When you want a holiday that doesn’t require you to lift a finger, all-inclusive packages make perfect sense.
With breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks included, you don’t even need to leave the hotel, giving you the chance to truly de-stress.
Nonetheless, you want to make sure you’re getting what you paid for – especially given the steep price for all-inclusive breaks compared to self catering.
British holidaymakers were dismayed recently to find that new laws in the Balearics to control public drunkenness meant their alcohol intake may be limited.
Those who try to book an all-inclusive trip with EasyJet to Mallorca or Ibiza are now being shown an alert reading: ‘Alcoholic drinks are now limited to three per person at lunch and dinner as part of the all-inclusive basis.’
These rules are due to changes within the country of travel, but they show why doing your homework and reading the small print, regardless of board basis, is so important.
Whether all-inclusive represents good value is subjective, as it’ll all depend on the specific resort and your tastes and budget.
Nicky Kelvin, head of travel savings site The Points Guy UK, told Metro.co.uk: ‘Sometimes travel is about eating street food, cooking up a storm at your rental villa, dining at Michelin-star restaurants or sampling a new type of cuisine.
‘Other times, travel is about relaxing at your hotel and letting staff handle everything for you at an all-inclusive, like housekeeping, meals and entertainment.’
All-inclusive food diaries have become a staple on travel TikTok recently, with videos of plates piled high with food garnering millions of views.
While you have every right to go to town on the buffets and snack bars, doing so with a view to ‘beating the system’ isn’t a good idea.
Food is wasted whether you throw it in the bin or overstuff yourself when you’re too full to enjoy it. Plus, it’s also not the only thing you’re paying for when you book one of these breaks.
Nicky continued: ‘If you consider that the value of all-inclusive resorts are as much about convenience as quality when it comes to food, you may feel less urgent to get your “money’s worth” and enjoy the experience more while eating/drinking less.’
That said, there are still issues you should be aware of before booking.
According to Nicky, a major red flag to look out for is ‘members-only’ pricing or varying guest status levels.
He said: ‘This suggests that while the hotel advertises as all-inclusive, you may be exempt from premium spirits and some dining options if you haven’t opted in to the highest hotel tier.
‘Also be sure to check which meals you are eligible for based on the length of your stay. For example, on the morning that you check out, check that you can still take advantage of the hotel breakfast and lunch, if you are catching a later flight.’
Certain hotels may additionally place limits on guests staying for a short time, like restricting visits to a la carte restaurants or specific experiences. For some, this means it isn’t worthwhile to pay a premium to stay there.
Questions to ask before booking an all-inclusive holiday
- Are there time restrictions on when you can eat or drink free?
Some resorts cut off service after a certain time (usually at about 10pm), so factor this into your decision if it’ll pose an issue for you.
- Which activities and excursions are available, and are any of these included or discounted?
From boat trips to spa treatments to snorkelling equipment hire, extras may be charged separately.
- What are the reviews like?
You can read all the travel guides and promotional bumf in the world and still end up on a trip that doesn’t suit you, so thoroughly read customer reviews on sites like TripAdvisor to get a clearer picture of their real experiences.
- Is the food suitable for me and my travel companions?
Depending on where you’re headed, options for certain dietary requirements may be limited. Similarly, if you’re a picky eater you may struggle with regional dishes or buffet-style meals, so factor this into your resort choice.
- What are the rules around alcohol?
Most all-inclusive resorts include local spirits, wines, and beer in their packages, with premium and branded options charged separately – but check this out ahead of time to avoid disappointment. If you’re travelling with someone who doesn’t drink, you may also be able to get a cheaper deal.
- Are transfers, baggage, and amenities like WiFi and safety deposit boxes included in the price?
All-inclusive doesn’t necessarily mean ALL-inclusive, so don’t bank on everything being covered.
- Is this the right holiday for me?
You’re going to feel short-changed and bored on an all-inclusive break if you’re normally an intrepid and adventurous traveller who loves variety. It may be more expensive to go self catering and eat outside your accommodation, but the value of a holiday is the enjoyment it brings you.
For those who want to vegetate on a sun lounger with a cold drink from the pool bar, however, all-inclusive may just provide you the relaxing getaway you’ve been searching for.
To ensure an all-inclusive holiday is everything you dreamed of, reading reviews is key, as is making savings when booking to ensure you’re getting the best value for money.
Nicky said: ‘Once you have conducted your research on destinations and hotels, it’s worth searching for the trip you want with tour operators alongside the more obvious method of booking directly.
‘British Airways Holidays, for example, allows you to pay just a deposit up front, offers ATOL protection and – most importantly – you may find significant savings versus a booking which separates flights and hotels.
‘There may be other benefits with this sort of booking, such as BA’s current offer for double tier points on BA Holidays bookings to get you closer to elite status faster.’
Whatever your budget, make a list of things you want from a holiday before you book it. If you’re after authentic gastronomic experiences, all-inclusive likely won’t be worth it for you regardless of cost.
For those who go away to switch off from responsibilities, though, sitting in the sun sipping a ‘free’ cocktail is worth its weight in gold.
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