Recently, my high school best friend got married... on the beach in Rivera Maya, Mexico no less. Naturally, my family and I jumped at the invitation to celebrate their love... while simultaneously seizing the opportunity to take a much needed vacation. Despite my obsessive organization and passion for all things travel, my parents took on the majority of trip planning (while dealing with my not-so-subtle suggestions). The result: a five day stay in an all inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen. I had never stayed at an all inclusive resort up until this point, and honestly I was very skeptical. What does "all inclusive" really mean? Does the quality of your stay decrease with the extra amenities? Do these resorts stand up to the hype?
While the amenities and convenience make them especially alluring, all inclusive resorts are not the perfect option for everyone's travel style. So, let's break down the pro's and con's of all inclusive resorts:
What can I say... It's a tough job but someone has to do it!
Pro: All you can eat + drink.
This was the number one selling point for me! Most resorts are teeming with what seems to be an endless selection of bars and restaurants. While I was initially nervous about eating at the exact same place all the time, it was hard to argue with the variety and number of places to indulge in as much or as little as you'd like.
Food is one of the biggest things I plan my vacations around. Particularly if I am going out of the country. I believe that food is a glimpse into the unique character of another culture... which means I take my dinner plans very serious. The food at an all inclusive resort made me slight feel like I was on a stationary cruise ship. It is good, but nothing I would remember long after the meal. And it is typically served buffet style to accommodate as many guests as possible (in a cafeteria-esc setting), which can make authentic meals and intimate settings few and far between. P.S. Don't worry, I got my authentic tacos and margarita fix at a local beach joint in Tulum.
Navigating an unfamiliar country with a different language is very intimidating. The resort made getting a safe transport to and from the airport very easy and ensured that the language barrier would not be an issue. Also, staying at a resort meant that we didn't have to worry about stoking up on stacks, exchanging dollars for pesos, or finding our own public transportation. Everything we needed was at our finger tips which made the relaxation part of vacation a whole lot easier!
One the flip side, it can be more difficult to plan an excursion outside of the resort forcing you to result in the concierge service for your bookings. This is great to take some of the planning off of your hands. However, most resorts have long standing agreements with particular excursion companies which commonly results in a smaller selection, less authentic options, and more expensive prices!
Massages on the beach. Sunrise yoga. Complimentary room service. Lazy river (swan float included). And for those of you traveling with kids, full service day care. Need I say more? I didn't think so.
While the buzz of constant excitement and activity can be attractive to some, I would recommend avoiding all inclusive resorts for those of you looking for a little alone time. Resorts for the most part are always in season - meaning there are very few months where the crowds die down. If you are seeking a more relaxing, more adult friendly vibe, I would consider looking into booking the adults only section of the resort (most offer this).
The bottom line? Just as with any accommodation choice, there are always pros and cons. Ultimately, your decision should depend on the experience you want from your travels. And if you need help creating that perfect experience... well, you know where to find us!
Stay wild travelers, Robin