All Inclusive Vacations have never been defined properly! It's my goal with this article to help set your expectations and provide a guide to finding the best resort setting for your needs! What does it mean?
All inclusive can mean many things….and I mean MANY things! What you want to find is the “traditional” all inclusive.
The traditional all inclusive vacation consists of a minimum of three meals daily, all drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), tips, taxes, daily activities, nightly entertainment, and your chosen accommodations. With this plan, you’ll know the overwhelming majority of potential costs are included! It’s stress free knowing you can pop your wallet or purse in a safe and start enjoying the resort unconditionally.
I must inform you that the traditional all inclusive forms the basis for this concept and the options have become endless as you progress up the ladder in terms of cost. I’ll discuss later the rise of the “luxury included” vacation!
Since the term “all inclusive” is used rather loosely in the media and some travel circles, I’ll endeavor to explain the variations that have crept into the mix.
First of all, we have the term “inclusive”! That should be your first warning!
If it doesn’t start with “all” and end in “inclusive” this would be a red flag in my opinion. Marriott is a great example when talking about “inclusive” packages. Their Caribbean properties feature an “add-on” (additional cost added to the base hotel rate) option called the Escape Inclusive. Under the Escape option, you’ll be limited as to where you can eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In addition, some menu items may have a surcharge at dinner. Certain drinks are included but others will be at an additional charge. Use of sports facilities may be included but sports equipment use may not!
My friends, we have just stumbled onto what our VP of E-Commerce and I coined as the term “conditionally” or "conditional" all inclusive. Several years ago, we were sitting at the bar at the Me Cancun at around 11:45pm….Yes, at the bar at 11:45pm. We had been out working late and sat down to relax for a few minutes. It was at that very moment that the bartender came over and said “Last call!”. I asked them what time they closed and I believe he said 1 or 2….So, being curious, we asked “It’s last call?” and he replied that it wasn’t last call but last call for the all inclusive plan! If we wanted a drink after midnight, we had to pony up some cash!!!! This is when it hit me that more and more conditions were creeping into some of the so-called “all-inclusive” plans. To be fair, they called it the Complete Me plan. So I go back to my original point…you’ll want to find a traditional all inclusive vacation plan to get the best bang for your buck.
I guess this is where I need to make a statement before delving further into this subject. Please use a travel agent! You’ll be glad you did. If you knew all that I know, it’s tough….really tough to wade through all of the options. Did you know that we sell over 350 all inclusive resorts and we don’t even offer all that exist? And I will be the first to admit….I don’t even know all of the inclusions or exclusions at all of these resorts! It’s best to have someone do the research for you and match the budget with the best value for your particular tastes. I’ve been traveling to all inclusive resorts for over 20 years and something is always changing!
At this point I need to interject :) …… Ocean cruises. Traditional ocean cruises are NOT all inclusive. If you’ve ever been on one, you’ll know what I am talking about. Drinks are extra, tips are extra, specialty restaurants are not included, and a host of other services…I’ll address cruises later in the book J
On to the more comprehensive vacations….The rise of luxury vacations in the all-inclusive arena has pushed the level of experience off the charts! You’ll find beach and pool butlers, concierge service, 24 hour room service, gourmet cuisine from renowned chefs, inclusive excursions, complimentary spa treatments, private airport transfers, VIP lounges, exclusive beach area and much more!
You’ll find the following terms popping up when you are searching for that ideal vacation:
Gourmet Inclusive- Karisma Hotels adopted this term for their focus on gourmet food and drink, along with a luxury approach to the all inclusive vacation. This IS a traditional all inclusive, even though they don’t say “all” in the title. Another reason to use a knowledgeable travel agent!
Luxury Included- This is a term used by Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts to describe their comprehensive all inclusive plan. These chains include motorized water sports like scuba that are hard to find at other resorts. Golf is also included at a number of their resorts. A tip here: There are luxury resorts in this chain and also some that I would consider more mid-range. Sandals Exuma, Sandals Grenada and Beaches Turks and Caicos are top picks from this hotelier!
Unlimited Luxury- From the folks over at Secrets Resorts , Dreams and Zoetry Resorts…. This phrase was developed to set their product apart from the competition. There is a varying degree of luxury within these chains. Some resorts are brand new and some are older hotels that have been given a facelift. Find that travel agent! Any Zoetry, Secrets Maroma, Secrets the Vine and Dreams Riviera Cancun are top notch!
Is anyone confused yet?
Since there is all this buzz about luxury all inclusive and many names have been associated with it, let's use the following term to define it....
Opulent Inclusive - Webster's defines "opulent" as "amply or plentifully provided or fashioned often to the point of ostentation". And to follow... "ostentation" is defined as "excessive display". The reason I chose this term is easy! To separate a resort from the masses, a luxury hotel needs to be opulent. And sometimes excessive in lavishing you as a guest. Expensive decor, high-end cuisine with top-flight chefs, top shelf liquors that ARE included, a choice of more than one house red or one house white wine, butler service options, pool and beach wait staff, 24 hour room service, VIP treatment and expansive public areas are a few of the requirements.
Top Picks for Luxury: The top luxury hotel offering all inclusive vacations is the Grand Velas Riviera Maya! They have received the AAA Five Diamond Award since 2010. Only 150 of 60,000 sites visited by AAA have received this award! You also might want to check out Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun, another Five Diamond Award Winner! And the sister Grand Velas property, Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit in the Puerto Vallarta area is an opulent choice! I highly recommend the previously discussed Karisma Resorts, Sandals and Beaches and the offerings from Secrets, Dreams and Zoetry.