Archive for the ‘To Be or Not To Be’ Category

#008 — To Be or Not To Be: All-Inclusive Travel

January 30th, 2009

To Be or Not To Be — What kind of question is that?

I hope to make this a recurring segment for controversial personal finance issues that come up from time to time; some serious, some not so serious.

The first up is relevant to me because tomorrow, along with the Lovely Miss H, I’m heading to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for a 4-night getaway.  So the question before us:  is it worth it to go to an all-inclusive resort?

TBONTB:  All-Inclusive Resorts

For those not sure, all-inclusive resorts typically include all your meals, entertainment, and drinks for free, except specialty entertainment, such as parasailing, or spa treatments, etc.

To Be:

All is included for one set price, so you don’t have to worry about bringing your wallet everywhere.  You don’t like the drink they just served you?  Give it back and order another one without worrying about dropping another $10 for that fruit-flavored, tasty alcoholic treat.  Want to eat a snack?  Head over to the snack hut or the buffet for a mini-meal and don’t worry about extra costs.  All your worries are left on the mainland as you chill by the beach, sipping on a margarita, catching some rays, enjoying the surf, without a care in the world.

Also, there’s usually a variety of meal options available.  Total costs for all-inclusives are not super high either, once the services, food, entertainment, and convenience options are factored in.  The one all-inclusive resort I stayed at previously (Sandals in St. Lucia), the personal service was tremendous.

Not To Be:

Regardless of the services that are ‘included’, what you are paying for is the extra convenience.  If you correctly plan out your vacation, you can get just as memorable of a trip at a fraction of the cost.  Many all-inclusive complaints from patrons are for having bland and lukewarm buffet-style food.  If you choose a non-inclusive resort, you can enjoy the cuisine on a more local level at a restaurant, and avoid the generic “touristy” option that all-inclusives provide.

Bottom line, for a more genuine experience, the non-inclusive resorts allow and encourage you to delve into the local culture and scenery more than what the all-inclusive does.

Let Us Discuss:

Well, in this instance I think it depends on what you are looking for (cop-out, I know!).  If all you want is to lounge around the beach for a few days and unwind without a care in the world, the all-inclusive might be your best bet.

If you want to have a more “active” vacation and check out more of the local cuisine, and spend much of your time away from the resort in the local town, then a non-inclusive is probably for you.

Another factor — type of all-inclusive.  I’ve been to a Sandals resort, and thought it was top-of-the-line with service, food, amenities, and entertainment.  NO regrets, but pricey.  So pricey that we also went to another off-brand all-inclusive for the first half of our trip.  It was nice to relax, but the quality of food, amenities, and entertainment was lacking compared to the pricier Sandals.

We will be staying at an Iberostar property.  Certainly not as well-known as Sandals resorts, so I’ll report back on my findings.  Financially, we feel that we found a good deal and most importantly from a personal finance point of view, we paid cash for it.  This trip’s cost won’t be coming home with us :)

But as it stands, when we get away to a beach, we want to relax and not think about the details.  The convenience of not having to worry about bar tabs and restaurant bills is definitely worth the couple hundred bucks you would “save” by going the non-inclusive route.

My Verdict:

For now, I’ll side with All-Inclusive firmly in the “To Be” category.  The financial savings simply do not outweigh the convenience.

Others have a different take on the All-Inclusive debateWhat do you say?  Is an all-inclusive resort worth it to you?  What factors do you consider in making  your decision?

Photo by Battle Group, Mar Hotels, Majestic-Resorts

Photo by Battle Group, Mar Hotels, Majestic-Resorts

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