Love 'Em or Hate 'Em, Here's What You Get in All-Inclusive Hotels

See what you get at all-inclusive hotels, and what you pay extra for

Le Blanc Spa Resort in Cancun
••• All glamour: this top-rated all-inclusive in Cancun. ©Le Blanc Spa Resort

What, Exactly, Is an All-inclusive Hotel?

An all-inclusive hotel (or all-inclusive plan) is a carefree form of hotel pricing. The guest pays one daily rate that includes the hotel expenses that are usually on top of the room rate: food and liquor; tips; activities; and more.

All-inclusive hotels have been popular since the 1960s, when Club Med's pioneering all-inclusives targeted the swinging singles crowd.

Since then, all-inclusives have been looked down upon by many luxury travelers. But times have changed. All-inclusives have gotten really nice. And many of us find we like not only the hotel, but all-inclusive pricing's no-worries ease and freedom.

Will All-Inclusive Hotels Be Your Style?

All-inclusives tend to be large resorts with a vast array of dining and recreational activities for guests to choose from. Many all-inclusives target honeymoon couples and the girl/guy getaway crowd. Some all-inclusives are for adults only; some have separate pools (or even wings) for families; and some are completely family-focused. Still other all-inclusives permit kids only during a few family weeks per year.

You will probably like staying at an all-inclusive if: you dislike signing a bill for everything you do at a hotel, and would prefer paying once; you're tired of paying hotel restaurant and bar bills; you like the idea of indulging in unlimited food and drink; you're ready for a resort where the staff is not angling for tips

You may not be the ideal prospect for an all-inclusive if: you can't help finding the entire concept downscale or distasteful; you're not a big eater or drinker, and don't want to pay for AYCE; or you're an oenophile who's not going to drink all-inclusives' typical Chilean wine or Cava bubbly; tipping individual staffers is something you like to do

In What Destinations Will You Find All-Inclusives?

All-inclusives proliferate in beach-resort areas where guests tend not to leave their hotel. The Caribbean and Mexico are bastions of all-inclusives. But "AIs" are found everywhere today, and are cropping up across the Mediterranean, Thailand, the South Pacific, and Brazil.

Some Really Famous Hotels Are All-Inclusive

Some of today's most famous, no-doubt-about-it luxury hotels are all-inclusive.  Some examples of five-star (or nearly five-star) resorts that are all-inclusive: Cap Juluca on Anguilla, Half Moon on Jamaica, Buccament Bay on St. Vincents, Jade Mountain on St. Lucia.

Some very exclusive and intimate boutique hotels are all-inclusive, too. Most wellness retreat and safari lodges are all-inclusive, too. 

OK, So What's Actually Included in All-Inclusive Pricing?

The following aspects of hotel life, which are charged a la carte by conventional hotels, are included and unlimited with your room rate at all-inclusive hotels.

• Breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, snacks (at refined restaurants with menu service as well as buffets)
• Resort bars, cafés, etc. (including pool and beach bars)
• Room service (usually 24-hour)
• Room minibar
• Group entertainment and activities (shows, clubs, lessons, contests, etc.)
• Non-motorized water sports equipment such as kayaks, windsurfers, snorkel masks & fins
• On-property shuttles such as golf carts
• Beach and pool loungers and towels
• In-pool scuba lesson
• Kids' club
• Gym use and fitness classes
• Room wifi and business center
• All tips

Sometimes Included at All-Inclusive Hotels

• Van transportation from and back to the airport
• Laundering of a few items
• Top-shelf liquor 
• Super-deluxe dining options such as lobster, foie gras, and caviar
• Regular shuttles to a nearby attraction or town
• Use of the hotel spa's hydrotherapy circuit of pools and baths
• Some butler services, such as unpacking and packing

Not Included at All-Inclusive Hotels (You Pay Extra):

• High-end wine with dinner
• Spa treatments (unless you're on a spa package)
• Golf at the resort course (unless you're on a golf package)
• Exclusive dining arrangements, such chef's table, wine cellar, table for two on the beach
• Motorized water sports such as jet-skiing
• Scuba diving
• Cabanas and beach beds
• Babysitters
• Personal trainers
• Off-property excursions 

About All-Inclusive Hybrids, or Semi-Inclusives

Here's a trend that shows how popular all-inclusive pricing has become.

Today, many luxury resorts with a la carte pricing also offer an all-inclusive rate, making these hotels halfway to all-inclusive status. 

All-inclusive Hotels Featured Here on TripSavvy

• In the Adirondacks of upstate New York: only 11 rooms in a former Rockefeller lodge, the exquisite The Point
• A bucket-list hotel in a legendary destination: Turtle Island Fiji, with only 14 cottages
• Also in Cancun, Mexico: a compact, chic resort with young, fashionable guests: Le Blanc Spa Resort
• Down the hotel strip, a chic, beach resort with great dining: Live Aqua Cancun 
• On the Riviera Maya, Mexico, an estate-like hacienda where every villa is right on the beach: Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita
• On the Dutch side of a winning Caribbean island, the adults-only Sonesta Great Bay Sint Maarten