Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Location Spotlight - All-inclusive vs. A la Carte?

Ah, the age-old vacation debate. Do I trap myself into an all-inclusive resort package or choose a great hotel, leaving my meals and incidentals to chance? Just this week I was torn with this decision: all-inclusive Bahamas resort, or try my luck and go a la carte? You see, I’m the Contact Diva with the responsibility of choosing the location for my personal girlfriend getaway and my friends are counting on me for a fabulous package and location recommendation. All for a agreed upon package price in our budget.

Suddenly, I recalled a post I read earlier this month from the LA Times: All-Inclusive Vacations: Not Always, which pointed out hidden charges travelers may pay under the illusion of an all-inclusive getaway, such as transportation to/from hotel, taxes or activities. So, being the analytic that I am, I decided to make a pros and cons listing, from a Diva’s point of view. Take a look at how I made out:

Definite advantages:

  • Budget friendly! For me and my frugal pals, it’s much easier to plan out the total vacation cost, if all meals, beverages and main activity costs are known upfront.

  • Alcoholic beverages, including premium liquor cocktails, are usually included – for your “thirsty” friends, this can be a huge cost benefit!

  • Pay and relax. I love being able to hang out at the resort, relax by the pool, without the need to carry a wallet everywhere I go.

  • Most times, tips and gratuities are included. It’s so easy to lose track of the dollar bills that you give to the bellman and other hotel staff. Let’s face it, those dollars add up!

  • From tennis to water aerobics, most activities are included with the package price. Another wallet-friendly perk.

Definite turnoffs:

  • Depending on the size of the resort, you can become bored with the resort restaurant choices OR you may miss some of the local area culture by eating at the resort exclusively. AGH! As a result, you may end up paying for restaurant meals outside of the resort that you haven’t planned on.

  • Communication charges. It goes without saying that I’m extremely dependent on the internet. Hidden communication charges burn me up!

  • Cruises usually tack on 10%+ for gratuity which can certainly put a dent in your budget, if not planned for in advance.

  • Read the fine print to see if those doggone resort fees are included. Some resorts charge daily fees per person (approx. $15/day) for use of the facilities, bottled water, etc. For a 5-day vacation, you may end up paying $75 in fees, which could be better spent on shoes ;)

Overall, I think all-inclusive is a great option for an affordable, fun vacation. I highly recommend reading the fine print of each resort or cruise website, so that you know exactly what is included with your package. The absolute worst would be being surprised at check-out because of unexpected charges. So what did I choose? Super all-inclusive Breezes Bahamas. And so far, the Divas agree.

Let the adventure begin!

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