When I was much younger, advertisements for ClubMed made me yearn for the time and money to visit exotic locales that offered everything included in one price. All of your food and room and things to do such as snorkeling, diving, sailing as well as all-you-could-drink were all part of a package deal.
Now 60-plus years later, all-inclusive resorts worldwide exist in large part because of the ClubMed model. The current all-inclusive properties now exist in many forms and on many islands with 2017 sales projected to exceed $150 million worldwide.
Though they vary from hotel to hotel, typically all-inclusive rates include the flight, room, meals, beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and non-motorized water sports. The term all-inclusive may be misleading because some resorts do not include spa treatments or golf, which can sometimes catch guests off-guard. More surprising is when hotels don’t include premium liquor, Wi-Fi, or an a la carte restaurant in the pricing. Usually newer and more upscale properties have more amenities included.
The best choices for all-inclusive properties, in my opinion, are Jamaica, Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), and Mexico (Cancun and Riviera Maya). Columbus has daily flights that offer both chartered and scheduled air service. Leave early morning and be on the beach by early afternoon. It couldn’t get much easier to get away for your honeymoon or destination wedding, spring break, or family reunion.
There are many different types of all inclusive: family-friendly, adult-only, gay-friendly, couples-only, and clothing-optional resorts. Activities vary also with some having lots of evening entertainment, and a casino, with others offering a chance to catch up on your reading and spa treatments. I can send you to a resort with a pro to improve your golf or tennis game, or to get your dive certifications. You have lots of choices.
I recently visited a very popular resort that focuses on newlyweds. My room was in the back of the property, close to the employee parking lot, with no chance of seeing the beach, let alone listening to the waves hit the shore. I certainly wouldn’t book honeymooners in that room category, but this property offers over 28 room categories and is confusing to book if you are not familiar with it. You may think you are getting a romantic over-the-water bungalow and show up to find are on the sixth floor of a hotel that has beach access by hiking half a mile. I always strive to make sure I know what you’re dreaming of for your perfect vacation, and then choose a resort and location that reflects your dreams perfectly. One size does not fit all.
While the accommodations might be confusing, evaluating a resort on the food is usually much easier. I look for several restaurants and dining choices; you didn’t travel hundreds of miles to eat every meal at a buffet. Most resorts have Italian, Japanese, and steakhouse restaurants along with the buffet, but the quality varies greatly, depending on the overall price of the resort. Some resorts offer exchange privileges with a sister property in the area, so you can visit their beaches and pools and dine in their restaurants. There may be shuttles to take you back and forth, or you might be responsible for that cost, depending on the property.
The takeaway? Do your research before you book. Check out the atmosphere (party-centric, family friendly, adult only, or relaxed luxury) and the features/amenities included in the price in order to find the best resort for your style. Let the fun begin.
Marci DeWitt owns a local travel agency, Anchor and Away Travel, a Dream Vacations franchise. She can be reached by email at mdewitt@DreamVacations.com.