The Deal Mommy

My Thoughts on All-Inclusive Resorts

My 2nd bowl of Gazpacho at lunch. Because I could.

My 2nd bowl of Gazpacho at lunch. Because I could.

Now that dreary rain has replaced warm Beaches I’m ready to share my thoughts. This post is about my impressions of all-inclusives in general. Of course I’m viewing AI resorts through the lens of Beaches Turks and Caicos but I think I have a pretty good idea what is specific to Beaches and what is AI across the board. I’ll approach Beaches in another post. I also want to make sure to address your questions about AI because you had some great ones. If I miss any, please let me know in the comments.

    • All-Inclusive is for those times when you want “vacation”. If you want any sort of culture, AI is not for you. Your most involved decision will be choosing which pool to visit next.
    • If you like cruises, you’ll like all-inclusives. I heard a guest describe it as a “cruise ship on land” and I agree.
    • Location is pretty much irrelevant; I would choose the nicest resort in the easiest to get to location.  You’re really going for the sand, sea and babysitter. Don’t make it too complicated.
    • Activities are probably a lot less important than you think.  It’s hot. The beach and pools are lovely. You’re on vacation. Waiters come by with mai tais on a regular basis. Chances are you’ll do 1/2 the kayaking, surfing, and trekking you think you’ll do.
    • I would go high-end or not at all, especially when kids are involved. Luxury AI vs Lower scale AI is not Vendoming because you never leave the resort. Your entire experience: food, daycare, customer service, etc. is raised or lowered based on the resort you choose. For couples I think the calculation is a bit different.  I’m thinking as much about childcare as some of the other elements.  I MIGHT be willing to downscale food, etc., but I won’t scrimp on the quality of the kid’s program.
    • I’ve never had a worse case of Gilded Cage Syndrome.  GCS, or 5 star disease, is the strange affliction that scrubs your brain of all motivation to do anything but stay in the Most. Amazing. Spot. Ever. For me it was here:
The view from my gilded cage: a 4 corner hammock.

The view from my gilded cage: a 4 corner hammock.

  • That said, I would choose the lowest level room possible. I would never say that on a cruise, but it’s so easy to walk to the nearest coffee bar and grab a chair facing the ocean that I don’t see paying for the upgrades.
  • Even the lowest room possible is going to be pricier than you will possibly imagine. I’ll go into Beaches’ pricing during the specific review, but you pay to play.
  • Hard core travel hackers will find little to love about all-inclusive resorts.  If you only travel on hotel points, feel free to skip this post as AI’s (with the exception of Hyatt) are pretty hard to hack. Unless you break out convertible points, you’ll have to dole out the cash. There are a couple of  (poor value for a credit pull) co-branded credit cards and Sandals/Beaches has a rewards program that gives a free week after 70 nights (cumulative) , but that’s about it.
  • Diversity might be an issue. I notice the staff disparity on cruise ships too but think it’s worth noting. It seems the management at many cruise lines and all-inclusives is almost entirely European and the staff is almost entirely Caribbean and Asian. I wondered if it was just me so asked a friend of color and before I could get my question out she answered “yes”. No one noticed any ill treatment at all, but the optics are there.

I’m sure you’re going to ask the bottom line question: would you go again or, more importantly, would you recommend it?

Would I recommend All Inclusive Resorts? Yes, with qualifications. I think all-inclusive can actually be good value for a few specific groups of people, which is a post of its own.

Would I go again? Surprisingly, I would (again, with qualifications). Not the answer I was expecting to give when I left. I’ll go into detail as to why soon.





18 thoughts on “My Thoughts on All-Inclusive Resorts

  1. Too Nashty

    I think you can travel hack all-inclusives more easily if you can find a chain. Typically rooms are astronomical but the points required are obviously by tier (i.e. no point markup for AI). We booked the Hilton in Montego Bay for 50k points a night all inclusive, compared to $600 per night for 4 people. I’ll take 1.2% return on my HHonors Points all day. We put a hurt’in on that open bar and they let you smoke anywhere, except the hotel lobby (go figure.)

  2. Trevor

    Dia – I really enjoyed this. It makes me really want to go to one of the Hyatt All Inclusives. I just need to figure out which of the two (MBJ or CUN) is easier to get to… Because I think your point of — easiest to get to is well taken (considering in the past I’ve gone 2 hours from the airport just to get to a resort, I’m kind’ve over that).
    I’m concerned on your comment of “pay to play” — and lack of comment on the quality of the food… from some of your tweets, the food looked great.
    And I’m sure I’m misinterpreting this but, wow, 70 nights a year at Sandals seems like a lot to get a free week….

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks, Trevor. Food quality is one big reason I wouldn’t go lower. Even at this level, I had hits and misses.

      7 free nights after 70 (cumulative, NOT in a year!) is 10%, which I don’t think is bad.

  3. Leana@ Milesforfamily

    Glad you enjoyed it! I’m hoping to try out AI one of these days. It’s funny you said that AI are a “cruise ship” on land. You can also say that cruise ship is an “AI in the sea,” no? 🙂
    I do look forward to your posts that go into more detail. Vacation, travel… Who cares about definitions? As long as you have fun, that’s all that matters. And how can you not, with all those mixed drinks all over the place?

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      Thanks! I did enjoy it…but as you’ll see in future posts I’m still struggling to make the math work for everyone.

  4. projectx

    “you never leave the resort.”

    I hear this about AI resorts a lot, and I don’t understand it. Sure, your resort should have a lot to offer, if you don’t leave the resort you’re missing out. My first AI was in Punta Cana and we went on two separate 6-hour tours away from the resort. Those were the best two days of the trip. We did a snorkeling tour that launched from the resort, but we were still off resort property. I love the beach but I can’t imagine just sitting on the sand every day for a full week.

    1. thedealmommy Post author

      It’s Gilded Cage Syndrome, but the cage is acres of acres of beauty, food, and decadence!

      I count things like snorkeling and organized tours as “on the resort” because they’re resort run, so the quality of the property counts.

      1. projectx

        Actually two of the tours we took were not resort run. Even if they were, one took us over an hour away into the mountains, the other around all different areas of the country. Local neighborhoods, bars, markets, etc. Not exactly “on the resort”. The resort we stayed at was gorgeous, we loved it there. But no matter how amazing a resort is, my curiosity and craving for adventure would never let me stay within those walls 7 straight days.

  5. David

    There’s a few AI Hilton’s in Egypt on The Red Sea that are only 20k/night! They’re not super expensive generally on cash either but considering how easy it is to amass high 6 figures of Hilton points, you can live out there for free…

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  8. mintcilantro

    never been to all inclusives but after going to a vegas buffet, I realized that it would not be for me. I value quality over quantity and I think most all inclusives are the opposite. I will try the hyatt all inclusives just to confirm

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