Honest Review of the All-Inclusive Resort Model
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Last month Nick and I had the pleasure of going to Mexico with 3 of our best couple friends. This was not only our first group trip at an actual resort (previously we have stayed in homes), but also our first one with a baby in tow! (Sadly she didn’t make any of our group photos!) We ended up going with an all inclusive resort, because we didn’t want the responsibility of cooking and just wanted to relax! Prior to this trip, Nick and I had been to places that offered all inclusive services (Jade Mountain in Saint Lucia and Mukan Resort south of Tulum to name a couple.), but we had never opted into those services exclusively and had never been to an “all inclusive only” resort together. (Nick has actually been to a couple all inclusive resorts with his friends and family. I have been on a cruise, which is basically all-inclusive, just on a ship!)
To be honest, going to an all-inclusive resort worried us. The amount of money it was… The quality of food they are known to have… (we are major foodies!) The lack of adventure… If you are reading this, you probably are similar to us or are at least curious about the all-inclusive resort model. To give you some background, we typically look for boutique, one-of-a-kind experiences. (aka not all-inclusive resorts) The main reason we don’t normally pay for all inclusive meal plans is because we don’t need that much food or alcohol! We also typically share meals (we order enough, don’t worry!) and even with doing that, the total bill doesn’t come close to the all-inclusive rate. Also, we like to get out and explore! We like to dine in the local spots during our trips, so we can really get a feel for the location.
Nick’s Shirt | Nick’s Hat is Tenth Street Hats (c/o)
No Cooking. Duh! Super easy and no cleanup for you!
No Bills. Okay, well no bills until the final bill is paid! It was super nice to not have to worry about splitting a check 4 ways, venmo-ing people later, or even having to worry about tipping! I truly made it feel like a vacation.
Alcohol. I was actually kind of worried that I wouldn’t like the alcohol that was included in the package. While I didn’t enjoy the house wine (except the rosé!), I had really yummy jalapeño margaritas! The ability to swim up to a bar and order a drink, while not having to fish out money or an ID was GLORIOUS.
Easy for Kids. I remember my old boss telling me that they liked to go to all-inclusive resorts because it was so much easier when you have kids and especially traveling with other families. I totally get that! The food is there when you need it. The room is there for nap time when you need it. The kid swim area is there when you need it. It makes sense!
More Money. Or at least it felt like more money to me and Nick. Or maybe we spend a similar amount, but just on actual experiences. (or wine! hah!)
Excluded Alcohol. Not sure if this is every all-inclusive, but some of the alcohol was not included, mainly the wine. If you wanted to order a bottle, it was extra. Period. If you wanted anything but a glass of the house wine, it was extra too. I will say that I didn’t go to Mexico to drink wine. I went to Mexico to drink Margs. BUT, Mexico does make some yummy wine, so it would have been nice to have a glass or two with dinner one night.
No Adventure. We considered taking a ferry to a different beach one day, but decided not to. You can tack on experiences, but like guac, they are extra. You can also obviously leave the resort, but not only does it cost money to taxi elsewhere, you’re paying for food and drinks that were already paid for! I know people who have done this, but it doesn’t really financially make sense.
Reservations in Advance. If you’re going to a big all-inclusive resort, chances are you need reservations for the different restaurants, especially if there is a specific one you want to be sure to visit. Smaller resorts with all-inclusive options, generally have 1 restaurant, 1 cafe maybeee, and then of course room service. Either way, it is nice to have a specific reservation time that you know is yours!
Food. You don’t go to all-inclusive resorts for their food. You go for the ease! I will say that we didn’t have any terrible food while we were there, but just as a personal preference,I wish there was more authentic Mexican food offered! I could eat bean quesadillas and fresh barbacoa ALL DAY. There really isn’t an option for that type of cuisine, but then again, if you want a truly Mexican experience, you probably aren’t staying at an all-inclusive.
For this vacation, we stayed at Paradisus in Play del Carmen. This post is not a review or reflection of that property, but really about the all-inclusive resort model overall. The location we went to is half adults only and half family friendly. We hung out on both sides of the property, since we had a baby in the group. I wish the sides were closer, but I understand why they aren’t. We used both adult pools and kid friendly pools and liked both options! We had a great time and I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything else! If you’re headed to this specific property, Mole (New Age Mexican) and Bana Hibachi were our favorite restaurants. We wish we could have gone back and eaten at the sushi restaurant portion of Bana, but we didn’t have time. We did the lobster tail sushi roll in the hibachi room, but you had to pay extra for it. It was phenomenal though! If you’re headed to that property, be sure to make reservations at those two restaurants.
So what do I think of all-inclusive resort models? What is my recommendation? Depends on what kind of vacation you are looking for! Are you traveling with kids? 100% recommend it. Looking for a relaxing vacation where you can focus on relaxation, quality time, and friendship? 100% recommend it. If you’re looking for adventure and fully packed days, I probably wouldn’t do an all-inclusive, unless you are staying at one of the boutique-style offerings. When we were in Saint Lucia, we did dine at Jade Mountain (AMAZING food), but we also ate at other resorts and in the city. South of Tulum last summer, we really only ate at Mukan, with the exception of driving through Tulum and eating there, but we ordered À La Carte.
Overall we had a great trip and were able to get much needed relaxation and friendship time in thanks to the all-inclusive resort model! Are all-inclusive resorts worth the money? What’s the market value for forever memories with your friends? #priceless
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