You've heard the term all-inclusive, but what does it really mean? Definitions vary, but a true all-inclusive rate is just that: One flat fee covers your room plus all meals, unlimited drinks, entertainment, tips, taxes, airport transfers, and a list of activities (most with instruction and equipment) as long as the train of a wedding dress. Some even include weddings! What's not included: airfare, gift shop goodies, departure taxes, and phone calls. (Cruises do not include soda, alcoholic drinks, or tips.) Off-site excursions, rental cars, and spa treatments are usually not included except as part of a package.
- All-inclusive rates save you up to 25% off the cost of a vacation! All-inclusives in Mexico and the Dominican Republic tend to be cheaper than other Caribbean locales; resort rates in Asia, Africa, India, and the Pacific are relatively low for comparable services but the airfare may gobble up any savings.
- No budget-busting surprise costs or charges.
- No foraging in your pocket for a tip every two seconds (you won't even need a pocket).
- You have the opportunity to try sports (or drinks!) you've always been curious about for free. Complimentary activities vary by resort and cruise, but some examples include snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing, waterskiing, kayaking, canoeing, volleyball, basketball, rock climbing, tennis, racquetball, squash, and lawn chess (ubiquitous on the islands).
- Golf lovers and diving divas can putt and paddle to their heart's content. Rates that include golf often cover transfers, green fees, and instruction. Club rental, carts, and mandatory caddies are extra. Diving perks include resort certification, tanks, and transportation. Wet-suit rental may be extra. Read the fine print.
- The dress code. In warm climes, all you'll need is a bathing suit and flip-flops. Shedding clothing, bulky bags, purses, and worries is positively uplifting.
- Great gift-ability. Thanks to its neat-and-tidy price tag, an all-inclusive trip makes an easy gift.
- Tying the knot couldn't be easier. Weddings are free at some resorts (minimum-night requirements apply); most have wedding packages and on-site wedding planners.
- Keep in mind that if all your creature comforts are included in one price and satisfied on site, you will be less likely to venture out and experience unique island cuisine and culture (if you're on a remote coast, however, an all-inclusive plan will save you lots of time and trouble).
- Then there's the potential boredom: The same restaurants day after day can get old. Look for resorts with room service, oodles of eateries, sister properties nearby (so you might enjoy both facilities), or dine-around programs with nearby resorts.
- Last but not least, misanthropes should steer clear. All-inclusives offer secluded corners but encourage interaction.
Here's a sampling of one-price-buys-all options. Countless individual properties around the world also offer all-inclusive rates. Book through a travel agent, who can secure the same rates you'd be quoted if you booked direct and can often sweeten the deal with free upgrades and airfare discounts.