First check for cheap nonstop flights before shopping for an all-inclusive package vacation

By now most people seem to realize that when it comes to finding the best deal on an all-inclusive resort vacation, that buying a package that also includes airfare is the cheapest way to go. When visiting a city hotel you can often find better deals by booking airfare separately, but with all-inclusive resorts that is very rare.

Part of the equation that some people don’t consider is that you’ll actually get the most for your money and have the most convenient trip if you first figure out where flights are cheapest and easiest from your home airport. I was reminded of this when I recently started helping my mother, who lives near Los Angeles, find a great resort package.

The best overall deals are near big airports

Okay, so here’s the math of it, which should be obvious to some people, but might be new information to others. These air+hotel companies don’t own their own planes in most cases, so they are just booking regular commercial flights for you. Let’s say you live in Washington DC and you want to go somewhere in the Caribbean.

You’ll find the cheapest flights and the most nonstops to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Cancun. Now if you look at those individual prices you’ll see that Cancun is usually the cheapest, even though it’s a bit longer, because it’s a huge and popular destination. If the flight is US$300 by itself, then you can find all-inclusive packages starting at around US$800 per person per week for a couple. This means $500 is going toward the hotel, of course.

Instead if you consider going to Antigua, not only will you probably have to change planes in San Juan along the way, but the airfare itself will be around $600 per person. So if you find an all-inclusive package for $1,000 per person per week then it means only $400 is going to the hotel portion.

In the above example, flying to Antigua would take 4 or 5 more hours in each direction, and you’ll be paying $200 more per person to stay in an inferior hotel. Of course not all $400 per week hotels are the same, but in fact usually hotels near big airports tend to have more competitive prices, so most likely it’s actually going to be a better deal there as well.

When you are deciding whether to visit Rome or Paris or Amsterdam you can’t really compare prices and just choose the cheapest one because each city is different in every way. But when choosing an all-inclusive resort that you probably aren’t going to leave more than once or twice during the week, you will definitely get the most for your money if you pick the nicest hotel you can afford in a destination that has cheap nonstop flights as opposed to a worse hotel in a more “exotic” destination that you won’t see much of anyway.

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