The disadvantages of all-inclusive resorts: They aren’t right for everyone

Regular readers of this column know that we have a lot of positive things to say about all-inclusive resorts, and we try to help people find the ideal resort for their own needs. But we need to be honest that there are disadvantages of these resorts as well, and each person who chooses one should make themselves aware of these things before they book.

So here are some of the main concerns you should be aware of before booking an all-inclusive resort. Depending on how you feel they resonate with you, it might be better to choose a different style of resort or a different vacation altogether.

4 – Disadvantages of staying at all-inclusive resorts

1 – You won’t absorb much culture

For travel snobs, the easiest and most obvious criticism of all-inclusive resorts is that you are meant to spend almost every hour on the resort grounds, so almost no one gets much real culture out of those holidays. If you go to Cancun you might take a bus trip to Chichen Itza, but if you do it will take the whole day and it will cost extra while the food and drinks you paid for go to waste.

You must admit that it’s strange to fly many hours to a foreign culture that has many fascinating aspects, and then never leave your resort until the day of your flight home. Many people I know take one cultural vacation each year and one relaxation holiday, and in that case you don’t miss the culture.

2 – You are risking quite a bit by staying in one place

Of course it’s wise to look at photos and read all the reviews for a resort before you book it, but even those who do risk winding up in a place that doesn’t really suit them. On many Caribbean islands it feels like everyone is moving in slow motion, and half the buildings badly need a paint job. This is true of most resorts that aren’t in the 5-star category, and while most people like it, others don’t.

You get the idea. By booking at an all-inclusive hotel you are pretty much committing to spending almost every hour of your trip at one resort, and there’s a bit of risk in that. If you book at a regular hotel and it turns out you don’t like the food or service there, you can almost always eat next door or down the street.

3 – You will be tempted to overeat and drink too much

This is something we all know but don’t want to admit. Every study shows that people eat more, sometimes literally twice as much, at an all you can eat buffet. That sounds like fun, and it is, but for some of us it’s probably not a wise choice.

The same goes with drinking. Whether it’s fruit juice or domestic beer, we are tempted to have as many as we can each day if we are paying a flat fee. When we get home we might be happier to have stayed in a place with a la carte food and drinks because we only ate and drank what we really wanted.

4 – You might feel anxiety to do things you aren’t really in the mood for

Sort of on the same topic and food and drinks above, these resorts always include a certain amount of activities in the price. Some resorts provide 10 different choices of water sports plus cooking lessons and dance lessons and on and on. When we are paying a flat fee we might feel that we have to take advantage of these things when we aren’t really up for it.

The good part of this one is that it’s actually quite easy to find all inclusive resorts that offer very limited activity choices. They tend to be cheaper as well, so if you are really going to relax and catch up on reading and so forth then it’s best to pick a resort that centers around the beach and a pool so you don’t feel undo pressure.