A decade or so ago, all-inclusive holidays were the exception. Now, however, their popularity has increased to such an extent that no tour operator can afford to ignore them -- in fact, one or two holiday companies now offer nothing else. There's no doubt that this type of arrangement looks very tempting, especially for families or people on a budget -- you know what the holiday will cost before you start, so no nasty surprises. But are they really the ideal solution, or do they carry hidden pitfalls?
All Inclusive - What Is it?
First of all, it's helpful to be clear exactly what is meant by all inclusive holidays, but this is far from easy, as the term means different things to different people. Some large resort hotels advertise themselves as all inclusive because meals are included in the price of your stay, even though almost everything else, such as drinks, snacks, activities and entertainment, is charged extra, whereas in other cases absolutely everything is covered, and most resorts fall somewhere in between. If you assume that more is included than is actually the case, you can be seriously caught out, so it's essential to check the details before booking.
Pros and Cons
So would all inclusive be a good option for you? Well, it partly depends on what sort of holiday you like -- if you're exhausted, and just want to relax on the beach or by the pool and not have to make any decisions, an all inclusive holiday could be exactly what you need. On the other hand, if you like to explore the local area, find different places to eat, discover places off the beaten track and get to know local people, you may find an all inclusive arrangement is not flexible enough to meet your needs.
There are in fact many people who look down on all-inclusive holidays and simply wouldn't touch them. Part of the reason for this is that, until recently, the idea has been linked with cheaper package holidays and large family-friendly hotels, where dining options are limited, and usually consist of buffet meals which lack variety and quickly become repetitive. However, more recently, increasing numbers of luxury resorts have been offering some very upmarket all-inclusive deals, which can cover gourmet à la carte restaurants, premium drinks, a complete range of activities and even spa treatments.
Benefits of All Inclusive
So what are the main advantages of all-inclusive holidays? One of the biggest plus points has to be the ease of planning and budgeting -- by the time you get on the plane, you have paid up-front for all the major costs of the holiday, so there are no worries about going over budget, and you can just relax and look forward to the holiday. It also means you don't need to take much cash with you or use your cards very much, which greatly reduces the risk of loss or theft.
Of course, all-inclusive deals can be especially beneficial for families with children, especially if children's clubs and activities are included in the price (they aren't always, so you need to check). Children don't mind buffet restaurants, and in fact the wide choice means that these can be ideal for picky eaters. All-inclusive hotels often have restaurants and/or snack bars that are open all day, so your children don't have to be confined to specific mealtimes, and can have drinks or ice creams when they want them.
One reason why some people don't like all inclusive holidays is that they can cut you off from the local community. Not only are you not meeting local people, and learning about their culture -- which for many people is half the point of going abroad -- but you're not supporting local cafés and restaurants which can be dependent on the holiday trade. If the hotel is in quite an isolated position, the idea of going out and about with children can seem like too much hassle, when everything is laid on at the hotel. But, of course, if all you want is to relax with sun, sea and, this may not be too much of a problem for you.
The main thing is to keep in mind that all-inclusive resorts are not all the same, so don't assume you know exactly what is covered in any particular deal. Check on anything that might be important to you -- bottled water, children's drinks, entertainments and excursions -- if these things aren't included, it doesn't necessarily make it a bad deal, but you avoid being caught out. Remember, it's all about having a relaxing stress-free holiday, so make sure that is what you get.