An all-inclusive resort can take a lot of the hassle out of vacation planning---but also a little bit of the fun. But does it actually save you money?

Vacations are often fun and relaxing, but they can be a hassle to plan and budget for. From planning your travel dates and accommodations to securing lodging and predicting how much you will spend on food and entertainment, it can take a lot of time and effort to plan an ideal trip and ensure you don’t forget any important parts.

If you’d prefer to pay for all or most of the common expenses of your trip all at once, you may want to consider staying at an all-inclusive resort or hotel. (Especially if you have young children.) All-inclusive resort packages often include your stay along with other accommodations like food, alcohol, activities, tips, and sometimes even airfare.

Is an all-inclusive resort the best choice for everyone though? Lets look at some common positive and negative financial implications of choosing this vacation option.

Benefits of Booking an All-Inclusive Resort

Easier to stick to your budget

Staying at an all-inclusive resort makes it much easier to stick to your spending plan for your trip. Since food, activities etc. all go into the price of your stay, you often have a better ballpark number of how much your vacation will cost and can rest assured knowing that a fancy dinner at a restaurant on the resort won’t set you back financially one bit.

Get the most out of the resort and what it has to offer

At the resort, you can eat, drink, and play freely without wondering how much everything will cost since it’s all been prepaid. All you need to do is bring a little extra spending money in case you need it for souvenirs or other off-site activities. This allows you to enjoy everything the resort has to offer to the fullest, including activities and foods you normally wouldn’t try due to the cost.

Loyalty programs

All-inclusive resorts love to see repeat visitors and offer loyalty programs, freebies, room upgrades and other benefits for guests who return. If you think the all-inclusive part is nice, try returning again the following year for added perks.

Disadvantages of booking an all-inclusive resort

Hidden fees

The term ‘all-inclusive’ might as well be changed to ‘mostly-inclusive’ because everything you do is not included in the price of an all-inclusive resort. Therefore, there may be some activities, services, and even foods that you may be expected to pay for out of pocket if you wish to indulge in them. There also may be a hidden ‘resort fee’ that is not advertised in the original pricing for the resort. This fee may be calculated nightly and added onto your total for your stay.

When I stayed at an all-inclusive resort for my honeymoon, I enjoyed the food, drinks, sports, and nightly entertainment that was included.

However, things like the spa, motorized water sports and boat tours, along with outbound calls from our room were an extra charge. While we were checking in, we overheard a woman complaining to the front desk about being charged for calls she made from her room.

The non-inclusive features of our stay were most likely included in the fine print when we booked our trip. Hidden fees are never fun, but you can avoid them by reading the details of your package before you book your stay. Double check to see if certain expenses are included like:

  • Parking
  • All restaurants on-site (if only some, determine which ones are included)
  • Premium beverages and cocktails
  • Boat trips
  • The spa and other on-site shops and features

Lack of local culture

If you are traveling to another country and wish to experience local food and culture, you may not find it at an all-inclusive resort. Most all-inclusive resorts are very generalized and cater to vacation-themed features like spa services, private beaches, and pools with beautiful swim-up bar areas.

If you want to tour the historic district, interact with natives, or try out the best local cuisine, you may have to venture off the resort to gain those experiences. That’s where the extra money comes in, but you can budget for this ahead of time if you anticipate leaving the resort for a few hours.

Other considerations

Tipping the staff

When it comes to tipping the staff at an all-inclusive resort, there are no official guidelines. Depending on the resort, you may be charged a convenience fee/resort fee or it may clearly state that gratuity is included in the price of your trip.

If not, feel free to bring a bit of money along to tip the staff. Tipping someone for a job well done is almost always seem as a positive gesture in most cultures and shows your gratitude to the actual workers who made an effort to make your stay more enjoyable.

You don’t have to tip anything crazy. I personally brought along about $25 in singles to tip staff members when I stayed at an all-inclusive resort for a few days.

Summary

Given all the financial implications of staying at an all-inclusive resort, it really boils down to what you are looking for and how much you are looking to spend. I don’t think staying at an all-inclusive resort will save much money in the long run, but it’s a good option in terms of convenience.

If you are looking for a romantic getaway or a relaxing trip that includes a lot of laying by the beach, endless all-you-can-eat buffets and having a more laid back itinerary, you may favor staying at an all-inclusive resort—especially if you don’t enjoy planning and budgeting for travel.

On the other hand, if you are looking to explore and immerse yourself with the local culture, you may not want to be confined by an all-inclusive resort, especially if you feel you will become bored with the food and activities after a few days.

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