucas had such a fun time playing in the pool for the first time more or less. Our experience had much less to do with the resort. Again I didn’t leave the property. This was due to two factors- not much to really see or do in Puerto Plata and the high costs to hire a taxi to do so.

After thinking about my thoughts towards all-inclusives, I feel that a similar case could be made as to why I do not like cruises. Oh and the fact that I happen to get really bad sea-sickness!

How do you feel about all-inclusive resorts? Do you feel that they lessen your desire to want to get out and see the area or do they make sense for most of the locations they are found in?

12 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Like All-Inclusive Resorts

  1. Well….I fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. I love all-inclusive resorts. Granted, I have only stayed at three (Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, Hyatt Zilara Cancun). I paid cash for one trip (at a major discounted rate) and used points for the other two trips. My expectations were low for my first trip (cancun), but I was pleasantly surprised. After that, we decided that we wanted to take the kids to a Ziva. I love the fact that you don’t have to look at the prices on anything once you are there. The kids love that they don’t have to ask me what they are allowed to order. My wife and I are planning another trip back to the zilara in cancun this november. You could say that we are officially hooked on the hyatt all-inclusives.

  2. They aren’t my preferred type of travel. Partly because my parents live in Florida if I wanted the beach resort at lower cost!

    I am a more adventurous traveler. I prefer seeing a city, eating local food, enjoying culture. An all-inclusive resort or a cruise is not for that type of trip. It is for large families or friends where it is easy to accommodate different tastes, everyone have a good time (probably no one poor no one amazing) and easy to predict and split costs. They serve a purpose every decade or so…

  3. Back quite some years, I was the Caribbean specialist in the travel agency where I worked, largely due to my youth and inexperience, since it’s easier than becoming the Asia expert. As such, I saw an awful lot of all inclusives (AI’s for short). While the all inclusive resort can be overdone at times, it has a valuable place in the grand scheme of things. Some people have a lot of general anxiety about travel, and an AI can offer them a sense of refuge in a strange new place. If that’s what it takes for someone to see Cancun, well, the water still feels fine and better than not going at all. Some people, myself included, worry about budgeting the cost for a vacation, and an AI sets a lot of that at ease by paying up front. Anyone who drinks that has taken a cruise knows about that last one, when you get the bad news at the end of the cruise. In other cases, it can be a matter of security. AI’s tend to be in less developed countries, which can mean a lot of poor people. Being in a secure resort can mean not being hit up for money all the time. Of course there’s other factors as well, like family friendly, topless sunbathing, adults only, varied dining choices, the freedom to try a new food or drink (if you don’t like it, no problem, because it’s free at that point), etc..
    None of this is to say that I would ever suggest going to an AI, then just staying there for days on end. When my wife and I stay at an AI, we always do different things off property, both due to even paradise getting old, and to get a sense of the area. At times this can backfire. My wife has no wish to visit Jamaica again, for instance, due to the stark poverty outside the resorts. But in many cases, it can be a great option, and one I will likely consider again.

  4. Chris G- You make some great points for the other side of the argument. My brother and parents stayed at Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall and had a very nice time.

    Noah- Right, stay by the parents to save! 🙂 Sounds like your travels are similar to ours. And I agree- if a deal comes along again in the future, I could see doing an all-inclusive but probably not for quite some time.

    Christian- Good point- visiting an all-inclusive is definitely better than not going away at all! Interesting thoughts on Jamaica. We went this past winter break and had a great time exploring the island & not from behind the walls of an AI.

    1. Jamaica is a wonderful place to explore, although I’ve primarily been along the North coast areas. Hospitable people, tasty food, great history and natural beauty. There’s a lot to be said for it. My wife just couldn’t get over the disparity of comparative luxury at Sandals with the apparent poverty outside, on the numerous excursions we took. The difference is much less pronounced in Mexico, so that’s where we go now when an AI is on the menu. She says she wants to go to India, though, which has some pretty extreme poverty. That should prove interesting.

  5. I have no desire to stay at an AI. Even some of the rationale in favor of them doesn’t really hold up IMHO…

    – Not having to look at/worry over prices when ordering: This seems strange. One checks prices when shopping and eating at home in the US – why is that so difficult overseas?

    – Easier budgeting: While true in the strict sense, as the price is set upfront, it provides no opportunity to save money. There are so many resources online for estimating daily costs in just about any country, it isn’t at all difficult nowadays.

    – Better than not going: AIs are typically very “westernized” or “Americanized”. While I get that someone with anxiety about going overseas would feel better with that – in the end, the actual experience at the AI ends up being basically what one would have in Florida, for example – save for the ability to say one has “been to __________ country”.

    – Safety: There may be some rare locations where this is a tradeoff worth considering an AI, most are in places that are actually just fine – Cancun area, for example.

    I would only consider an AI if it were a really, really good deal compared to other lodging options and if transport to the real parts of the location from the AI is reasonable, since we would not want to stay in the AI more than just to sleep.

  6. Christian- It does seem that India would be quite an interesting experience for your wife! I’ve been wanting to go for quite some time…

    Ryan- Great points. I’m with you in your feelings about AIs but for some it is still better than staying home. In the end, visiting an All-Inclusive in whichever country you choose is typically not much different than just staying in the US.

  7. Brian- I wouldn’t think of Egypt as an all-inclusive kind of place unless visiting the beachy area of Sharm El Sheikh etc… Curious to hear about which areas you stayed in and your thoughts.

  8. Tbh if you love the world and want to be a good global citizen then you should ban all inclusive resorts. This is the second time I’ve been to one (cancun) and the first time my wife and I been to one without kids. The food was mediocre, the drinks were cheap, and the service was just par. Combine with the fact that everyone was extremely wasteful, the lack of incentive to leave and explore, and the way the companies do not give back to the local economy and ship all revenues off shore, all inclusive resorts start to look evil. The only time we saw a benefit was when we took our very young kids. But I don’t think the benefits would last once they’re a little older.

  9. All inclusive resorts are for tourists. They are a safe consumerist package where the only native peoples you come in contact with are the ones waiting on you. AI’s are exploitive and imperialistic. Of course they are popular. So are cruise ships. Learn nothing about the world, just go to Florida…visit Disney. Now that’s culture.

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