Family Travel: All-inclusive vs. A la Carte

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Snorkeling When it comes to family travel destinations, the options are endless. But, when it comes to planning an affordable family vacation, the options can be complicated.

Hotel or resort? Drive or fly? All-inclusive or a la carte?

The question we are often asked is, "What is the least expensive way to
travel these days?
" That is usually followed by, "Do I book an all-inclusive package or buy
everything a la carte?
" The short answer is: It all depends on the type
of vacation you want.

In general, all-inclusive resorts do cost a
little more than a la carte but you are paying for convenience. However,
there is a trade off.

All-inclusive pros:

– It's stress free. The biggest decision you'll have to make is which bathing suit to wear when you wake up.
– No need to be concerned about how many virgin margaritas your kids are ordering (well, maybe worry about the sugar intake).
– All meals and beverages are included. As a dad of three kids who don’t eat very much, the debate isn’t about how many meals we should order the kids, it’s how many desserts we should let them have. Much different (and more fun) discussion.
– Many of the activities are free and usually include non-motorized water-sports, games, etc.
– Budget predictability. Other than tipping, there are no surprises when you go to pay and see the room service or bar bill.
– With fewer people traveling this year, many resorts are offering airfare packages to helping pay some of the all-inclusive costs. Take advantage of deals when you see them  (Atlantis Bahamas gives $200 air credit on JetBlue).

 All-inclusive cons:

– You've paid up-front for the meals, so you're confined to dine at restaurants on the property.
– Chance you will not spend all of your time with your family as kids will be interested in on-site activities.
– Destination choices can be limited as not every place offers a suitable all-inclusive resort
– All-inclusive usually doesn’t include all. There will be some extra fees, but if you arm yourself with the right information, you can account for this before you even get to the resort.

Do what’s right for your family and ask these questions prior to booking to make sure you have all the information needed:

– Size of the room(s) you will be staying in.
– Availability of roll-away beds and/or cribs.
– Items on kid's menus.
– Which activities are included, and how additional activities can be arranged.
– If there is a babysitting service, and how much it costs.
– Is transportation from the airport included?
– How far the airport is from the resort?
– Whether there is a shop, what it carries and where it’s located.

Bottom line: If you want to go to one place for quality family time and relaxation and you are not overly concerned about having the best gourmet meals, an all-inclusive resort experience may be just what you need. You will pay a little extra, but for some (myself included) the added convenience is worth it. Either way, you’re going to have fun.

Bonus: You have tons of great destination options. Here are just a few of my favorite all-inclusive family vacation destinations:

-   Jamaica/Turks & Caicos (Beaches resort is excellent for families)
-   Bahamas (Atlantis resort)
-   New Hampshire (Balsams Resort listed in top 100 US hotels in Travel & Leisure)
-   Colorado Dude Ranches (King Mountain Ranch in Granby is fantastic)

© Cheapflights Ltd Carl Schwartz

Family Travel: All-inclusive vs. A la Carte was last modified: May 6th, 2009 by Pleasance Coddington
Author: Pleasance Coddington (2497 posts)

Pleasance is a British travel writer and online content specialist in travel. She has written for numerous publications and sites including Wired, Lucky, Rough Guides and Yahoo! Travel. After working for six years on content and social media at VisitBritain, she is now the Global Content and Social Media Manager for Cheapflights.