All-Inclusive Pricing or Hotel-Only?

  • 01 of 05

    Which meals are included?

    Crab cake
    lucydphoto/Moment/Getty Images

    One of the first questions to ask about any all-inclusive offer relates to meal plans. How many meals are included?

    Some all-inclusive offers will exclude certain meals. There are also likely to be specific times in which the meals can be taken. Meals offered at times that don't fit your other plans could become a problem -- and missing them is really not practical, because you've already paid for them.

    Most budget travelers know that on cruise ships, alcoholic beverages often are not included in a rate that is billed as all-inclusive by most lines. There are packages on cruise ships for buying alcoholic beverages that can be purchased as extras, but aside from those options, you'll pay extra for all drinks that aren't water, iced tea or coffee. If this is important to you, make sure you ask about the policy on alcoholic beverages.

    Another matter: will your all-inclusive meal plans entitle you to eat in all of the resort's restaurants? Some of these offers exclude the best (most expensive) dining spots, sending the all-inclusive crowd to snack bars and buffet lines.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    What nearby dining options are available?

    Beach cabanas and tables in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Before you agree to an all-inclusive deal that covers meal plans, you should do some research about dining options in area adjacent to the hotel or resort.

    In a place like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, there are scores of good restaurants in a relatively small geographic area. You might miss out on some excellent dining opportunities by signing up for meal plans that send you to the same place every day.

    But other locations such as Boquete, Panama, dining options could be fewer in number and inconvenient to reach.

    It's important to check with previous guests or the local visitors bureau about restaurants within walking distance or a short taxi ride from the hotel.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Which activities are included?

    Volleyball on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    For many hotels and resorts, the phrase all-inclusive means your room rate and meal plans are covered. But what about other activities you might expect at a resort?

    Are green fees included or at least discounted? What about tennis or water-based activities like kayaking, snorkeling or fishing?

    It is never wise to assume all or any of these activities will be covered in an all-inclusive agreement. Find out if hotel-only rates include these extras. If not, chances are good you'll still have to pay for these activities in an all-inclusive offer.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Is there entertainment for chidren and adults?

    Entertainment for children should be part of your all-inclusive experience.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    Large resorts usually offer a "Kid's Club" or some similar program aimed at entertaining children. A question to ask: how many of those activities are open in an all-inclusive pricing offer?

    Some resorts with all-inclusive pricing plans don't include anything for children that wouldn't be available with a standard room rate. The same could be true for adults seeking evening entertainment.

    If you'll have to leave the resort for nightlife, is it really that convenient to eat your evening meal on the property?

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    What other perks are offered?

    Find out which perks are offered with the all-inclusive deal.
    (c)Mark D. Kahler

    The people selling an all-inclusive option might be under pressure to meet a quota. While this won't always be the case, the fact is that you are spending more money on the property than those with a hotel-only pricing arrangement.

    Since deciding between hotel-only and all-inclusive pricing is a negotiation, it's only natural to ask if there are incentives for choosing the latter option.

    For example, will there be any free meals or snacks included? Any discounts in the gift shops? What about free rides to the airport or to the center of the city?

    Another perk-related issue: will you earn extra loyalty points? After all, you're spending more money than those with hotel-only arrangements. Why not at least inquire about extra points or a room upgrade?

    As always, it never hurts to ask.