Factors to consider when deciding which all-inclusive resort is best for your next vacation

Updated March 2024

There are many ways to experience a vacation. Accommodations run the gamut from luxury hotels to vacation home rentals to camping. This is far too broad a topic for a single blog post so this one will only cover how to choose the right all-inclusive resort for you and your needs.

All-inclusive resorts have a bad rap and I don’t think they deserve it. Today, I’m here to help you choose the right all-inclusive resort for your vacation. I have stayed at numerous ones and while they all have similar features, they can also vary greatly so it’s important to do your research.

If you have never stayed at an all-inclusive and aren’t sure you would like one, I can help. I wrote a post a while back you may want to check out if you’ve never stayed at one, or aren’t sure if an all-inclusive resort is for you.

How to choose an all-inclusive resort
How to choose the right all inclusive resort for your next vacation

I recently returned home from a two-week vacation where I stayed at two different all-inclusive resorts, each for one week, and the experience at each one was vastly different. Note that this is not a review of either resort. I was not asked to write about or paid for this post.

My focus is on differentiating factors to be aware of when researching and booking all-inclusives. As such, I have not mentioned the names of the resorts. Inquiring minds can comment below and ask 😉

Salad on a plate in an all-inclusive resort restaurant
Beautiful and delicious dinner at an all-inclusive resort specialty restaurant.

How do all-inclusive resorts work?

Let’s start with the basics. When you choose an all-inclusive resort, you are booking your flights, accommodations, meals, drinks and entertainment all together for one price. Often, your transportation to and from the airport is also included. They truly are all-inclusive.

Here is what you can expect your all-inclusive vacation to include:

  • Flights
  • Hotel room
  • Airport Transportation
  • All meals
  • All drinks, including alcohol
  • Evening entertainment and shows
  • Non-motorized water sports
  • WiFi (most of the time, but not always)

You may be wondering if you tip at an all-inclusive resort and the answer is YES! Tips are not included in your stay, but you should absolutely tip your bartender, server at specialty restaurants and housekeeping. Even a nominal amount is greatly appreciated by the staff.

All-Inclusive resort considerations

There are a surprising number of factors to consider within this type of resort accommodation. On the surface, it looks like all-inclusives offer the same services, but dig a little deeper and you will find small differences that can be annoying.

As a result, the overall experience is less enjoyable. All of us have different needs and preferences so while free WiFi might be crucial to you, it may not matter to others.

Here are some of the differences I noted between the two resorts. You can use this list as a guide to double-check the items that matter to you when researching your resorts to help you choose the right all-inclusive resort for your needs.

Relaxing at the all-inclusive Riu Yucatan Resort Pool
All you need to do at an all-inclusive resort is kick back and relax

How to choose the best all-inclusive resort

All-Inclusive resort features checklist:

WiFi Free and included throughout the entire resort Free access only in the lobby areas
Room Keys One key for each guest One key per room, additional keys for $35
ActivitiesWide-variety of free activities including archery, volleyball, kayaks and moreWaterslide in kid’s pool, volleyball, games room and jet-skis available for rent
In-Room SafeComplimentary use$20 charge for use
Poolside TowelsReadily available by every poolOne towel card per person to be exchanged at designated towel stations
Specialty RestaurantsIncluded and reservations not requiredIncluded, but reservations were required to be made at a reservation desk with limited hours.
Adults-only PoolAvailable to those who paid a premiumOne adults-only pool available to all guests
ShuttleFree daily shuttle into the cityN/A
LocationOn the beach, close to townOn the beach, far from town

All-Inclusive resort guidelines

My suggestion is that you use this list as a guideline when reviewing resorts and focus on the features that matter to you so you can choose the right all-inclusive resort for your vacation needs.

This list is not exhaustive, but rather the main differences I noted between the two resorts I just stayed at. The check-in process at the second resort took forever due to all the ‘extras’ that weren’t included. Um, sorry, but I thought this was an ‘all-inclusive’ resort…? Hmm, guess not.

It was the first time in my life I’d ever had to pay to use an in-room safe and this wasn’t exactly my first vacation! Of course, I forked over the $20 because replacing a stolen passport would have put a serious damper on the vacation.

Woman swimming in Infinity pool
This stunning infinity pool was adults-only and available to all guests at the resort over the age of 18.

I am a huge fan of staying at all-inclusive resorts. As such, I have learned a thing or two along the way. For an amazing vacation, check out these awesome all-inclusive resort hacks. In this post, I mention some items to bring with you to make your trip even better.

If you are looking for a great all-inclusive resort in the Mayan Riviera area of Mexico, check out my review of the RIU Yucatan resort. Spoiler alert, I really enjoyed staying there!

All-Inclusive Resort Considerations

Other factors to consider would include location, proximity to the beach/town etc. While our second resort was located nowhere near, well, anything, we chose it because it was a heck of a lot closer to the kiteboarding spot than anything else.

You may also want to consider whether or not it is a family-friendly resort or an adult-only one. If you don’t have children, you may prefer the vibe at an adults-only resort. In fact, you may want to check out why Disney is awesome without kids.

For a vacation that is sure to make everyone happy, check out my review of the Atlantis Bahamas resort. It has both adult-only sections as well as a massive water park that will entertain kids for days.

Another popular destination that you may wish to consider if you’re not looking for an all-inclusive resort is Tulum. Tulum is one part of Mexico that is very different from the rest. The majority of the resorts there are not all-inclusive. Read more Tulum travel tips here before you consider a vacation there.


Why all-inclusive resorts are good

There are many benefits to booking an all-inclusive style vacation. The main reason a lot of people like this style of holiday is that it is already paid for before you go. You don’t have to worry about budgeting or paying for meals, drinks, or entertainment.

If you have a budget you need to stick to, an all-inclusive resort makes this easy. The majority of all-inclusive resorts also include a wide variety of entertainment, both during the day as well as at night. You. could easily spend nothing more than tips during your vacation.

All-Inclusive resorts are also good because they eliminate practically all decision-making during your vacation. All you need to do is kick back and relax. You don’t need to decide where to eat lunch or dinner, or where to go for an evening show. It’s all right there.

Aeiral shot of the beach in Mexico
One consideration is whether or not you want your all-inclusive resort located on the beach

What to pack for an all-inclusive vacation

Wondering what to pack for your all-inclusive resort vacation? I got you! Check out this travel packing checklist as well as my favourite must-have travel items.

Before you pack your bags, be sure to read these travel packing hacks. After a few hundred vacations, you learn how to pack like a pro. Happy travels!

How to find the best deals on all-inclusive resorts

If you’re ready to book, it’s time to get you the best deal! There is no one trick for how to score the best deal other than to search for it. I always Google the area I want to visit and see what comes up. I usually book through Expedia, but I always compare pricing with other websites first.

What are your thoughts on all-inclusive resorts? I’m curious to know what other factors you’ve come across that I didn’t mention. Join the conversation on FacebookInstagram, or X and share your thoughts!