Updated July 2019
No doubt you've seen the term ALL INCLUSIVE if you've been doing google searches for terms like "best family resorts" or "best family vacations" - but what does this really mean?
It's definitely true that all inclusives are a great choice for a family vacation. That said, the internet also offers tons of conflicting information. Even Wikipedia doesn't have a clear explanation. There are two terms that you'll often see touted about - All Inclusive Resorts and All Inclusive Vacations. We'll do our best to break it all down for you....
1. ALL INCLUSIVE RESORTS are hotels that offer extra features and services included in the price of your room. You pay one price and these features are "all included":
- Your hotel room
- All your food - 3 meals per day plus snacks
- Drinks - both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks
- Daily resort activities - games, sports, classes, Kids clubs, etc
- Non Motorized water sports - snorkeling, kayaks, sailing
- Nightly evening entertainment programs - music, shows, dancing etc
- All tips
- ***At Vacationkids, when we book any all inclusive resorts for our clients, we ALSO include roundtrip airport/hotel transportation
Families who have never experienced an all inclusive resort are a bit blown away by all these features. Our travel agents will get questions like:
Can our family eat as much as we want? - Absolutely! Most all inclusive resorts offer several different themed restaurant choices or buffets. Some all inclusive resorts even include 24 hour room service. Decide whether your family feels like Italian tonight or a grilled steak, order what you want, order as much as you want and simply get up and leave...no tipping, no check!
Alcohol too, Like an all day open bar? - Yes sir! Go to the bar, tell the bartender what you want and enjoy. Many all inclusive resorts have swim up bars, some have beach butlers so you don't even have to get out of the pool. Same deal for the kids, they can order smoothies and sodas to their heart's content (no booze for them of course).
And there are things to do all day long & I don't have to pay extra? Like we said, everything from bingo to bocce ball, dance classes, cooking classes, gym workouts, yoga - you name it. We mentioned non-motorized water sports which means activities like snorkeling, scuba diving demos, Kayaks, boogie boards, paddle boards, windsurfing and some resorts with full water parks. (water sports like jet skiing and water skiing would cost extra because these are motorized activities)
...and this also includes free child care and baby sitting
Most family friendly all inclusive resorts offer children's programs for kids ages 4-12 years of age. These programs run all day, every day and some resorts also offer evening programs. What this means for your kids is a chance to make new friends and have fun with fully supervised sports, arts & crafts, video games, competitions and more. What this means for you is free babysitting is all included! Some all inclusive resorts also offer baby care and teen programs too. Only important point for parents to know is that you cannot leave the resort property while your children are in the kids clubs. You can relax on the beach reading a book and sipping your pina colada but you cannot leave the resort to go snorkeling or sightseeing.
WOW! With all these features, All Inclusive resorts must be expensive!
Many people are surprised to learn that all inclusive resorts start at about $80 -$100 per person per night. Many all inclusive resorts offer kids stay, play & eat free deals too. There are even all inclusive resorts that are family of 5 friendly. Prices increase by the level of luxury, personal care, service level, gourmet food, top shelf liquors etc.
All inclusive resorts are found thoughout the Caribbean & Mexico. This is because the cost of doing business in less expensive in these destinations. Your family will need passports to fly to most all inclusive resorts. This is an extra expense the first time out but is an investment worth making for future family vacations.
Speaking of flights, this leads us to our second term....
2. All Inclusive Vacations - This is where the waters tend to get a bit muddy and there is plenty room for definition debate.
Technically an all inclusive vacation is one where you pay one price up front that includes flights/all transportation, accommodations, meals, drinks and activities. At Vacationkids, when we book flights along with an all inclusive resort for one of our families, we refer to this as an all inclusive vacation or an all inclusive vacation package.
To us, we think of an all inclusive vacation to be one where you can pay for everything upfront. Features of an all inclusive vacation should be
- All transportation
- Food & Drinks (including alcohol)
- Daily entertainment & activities
Some parents want us to book flights for them, and that's fine. Other families may have airline loyalty points or credit card rewards they want to use to offset the cost of their flights. NO worries! They can arrange their own flights and Vacationkids can book their LAND ONLY all inclusive resort. (Land only means hotel + ground transportation...everything you need on the ground but NO airfare).
Folks will see TONS of links for family all inclusive vacation offers out there on Google or Bing. Hey, if you saw it on the internet it must be true right?...We all know the answer to that question.
Sadly many travel companies take advantage of this confusing jargon and uninformed travelers fall easy prey. For example, do a google search for "all inclusive family cruises" and you'll get over 4 million results. If you compare features included in the price of a family cruise to that of an all inclusive resort it is certainly NOT the same. Cruise ship passengers pay extra for alcohol, soda, specialty smoothies & coffee, activities like snorkeling and sailing when in port and tips.
At Vacationkids, we like teaching our clients these differences because we appreciate working with informed consumers. We're hard working parents too and we want to see parents getting the most value for their hard earned vacation dollars. So how do you know if the resort or vacation package you're looking at is truly is all inclusive or not?
Well, now you have the list of all inclusive resort features in the beginning of this article so that's one place to start. You will need to get out your magnifying glass and start reading thru all the legalese and fine print when you're shopping. Be sure to get a WRITTEN price quote that spells out EXACTLY what you'll be getting on any all inclusive vacation packages that peak your interest. If a travel company refuses to give you the written quote you ask for - run! If you're pricing all inclusive packages at an online website, often you won't get to see all the inclusions or small print until you've entered a credit card, right before you hit that final "book" button. Every all inclusive resort has unique features, services and local rules that they must abide by. There may be seasonal changes, construction or closures during your travel dates. It takes work to be fully informed.
The easy way to find out if you're really getting a great deal on an all inclusive resort vacation is to work with an experienced travel agent.
The MOST IMPORTANT feature included in the price of an all inclusive vacation is the cost of using the professional vacation planning expertise of an experienced travel agent!
It's our job to shop and find your best vacation values, explain all the fine print, avoid hassles and to help you fully understand exactly what you're paying for in the price of your vacation. As you can see from our website photos, our staff personally travels to the hotels we recommend and collects feedback from returning families. We have the experience to make sure you select the best resort that matches your family's needs, wishes and budget. We have insider tips, contacts and suggestions that will enhance your vacation experience. Our goal is to sell Vacations. Our goal is to exceed our client's expectations so that we can be a part of their family's vacation adventures for many years to come.