All-inclusive resorts with many activities may not be your best choice

Montego Beach BarSince we all seem to be trying to get the best vacation for the least money these days, I thought I’d cover a topic that many people don’t really think about, and that can be a great budget tip. In short, many people are better off by booking at a resort that doesn’t have an endless list of included amenities, and I’ll tell you why below.

Nothing is actually free

One important thing to remember when booking anything where there are a lot of “free” things included in the price, is that nothing is actually free. People who don’t drink alcohol seem to understand this well because it’s painfully clear to them that they’ll pay perhaps an extra US$30 or more per day per person if they go to a resort where all the alcohol is “free.”

So teetotalers know enough to book at resorts that offer a “full board” option, which just includes meals, or they book at a hotel where only cheap beer and wine are included because those don’t add much to the cost of the room.

But if you think about it, the same could be said of most activities as well. Pretty much all of these all-inclusive resorts has at least one pool, and they are close to, if not on, the beach. Whether it’s Cancun or St. Lucia, the basics tend to be the same, but many resorts also include a lot more, and all guests are paying for them whether they use them or not.

Be honest with yourself when choosing

When you are sitting at home on a cold night and looking at all the wonderful photos of kayaking and windsurfing and yoga classes and on and on, it’s natural to assume that you’ll be taking advantage of those things because they are included in the price. However, once you actually get there, if you are like most of us, the first thing you want to do is relax on the beach or by the pool for the first day to unwind, maybe with a margarita and a book by your side.

So onto the second day, now you’ll try the beach if you tried the pool on the first day, and you’ve never been so relaxed in your life. Do you want to force yourself to learn how to windsurf? Many people do, especially if they have kids with them, but many more people end up not bothering with it. You have to remind yourself that you are probably there to relax, and there is nothing wrong with reading books and splashing around in the swimming pool for a week.

It’s not just about being cheap

So one way to look at it is that you might be able to save US$40 per couple if you choose a resort that just has a pool and a beach instead of tennis courts, a gym, and all sorts of water sports. But another way to look at it is that you can afford a nicer room and better food and entertainment.

When comparing the various resorts in Puerto Plata or Ocho Rios, you’ll find plenty that have limited activities, and not all of them are terribly cheap. In many cases they spend the extra money on better service and food and such. If you want to teach yourself to sail, then book a place that offers it, but if not you’d be better off booking a place with excellent food and other amenities.