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Are All Inclusive Resorts Worth the Extra Cost?

all inclusive vacation

My family spent Thanksgiving at an all inclusive resort in Los Cabos, Mexico. Although we were out of the country, the resort certainly caters to American and Canadian tourists. We technically could have been anywhere in the U.S.; anywhere the weather was 85 degrees with an ocean anyway! Most of our vacations tend to be go go go, so this was a nice, relaxing break. Other than a few trips to the grocery store, we didn’t leave the resort at all. Was the extra cost of going all inclusive worth it?

Accommodations

At the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, basic rooms are just under 600 square feet! Ours had king size bed with another king size sofa bed, dining table and chairs, two closets, a huge bathroom with jacuzzi tub, rainfall shower, and double sinks. We also had a large balcony and were upgraded to an ocean view. Although we didn’t spend a ton of time in the room, having that much space was very nice. Most of our room time was spent sleeping or out on the balcony.

The area where we stayed in San Jose del Cabo was devastated by Hurrican Odile last year, so everything was brand new. I’m not sure what it looked like before, but all the furnishings in the room and on the grounds were top notch.

Pools

There were two huge main pools, one with a swim up bar where we spent most of our time. The resort also had a pools on vacationkids’ pool with water slides and a splash zone that poured torrents of water to play under. There was an enormous adults only pool that looked amazing, but I was only able to soak my toes in that one for a second. Maybe someday!

The pool area also had two hot tubs, tons of comfy chairs with umbrellas, and several tiki huts and pergolas for those who don’t enjoy direct sunlight. I basically had to drag my child out of the pool to eat or go to dinner. Although once she figured out how to order from the swim up bar, I no longer had to worry about dehydration. It’s very odd to hear your 8 year old order a pina colada (virgin, of course) The staff was amazing at taking care of children with all the kid versions of tropical drinks.

Beach

beach vacationThe beach was one of the cleanest I’ve ever seen. There was no seaweed and it was very uncrowded. We weren’t able to swim because the waves are way too rough in that area, but we had fun walking, shell collecting, building sand castles, and watching all the crabs scurry around.

There were merchants selling all types of souvenirs, but they were not pushy once you told them no thank you.

Food

One of the best things about all inclusives is the food! If you have kids who eat a lot, it’s wonderful not to have to say no to whatever they want to try. We almost never order dessert when we go out to eat, but here, our daughter had cake or ice cream almost every day.

As Hyatt platinum members, we had access to premium liquors.  As we aren’t really big drinkers, this was probably a wasted benefit. The standard beach cocktails were just fine.  There was also a mini bar in our room stocked with soda, beer, and snacks that we had free access to. I thought this was another platinum perk until we met other families who did not have status but still had unlimited mini bar access.

The resort had tons of food options including fairly fancy Italian, French, Asian/Sushi, Spanish, ands steak house restaurants. There were also two buffet style restaurants that were open for all three meals. In addition, there were two snack bars, a coffee shop, and 24 hour deli. Even the most picky eaters should be able to find plenty of food.

Entertainment

Throughout the day, there were various activities offered all over the resort. Like the food, there was a bit of everything including trivia contests at the pool, beach volleyball and soccer, kid crafts and activities, Spanish lessons, yoga, and water aerobics. It rained on the last day of our trip, and I notice there were movies playing in the auditorium. I’m not sure if this was an everyday thing or because of the cloudy weather.

Each night at 8PM there was a kid’s program in the theater followed by a Las Vegas style show. We did two kid shows and attended a magician program. I thought they were a little cheesy, but our daughter loved them.

The resort also offers numerous paid excursions and spa treatments. You could end up spending quite a bit of money on those, depending on they type of vacation you’re looking for. Jim played golf once and I got a massage. Other than that, we were content to use the included amenities and activities.

How Much Did it Cost?

For us, this vacation was very affordable because we were able to book with credit card reward points. If we hadn’t had points, would we have shelled out for an all inclusive resort?

Thanksgiving tripNormal rates for the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos range from around $500-$1000 a night, depending on the season. Even with all the food, pools, and entertainment options, I’m not sure we would ever pay full price. Instead we would probably book the Hyatt Place that was right up the road for around $100 a night. We normally budget $60-$80 a day for food when on vacation, so the daily cost would still be much less than paying all inclusive rates.

We’ve stayed at several Hyatt Place hotels in the past. Their rooms are spacious and include a decent free breakfast, not luxury but more than adequate. They have a small pool that would not have provided nearly the amount of entertainment as the Ziva, but that only means we would have had to seek out other things in the area to do. Not as relaxing, but it would have still been fun.

I think all inclusive resorts can certainly be worth the cost in certain circumstances, but I’m very happy we’ve discovered how to use points that allow us to stay at luxury resorts for the price of budget hotels!

Do you think all inclusives are worth the cost? 

 

About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.

25 comments

  1. My husband and I have really enjoyed cruises in the past, and the all-inclusive sounds like a better deal if you’re going to do a lot of activities or drink a lot, plus you get a room bigger than a postage stamp. We’ll have to try it out.

    • It does depend on what type of vacation you are hoping for. We normally don’t eat that extravagantly on trips, so this was something new and exciting.

  2. Sounds like y’all had a great time overall Kim. We’re doing the Hyatt Zilara Cancun in May for our 15th and it’ll be our first all-inclusive. I believe the standard price is very similar to the Ziva, though we’re doing all points as well. I can’t imagine a time where I’d put down $1,000/night for a hotel so I’m glad to be doing it with points. We’ve done a few cruises in the past which are somewhat close though those were almost all out of pocket unfortunately.

    • I think you’ll love your trip. The service is beyond belief. You better eat lettuce and tofu the week before so you can indulge!

  3. I stayed at an all-inclusive in Jamaica with my husband for our wedding honeymoon. It was $2,400 for airfare and resort costs, so I’d say the resort was $1,600 for 8 nights for two people, which is $200 a night. We didn’t have a mini-bar in our room, but drinks and food were all included, and tipping was not expected. For that price range, I definitely prefer all-inclusive as the hotel room was fabulous and large and the entire resort was nice, plus we could swim in the ocean since it was the Caribbean. We did book through Costco Travel though, which I think is part of the reason we got such a good deal. We want to do another all-inclusive again, but we might look at getting a cash-back rewards card to make it cheaper. 🙂

  4. I guess it just depends what you’re into. I refer to try to live more locally when I travel to get more immersed, so you don’t really get that experience when you stay at that kind of place, but it does sound VERY relaxing!!

    • We never just sit and lounge by the pool, so this was a rare experience. Not something I’d want to do for every trip, but it was just what I needed this month.

  5. I love all-inclusive resorts. For me, it is just as much about convenience as it is about cost. We took the kids to their first all-inclusive for spring break this year, and it was such a HUGE RELIEF to not have to cook a million meals for everyone or argue over where to go out to eat. It felt like a real vacation.

    • It was so nice to not have to decide and not to have to say no. Want a milkshake and lemonade? fine. Want cake and cookies, that’s OK too. It wouldn’t be practical for all the time, but it was sure nice for a week.

  6. This sounds awesome! We did the JW Marriott in Cancun on points without all-inclusive and it was a bit stressful since everything at the JW costs an arm or a leg. I want to try all-inclusive in the future but we barely drink at all so we wouldn’t get a good value out of that. An A-I with no alcohol would be a good deal for us. What did it cost in points? I’m looking to change hotels for travel next year and Hyatt is currently the top choice.

    • For three people, it was 30,000 points per night, but we have the Hyatt Visa card that give two free nights at any Hyatt property so we used that for two of the nights plus 60k points. Some of the higher end Hyatts take lots of points, but I’ve never been disappointed.

      • That seems like a really good deal! I haven’t been able to book a good deal on resort Marriotts so it sounds like Hyatt might be better on that front. I’m actually looking forward to getting back on the road next year. I miss those points.

  7. My wife and I went to the all-inclusive Sun Palace in Cancun a few years ago and it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. We didn’t pay full price as we traded for it through my timeshare (yes, I’ve got one of those, but I’ve gotten great use out of it) and that made it a great value for us. If you’re looking for a relaxing trip, it’s certainly worth trying to see if it’s right for you.

  8. When we went to Cancun a few years ago it was an amazing experience. It was so hard to get used to everything being “free.” The trip was free to us so it really was free. I believe the cost per night was around $500-600 a night when reading through the information in our room. When we would go out to one of the seven in hotel restaurants we would look over the dessert list and take our time and the waiter would be impatient and say, “it’s free we’ll just bring them all.” I worked out everyday at the hotel gym and still gained weight. It was an incredible experience but I’d have to figure out the overall cost versus what I would spend on a regular vacation. The convenience of not having to search out meals was nice, but not sure I could afford it regularly. It if fun to experience if you haven’t done it before.

  9. I have experienced an all inclusive trip twice in my past-life when I won the corporate presidents club award along with a few hundred company wide co-workers. I didn’t pay for it but I have to say having everything inclusive in a wonderful resort was a relaxing experience. We have thought about doing a trip like this and your article does give me more incentive to get serious about doing so 2016.

  10. We stayed at Sandals for our honeymoon and it was such an incredible experience. We want to go back but as you quoted here the costs are quite high per night. I have churned credit cards in the past but it seems Chase (and probably others now) are being much more selective of who they allow to sign up for new cards.

  11. My husband and I did the Hyatt Zilara All-Inclusive in Cancun for New Year’s last year. And if we hadn’t used points, there would be no way we would have paid to stay there. We just don’t eat or drink enough to make the extra expense worthwhile. And we were pretty underwhelmed with the food while there. We probably would have been happier staying at a nice hotel and going out to eat instead of staying at the all-inclusive. But, we’re glad we gave it a try!

  12. When my boyfriend and I went to Cancun this past January, we were on the fence about the all-inclusive or not, and ultimately decided not to do it. I didn’t want to feel compelled to stay at the resort the entire time and pig out or drink a lot of crappy quality booze just to feel like I got my money’s worth. Instead, we opted for a discount plan at the hotel that included their breakfast buffet. We pigged out at breakfast (on purpose) and skipped lunch every day, and then just had a reasonable dinner somewhere, either on or off-site. A couple of the off-site places that we found on Yelp were the best! I swung by a liquor store and picked up a bottle of rum at the start of the trip, and made my cocktails in the hotel room and drank them on the balcony with the nice ocean view. We saved a lot by doing it our way, and I felt like we had more freedom, too.

  13. I actually love all inclusive resorts because my husband likes to have a few drinks and I like to eat and try different foods that I want. I like how you pay one fee upfront and not have to track how much to budget each day while vacationing. Although I do calculate how much it would be each day before booking and see if it’s worth it. Been wanting to go to Los Cabos too!

  14. We are actually spending Christmas at an all-inclusive in Mexico. For me and my hubby, we like to have a few drinks when we are on vacation and sometimes at resorts, the drink bills can get to be more than the food bills when you add taxes and gratuity. We like that the place that we’re going to has a lot of food and drink options but more than that it has a number of activities included with the resort cost so we know that we will be ahead all-in. I personally can’t wait.

  15. If you going with small children, then all inclusive resorts are best deals, because children don’t have discipline to enjoy economically,
    for adults which know what they want and not over eat themselves you can find cheaper solution,
    but not expect too much, if all inclusive cost 1.5K for two adults for 10 days, you can save top 200$ by taking normal hotel

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