(Updated Jan. 2018) When people timidly ask how expensive all inclusive resorts are they are thinking it's probably far beyond their means. More often than not they are often very pleasantly surprised once we walk them thru a bit of comparison shopping. Actually staying at a family all inclusive resort is really an excellent value.
A good place to start is to discuss what an all inclusive resorts includes. For the price you pay for your hotel room, guests will enjoy...
- all of their meals and snacks
- all beverages (yes, alcohol is included)
- resort activities like snorkeling, sail boats, kayaks (water sports that don't include motors)
- evening shows, music and entertainment
- free child care in their kids clubs.
- Resort taxes
- All tips
- At Vacationkids, we also include your family's roundtrip transportation costs to get from your arrival airport to your resort and back.
Generally, additional your out of pocket costs during an all inclusive resort stay would be for items of a personal nature like spa treatments, souvenirs and off property excursions and sightseeing.
Before we get started here breaking it all down for you, PLEASE understand this is a very complicated question to answer. We're not trying to be shady. It's just that there are a TON of variables here that need to be considered as part of this equation For example-
- What is your definition of "family"?...Does your family consist of 2 parents and a 4 year old or is your family 2 adults, 17 yo, 15yo and 10 yo. How about a single mom with her 8 yo. All inclusive resorts adjust their prices according to the number of guests sharing each room and their ages. Remember this is not just a hotel room. Hoteliers need to budget for each persons food, beverages, salaries of entertainment and child care staff too.
- When will you be taking your vacation - Prices are determined by supply and demand. December holiday weeks and spring break can cost 50-70% more than an average rate. Off season like in September when most kids are heading back to school, expect to see discounts of up to 65% off.
- Location- location, location affects the price of your tropical destination. Some vacation spots cost more to visit than others. Even your specific room location within the resort itself will affect the pricing. You'll pay a premium for an oceanfront view but can enjoy all the same vacation amenities for a much lower price if you don't mind looking at palm trees
- Level of service - There are budget friendly all inclusives where your family will be eating at the buffet most nights and then there are those that offer private butlers, michelin chefs and top shelf alcohol.
For our discussions here, I will do my best to pick a mid priced all inclusive resort with standard room priced travel dates for a family of four with two kids under the age of 12. Depending upon your families specifics, prices can be lower or higher than the examples given here.
So let's get started....
The average typical Hotel room for a family of 4 costs between $130 per night
The average cost of an All Inclusive resort room for a family of 4 is around $500 per night
At first glance, a typical hotel appears WAY cheaper than an all inclusive resort.
We have to dig a bit deeper and do all the travel math to get to the real truth.
A hotel stay is just a place to sleep - we need to include other factors to do a real shopping comparison.
- Food - WILL cost more in tourist locations. For a very basic vacation food budget calculate $60 per adult and $45 per child for 3 meals per day. (don't believe us? Believe Disney and remember their packages are really 2 meals per day)
- Drinks - Figure $50 per day for adults (Morning starbucks, couple of ice teas, a bottle of water and that cocktail cause you're on vacation right - and $10 per day for kids)
- Tips - Just working off the food budget would add $10 per person per day but of course there is the bellman, housekeeping and the pool boy so let's make it $12 for good measure. (Don't believe us, see what the cruise lines charge)
Just with the costs tallied here, a typical family of four would need to add an additional $378 onto their average $130 daily hotel room cost...bringing your nightly tab for a regular hotel to $508.
But wait -there's more...
All inclusive resorts include child care, nightly shows, complimentary watersports like snorkeling and Kayaks, resort activities like yoga. wine tasting, mixology, trivia, dance classes and more.
At a regular hotel, if you chose just ONE of these activities for a family of four you're looking at a nightly cost of $558 to $608 per night. Are you going to be the one to tell your kids they can't go kayaking.
At an all inclusive resort, you can enjoy all of these additional ammenities for $500 per night!
Most people do not take the time to analyse their true vacation costs like this. They just pack their bags and head out the door with credit card in pocket. They figure the family has to eat whether at home or away. They don't have a crystal ball to see how much they are actually going to be spending. They are on vacation so they splurge and then dread the credit card bill arrival the following month.
With an all inclusive resort vacation, parents pretty much DO have a crystal ball. They know in advance what the majority of vacation is going to cost. Not only are there no surprises but it is far more relaxing. You don't have to worry how much your teenage son is ordering off the menu or if your daughter will like the sushi she insists on ordering - food is free! If the kids want to snorkel or kayaking all afternoon - go for it! Those hourly equipment rental charges are going cha-ching.
Most all inclusive resorts are found in the Caribbean, Central American and Mexico. Why? -because the cost of doing business in many of these places makes it profitable for hoteliers and affordable for guests.
- This means EVERYONE in the family will need to have a valid passport. This our mean a budget of an additional $400 for passports if this is the first time your family is traveling outside of the U.S. Consider this a long term investment that will help you save on future vacations. Passports are valid for 10 years for adults and 5 years for kids so no additional costs for many vacations to come.
- International flights can cost more than domestic flights within the U.S. Often parents will use frequent flyer miles or credit card reward points to offset these costs. Depending on your departure airport, this could add a few hundred dollars more per person to your total vacation price tag.
This is about the time in the conversation where parents who still aren't convinced will say something like..."Well, all things considered, a vacation like this is WAY above our means. Our family gets together and rents a big beach house every year. We all chip in, share the costs and it has a kitchen so we save a ton of money by not eating out"
This is when I show them a chart put together by my good friends at Apple Vacations called the "Shore without Chores". It does a great job of showing the typical average costs for a family of 4 sharing a beach house compared to the cost of an all inclusive vacation package INCLUDING international flights. Even if you add the cost of obtaining passports the first time around it's still a great deal!
Then I explain if they invite 10 rooms of friends and family to join them for a fun-filled vacation, then they STAY FREE. Honestly, I can't think of anything less expensive than a free stay that includes all your meals, drinks, activities, entertainments, child care, tips and taxes...can you?