I’m happy to help whenever I can and encourage you to do so with this Dear Deal Mommy series, as well as via facebook or twitter.
Apologies to my reader C. who reached out to me for advice on All-inclusive resorts, because I know my advice wasn’t what she was looking for. Here’s her question (edited for clarity):
I have a $2500 budget for a Thursday-Monday trip in May for a kid-free long weekend. I want great nightlife, he wants all-inclusive. I found a $2300 deal to Breezes in the Bahamas including air from WAS, and it seems like a great deal compared to the other resorts. Should I take it?
My short answer: H#ll No!
However, that doesn’t make much of a blog post, does it? So let me explain why I think all-inclusives are a TERRIBLE value proposition, no matter how many watered down mimosas you can drink. Let’s take this deal apart, piece by piece, and show how much more you get for your money if you do it yourself. I’m not even talking award nights or credit card bonuses here; just 10 minutes of surfing will save us hundreds. Hundreds that you can use to buy great booze if you’re so inclined.
First, let’s see what’s included in the “all-inclusive” so we’re comparing apples to apples. From Breezes.com I see the following list:
Unlimited dining in a variety of restaurants
Unlimited drinks including premium brand cocktails & wine
Land activities like rock climbing, tennis, beach volleyball & more
Water activities like sailing, windsurfing, kayaks & more
Nightly entertainment, live shows & more
Complimentary WiFi (in-room & throughout the resort)
No tipping allowed
And so much more!
Reading through the copious marketing, I see that the “Deluxe Accomodations” are standard (3.5 to 4 star from the picture) hotel rooms, the “Variety of restaurants” is 4 if you count poolside snacks as a restaurant, and the “so much more” includes sumo-suit wrestling (ok…). Taking out the airfare to Nassau ($790 on the dates I checked for 2), you’re paying $1500, or $375 a night for this “experience”.
My first thought is that you could get almost the exact same experience from a cruise for a lot less, and you’ll save on airfare because you only have to get to Florida. Doing a 5 second search on Priceline I find a 4 night cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines May 12-16 in an outside cabin for a total of $880 for 2, with airfare to Miami being $480, for a total of $1360. $940 is a LOT of booze and kayaking.
Want to stay firmly planted on the ground? No problem. Using the same airfare, let’s look at one of my favorites, The Comfort Suites at Atlantis, which has full usage of all Atlantis facilities. I find May 15-19 for an all-in rate of $935.60, again leaving over $130 A DAY for food and alcohol. Considering the Comfort Suites serves a (continental) breakfast and has a kitchenette, that’s more than enough left over, and you get to choose where you spend it!
I found these prices in 10 minutes with basic searches…imagine what we could do if we really put our minds to it! I haven’t even looked at condo rentals yet…
I get it. Some people just have to have the “package” experience. With this post, I just want to encourage you to step outside just a tiny bit and imagine what you else you could do. You might surprise yourself!
To give all inclusives their due, I see 2 instances where they might be cost-efficient:
1. Destination wedding. If the resort does it for free, I’m all in!
2. Childcare. You can also get childcare on a cruise, but for land, I can see the value if the kids are getting more than babysitting out of the deal.