If you have looked up resorts anywhere in the Caribbean or Mexico, you most likely have seen the term “all-inclusive.” But what does all-inclusive mean exactly? The answer can be a little bit tricky and all over the place. So, buckle in because I am going to get into all of the nitty-gritty details of it.
I’ll be going over what all-inclusive means and what is included, plus a few other benefits of booking an all-inclusive resort. By the end of this post, you will be able to decide if an all-inclusive resort is right for you and what you should be asking before hitting the book button.
What Does All-Inclusive Mean?
When a resort says it is all-inclusive, it means that some aspect of your stay is included in the nightly rate beyond accommodations. Usually, the inclusions are three meals a day and unique amenities, like poolside cabanas. Depending on the all-inclusive resort, the inclusions can incorporate more or less.
What is Included in an All-Inclusive
Inclusions will vary depending on which resort you choose. The best way to find out what your all-inclusive resort includes is to visit their website or call the resort. Below I will go over everything you may find included in your nightly rate at an all-inclusive resort.
As with any hotel or resort, your room, suite, or villa is included in the nightly rate charged. All-inclusive rooms will have at least one or two beds and an en-suite private bathroom. However, you can find resorts with suites or villas that include separate bedrooms, living areas, kitchens, private pools, and more.
Meals are always included in the nightly rate at all-inclusive resorts. Some will only provide breakfast and dinner, while others will give you all three meals plus snacks. Most meals are set up buffet style, but many resorts will have a few different sit-down restaurants for dinner. You should check reviews for food quality before booking an all-inclusive resort because many resorts will skimp on this aspect.
Soft drinks, tea, coffee, and water are almost always included at an all-inclusive, and you’ll most likely even find tea and coffee in your room. The thing I like to look for at an all-inclusive resort is that alcoholic beverages are also included. Some resorts will limit how many alcoholic beverages are included, but some allow unlimited alcoholic drinks.
I won’t stay at an all-inclusive unless this is an option because I love getting that fourth meal sent to my room after a long day of exploration and entertainment. This service is not always included, but if all your meals and snacks are provided, this most likely will be as well. Included room service is typically a limited menu, with other items at an extra cost.
Most resorts, regardless of whether they are all-inclusive or not, have some activities on the premises. These can include tennis courts, volleyball, yard games, and more. An all-inclusive resort will take these included activities to the next level with bike rentals, water sports, classes, and tours. You may even find tee times included if a golf course is nearby.
Entertainment on-site is a given at all-inclusive resorts, and some will even have their own theatre where they put on broadway-like shows. When you check in for your stay, you can ask for a calendar of events that are going on at the resort. You can find themed parties, karaoke, concerts, contests, and more.
Airport transfers to and from the resort are typically included in the all-inclusive rate. You should double-check with the resort which airports they do free transfers to and from. Some all-inclusive resorts will also have a free shuttle service that takes you to and from town or popular surrounding areas during certain times of the day.
Like most resorts and hotels, all-inclusive resorts will have a fitness center that is free to use. The fitness centers at an all-inclusive may be nicer than average gyms in a hotel, with free weights and more machines. You may even find that the fitness centers host free fitness classes, such as yoga and dance classes.
Poolside and/or Beach Amenities
When you stay at a resort that is not all-inclusive, they will usually charge you to use the poolside cabanas, beach chairs, umbrellas, or anything else on the grounds. These features are free to use at all-inclusive resorts. You may still need to reserve poolside cabanas or beach chairs, but they should be free of charge.
It’s rare, but sometimes an all-inclusive will include a limited number of spa treatments. Generally, spa treatments are included if you purchase an extra package on top of the standard all-inclusive rate. Although, some resorts will give you a free couples massage or something of the like if you are traveling for your honeymoon.
Some all-inclusive resorts will give you a personal concierge and/or butler upon arrival. Concierge services will tell you everything going on during your stay and book any activities or reservations you want. Butler services include cooking, cleaning, and concierge services. Butler services commonly come with high-class all-inclusive packages where you are staying in a private villa.
Questions to Ask the All-Inclusive
No two all-inclusive resorts are alike. Depending on their location, they can have different amenities, food services, and activities. Asking the right questions before booking your stay can make or break your trip.
What is included in the all-inclusive package?
One significant difference in all-inclusive resorts is the type of activities, food, and entertainment included. This is mainly because of location and what is available to them. For example, an all-inclusive in the mountains may have hiking tours, whereas a beach resort could have catamaran tours available.
Are tips or gratuities expected?
Many all-inclusive resorts do not expect you to tip employees and will actually discourage it. They pay their employees appropriately to offset any gratuities. However, some resorts will encourage tipping. It all depends on what the resort prefers.
Are unlimited drinks included?
You may see that all beverages are included in your rate, but there might be some fine print saying you can only have a set number of free alcoholic drinks per day. Checking to see if drinks are unlimited may be important to you.
Is any transportation included?
Even though most all-inclusives provide airport transfers, there most likely won’t be any other type of free transportation. Shuttle services that take you to different locations can save you a ton of money. Don’t miss out on the opportunity because you simply did not know there was a shuttle service.
Is the resort family-friendly or adults-only?
Some all-inclusive resorts do not allow kids under the age of 16 or 18. This enables you to have an even more relaxed and stress-free vacation. On the other hand, if you do have kids, family-friendly resorts will have activities geared towards families and children.
Is room service included?
Just because your meals are included does not mean that room service is also automatically included. You should also check when room service is available and if a full menu is available.
Are All-Inclusive Resorts Worth the Money?
In my opinion, all-inclusive is the way to go if you plan on staying at the resort for the majority of your stay. You can actually save quite a bit of money by going the all-inclusive route since everything you do or eat is included in one reduced rate. Let’s go into the logistics of it to show you exactly what I mean.
The average cost of an all-inclusive resort is $200-$400 per day. The average costs of purchasing all of the basics separately every day are as follows:
- Basic accommodations: $125
- Meals and drinks: $50-$100
- Activities: $25-$100
That alone adds up to $200-$325 per day, which doesn’t include equipment rentals, transportation, or spa treatments. On top of that, you have to plan all these things yourself, whereas an all-inclusive plans everything for you, making your vacation even more stress-free.
Are All-Inclusive Resorts Safe?
All-inclusive resorts are the safest way to travel because they are super private and only hire the most experienced staff to cook your food, clean your room, and secure the location. Most all-inclusive resorts are gated, with security at all the entrances, meaning only other people staying at the resort can come in. You also will most likely never need to leave the resort with everything you need for a great trip on-site, exposing you to less risk.
Is All-Inclusive Right For You?
All-inclusive is right for you if you want a stress-free vacation with everything you need at your fingertips. Honeymoons, family reunions, destination weddings, and work retreats are all great examples of when you should book an all-inclusive. You won’t have to plan anything, and you can purely enjoy the reason you are there.
If you are looking for a cultural adventure, all-inclusive may not be suitable for you. You won’t get to try street food, see the way locals live, or go far from the resort. You’ll still get some cultural experience in an all-inclusive with local foods and entertainment, but it’s just not the same as being fully immersed in it.