A Guide to All-Inclusive Resorts

An all-inclusive resort is an interesting concept. Behavioural finance shows that people would rather pay a little more if they know it will place a ceiling on their spending and, to an extent, feel “free” because the payment was made long ago. It removes the worry of our spending whilst on holiday – we no longer need to weigh up if we should or shouldn’t order the steak – which is conducive to relaxing a nice vacation.

When looking at Iberostar’s Dominican Republic all-inclusive resorts, it’s clear that all-inclusive perform very well when targeted toward the luxury market. But, is it always the right choice, and what mistakes can we avoid when booking them?

Defining all-inclusive

The first challenge when booking an all-inclusive holiday is that not everyone shares the same definition. Some believe it includes the room, food, and drink. But, some may prohibit alcohol from this, some may limit the daily amounts, and some have absolutely no restrictions whatsoever – meaning it’s cocktails for breakfast. 

A common restriction is that only local spirits are included, whilst imported ones cost extra. And, a la carte restaurants within the hotel may cost, with just the morning and evening buffets being free.

This is often where it ends. But, some luxury all-inclusive may be more generous in what they offer you for free when it comes to services. Water sports, golf, the gym, and spas are up in the air – it’s difficult to know if they will be free without additional reading or contacting the hotel.

Our advice here is that, whatever you think you will want to use on a daily basis, make sure it’s included. If that means cocktails, so be it. There’s no need to be half in, half out when it comes to all-inclusive, as that defeats the purpose of walking around without your wallet.

Is it worth the money?

This is of course a hotly debated topic. The truth is that all-inclusive hotels operate on a similar profit margin to normal hotels. What does that tell us? We can generalise this to mean that the average person is getting similar value whether it’s all-inclusive or not. But, are you the average person? Perhaps you have two young children, which in that case, it’s a bit of a waste as they will not be consuming much food or any alcohol. But if you’re indulgent, you may be “quids in”.

Secondly, it depends on what else you have planned for the holiday. Where you begin to lose this good value is when you start eating out at restaurants in town because you’re site-seeing. All-inclusive should be relied upon, and thus, a resort-style holiday where you don’t feel the need to leave or have nights out elsewhere.

Finally, as mentioned with the psychological advantage of all-inclusive: even if the value is similar, this doesn’t make it pointless.

Is tipping expected?

Some say that tipping is a little more expected in an all-inclusive resort than elsewhere, but we have to disagree. If you’re in the US or a similar country that expects tips, then all-inclusive hotels will generally expect them too. But, many all-inclusive resorts around the world actually prohibit tipping. 

Ultimately, if you’re here because you don’t want to pay for each drink item, then don’t tip for each drink item… Cruises are a little different, as they do expect tips, and sometimes (albeit laughably redundantly) place them into the bill for you.

Where are the best hotel resorts?

As touched on earlier with the Dominican Republic, it is generally the Caribbean islands that really know how to run an all-inclusive resort, not to mention the luxury and idyllic surroundings too. If you want a beach-style luxury resort, look no further.

For those looking for a budget option, then Spain and Greece hosts a lot of options in tourist towns. But be wary, they may attract a party crowd. Turkey, however, is often great value when it comes to resorts. Not all countries have many all-inclusive hotel options, though.

Ultimately, it is Mexico and the Caribbean that dominate in the mid-to-luxury all-inclusive market.

Summary

To summarise, it is possible to get better value from an all-inclusive hotel than elsewhere, but it comes with some caveats. Firstly, make sure that it includes alcohol, if you enjoy a drink, and secondly, it’s perhaps not worth it if you love a la carte meals, trying out different restaurants and local food, or have children with small appetites.

An all-inclusive holiday means more than just food and drink. If you’re relying on this resort to feed you, then you will rely on it to entertain you. So, this isn’t a good option if you’re intending on visiting the local town a lot and exploring further afield. This is a place to cater to all of your needs for a week or two.

What say you?
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