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All-inclusive resorts guarantee a hassle-free vacation, but are they really worth it?

The thought of escaping colder weather to a warm, blissful retreat in the Caribbean, Mexico, or on the Florida Gulf Coast sounds perfect around this time of year. But the myriad of extras, such as transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment, can put a damper on your vacation, let alone your wallet. While warm-weather getaways are always an adventure, planning and paying for them, however, is not as exciting. Thankfully, there’s a solution that comes in the form of an all-inclusive resort.

All-inclusive is somewhat of a loaded concept and term, promising a hassle-free vacation at a bargain. From arrival to departure, these resorts practically guarantee to take care of all your needs—and all for one price. The idea is that you can leave your wallet behind, as your reservation basically pays for itself. Which means all the coastal fare and beachside cocktails your stomach can handle are all included. Yes, even some spa treatments, too. In fact, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is avoiding sunburn.

Sounds heavenly, right? Before you contact your travel agent or peruse TripAdvisor to search for an all-inclusive holiday trip, you should take some time to think about what you want out of your vacation, as well as the potential pitfalls of booking a trip to a destination that claims to, literally, have it all.

Do these resorts really give you more bang for your buck? Read on to find out if the vacation of your dreams awaits you at an all-inclusive resort.

Pros:

  • Everything (mostly) is included - The resort provides the wristbands, and everything else is at your disposal. The pool, beach, food, and complimentary piña coladas are all yours to access during your stay, without you ever having to break out the cash or credit card.
  • They’re conveniently located - All-inclusive resorts are usually situated near to a major airport, and some are willing to provide round-trip transportation to and from the property. Since you won’t have to leave the resort grounds (unless you want to, of course), there’s no need to worry about renting a car or requesting Uber. The best part? Beverage servers are at your beck and call, so you don’t have to lift a finger, much less hail a cab or taxi.
  • They offer around-the-clock eating: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, late-night snacks? All-inclusive resorts make it easy to eat at any hour. So go ahead and order room service, grab something at the on-site buffet, or visit one of the specialty restaurants on the grounds.
  • They provide an endless list of activities - Activities à la carte are on the entertainment menu at all-inclusive resorts. From sea kayaking to horseback riding, there’s always something to do at every turn. Since most resorts are family-friendly, you don’t have to fear your kids getting bored, while you get that much needed massage. 
  • These resorts typically won’t break the bank - Once you’ve booked your dates and flight tickets, that’s the gist of what you’ll have to spend. Some packages even include airfare, making all-inclusive resorts a financially savvy choice for vacationing.

Cons:

  • You can expect a crowd - All-inclusive resorts are sprawling properties for a reason: to accommodate throngs and throngs of travelers and snowbirds. To avoid missing out on a prime spot on the beach or at the on-site restaurant at this heavily trafficked destination, arrive early to the beach to stake a claim on chairs and make your dining reservations in advance.
  • You won’t get to experience the city like a local - Because you’re not staying in a hotel in the heart of the city, you won’t get a chance to experience the food, culture, and surroundings outside the gates of the resort. Keep in mind, though, that you’re not required to remain on the grounds. By booking a resort near local restaurants, stores, and other entertainment centers, you’ll position yourself to have a more authentic vacation. If you do leave the grounds, however, be aware of your surroundings.
  • There will be a lot of noise - Whether it’s kids splashing around in the pool or adults dancing the night away at the clubs on the resort grounds, don’t plan to come to an all-inclusive resort for peace and quiet.
  • Okay, so all may not be included - Make sure you read the fine print to determine what’s included in the price. Sometimes that exhaustive list of amenities come at an extra cost, particularly if you’re participating in off-property excursions like motorized water sports. There could also be additional fees for WiFi, telephone services, laundry, and certain alcoholic beverages.

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Remember to weigh all your options before making any big trip decisions. As promising as all-inclusive resorts are, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.