Vacation Lingo: Breaking Down the All Inclusive Meaning of Resorts and Cruises

... Credit :
Jane Taylor in Viral

Last updated: 17 January 2020, 05:34 GMT

Planning a vacation can be really exciting. The process of picking a destination, a resort, hotel, or ship, and points of interest along the way is half the fun! One of the biggest factors in planning your big getaway is budget. As you're browsing and considering your options, you'll see the term "all-inclusive." Before you decide to go that route, let's dive into the all-inclusive meaning.

All-Inclusive Meaning

Both cruises and resorts can be all-inclusive. Typically, the term means they include the following in one price:

  • Room
  • Food
  • Drinks (including alcoholic ones)
  • Non-motorized water sports in beach locations, like kayaking, water bikes, and snorkeling
  • Wi-Fi
  • Resort fees

We say "typically" because the term all-inclusive varies from resort to resort. Some places may offer everything but alcohol while others won't include WiFi. It's important to read the fine print and call the resort to understand exactly what they include.



You'll find resorts that have spas and golf courses, and unless you're getting a spa or golf package these extras aren't likely to be included in the all-inclusive meaning. If the resort has “by reservation only” restaurants, you'll want to ask if they include eating in those places in their package. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, and sometimes these are extra. 

If there are stores on the property, purchases won't be included. Be sure to ask about tips: some resorts include those in packages while others don't. If an employee goes above and beyond for you, you can try to give them an extra gratuity, but some resorts don't allow employees to take any tips from guests. The all-inclusive meaning differs from resort to resort.

The Pros and Cons

Whether all-inclusive is for you depends on your vacation style. We know people who won't travel any other way than all-inclusive and others who won't consider it. Take some time to weigh your needs with each option available.




Part of the all-inclusive meaning is to give a single, bottom line price. This may be the perfect package for families who want a resort experience when they vacation. You and the kids will be able to eat whenever you want and take part in unlimited non-motorized water sports. You'll find you won't have to say no to their requests because you won't have to shell out extra cash for incidentals.



If you're traveling to destinations associated with all-inclusive resorts like Mexico and Jamaica, you may feel safer within the walls of the resort. A package vacation allows you to enjoy everything you want in a vacation—pools, music, sun, food, and drinks without ever leaving the property. You won't have to hail cabs, drive into town or navigate foreign areas.



All-inclusive vacations are perfect for those of you that literally want to relax 100% of the time. You don't have to decide where to go for meals, activities or sightseeing. They situate resorts like these near beautiful landscapes, so walks around the property provide postcard-perfect pictures.

These vacations take the guesswork out of making reservations for meals and the trouble out of scouting out the right beach. Everything you need is in one location. You show up, enjoy everything included and check out at the end. It's as easy as that.



You're Stuck

If you want to enjoy everything you've paid for, you're stuck on the resort's grounds. If you're an adventurous spirit who enjoys trying local cuisine, unusual activities, and exploring, all-inclusive probably isn't the most economical choice. You'll be paying out of pocket for anything you buy outside of the resort.

Going to other places and spending money in town goes against the all-inclusive meaning. If you want to wander and try local foods, an ala cart vacation would be best.


It's One Note

To enjoy the benefits of an all-inclusive vacation, you'll be hanging around the resort. You'll have the same view every day. It's a beautiful view, but if you want a change of scenery you're out of luck.

If the restaurants you have access to our buffet, you'll see repeat options over the course of your time there. Also, remember all the food is under the umbrella of the same company, so the flavors may resemble each other from course to course and between restaurants.


All-Inclusive Resort vs. Cruise

Cruises are their own kind of vacation. You get to visit multiple ports, see different cities or beaches, and take part in different entertainment every night. So, what's the difference between a cruise's all-inclusive meaning and a resort's?


Drink Package

Cruises are known for their lavish buffets, so you don't have to worry about ever going hungry. You may have to throw down a credit card to cover alcohol at the end of your journey. Check with the cruise line about beverage options—most will have a soft drink package for purchase. Alcohol packages are rare and pricey. If you know you'll be partying from sun up to sundown, a package may be cost-effective.



Resorts offer enough room for everyone to spread out so they don't seem as crowded as a ship does. Some cruise ships hold over 5,000 people—that means you'll be waiting to get off the ship for shore excursions and may feel elbow to elbow with other passengers during live shows and peak dining hours.


More Sightseeing

Cruises offer different ports of call, so your scenery will change. Keep in mind that these are not part of the all-inclusive meaning we've been talking about. You have to pay to go on most shore excursions and, unless noted, any food you purchase while you're off the boat is on your own dime.

Most of these excursions are planned in such a way that you get to eat breakfast on the ship and are back in time for dinner; so the expenses don't have to be great.



Ships are used to having to entertain passengers in an enclosed space, so you'll find more of a variety of things to do on a cruise ship. A resort may have the beach and pools, but on ships, you can find:

  • Nightclubs
  • Bowling alleys
  • Themed parties
  • Comedy shows
  • Live theater
  • Organized kid's activities
  • Port of call informational talks
  • Local artisan shows
  • Dance classes

The list goes on and on depending on your cruise line. They give you more variety because you're even more confined than you are in an all-inclusive resort. Check with your booking agent to find out everything that's included.


Best All-Inclusive Locations

When you're deciding what type of vacation to take, cross-reference the kinds of destinations you'd like to visit and how much you're ready to spend. While you're thinking about all-inclusive and comparing it to an ala cart vacation, look up local restaurants you'd like to visit to get a median price and multiply it out by the number of meals you'll have. Don't forget to include alcohol.

If you can get a place with a kitchenette, you may save on meals by grocery shopping and preparing some in the suite. While you're at it, price out local activities, rental cars, and incidentals like bottled water, desserts, and snacks. You may find that all-inclusive is the way to go.

If you've read this far, have an idea of the all-inclusive meaning, and have decided it's the way you'd like to vacation, check out a few of these more popular destinations:


Ixtapa, Mexico

This beautiful location is home to Club Med. This brand, popular in the 70s, is coming back in style by branding itself family-friendly and being within an affordable range for most families. Children under four stay free, and there are plenty of activities for the kiddos to check out.


Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Boasting plenty of all-inclusive resorts like the Casa Velas, this tropical location's resorts keep upping the ante for guests because the competition is so high. You'll find amenities like infinity pools, swanky lounges, koi ponds, and manicured gardens to enjoy.


Tamarindo, Costa Rica

An ideal location for active travelers and families with older kids, this is a back-to-nature sort of vacation where you can enjoy beaches and rain forests almost at the same time. At a resort called Barcelo Langosta Beach, you'll be able to see howler monkeys, iguanas, hummingbirds, butterflies, and parrots.



Jamaica is a prime destination for couples and families. Places like the Grand Palladium offer various sized pools, brand name liquor, PGA style golf courses, and mini-golf for families. This resort is a sprawling property that looks like a shopping mall but offers plenty of room to relax.


Los Cabos, Mexico

Most of the all-inclusive resorts are sprawled across the beach on this beautiful Mexican beach town. The Royal Solaris features multiple restaurants and pools and will keep the kids occupied with kid and teenager clubs. During the day, families can enjoy the water park, sprawling beaches, water sports, and thatched umbrellas on the sand to relax under during the warm summer days.



The Bahamas are home to the mega-resort Atlantis. There are other, more affordable, options nearby. The Riu Palace Paradise Island has 24-hour room service, and their mini-bars are part of the inclusive price. Five restaurants help reduce the food monotony that can come with all-inclusive pricing. They offer nightly entertainment and daily beach activities.


Your Ideal Vacation

You can find all-inclusive resorts all over the world, though they do tend to be most prevalent in tropical areas. You can soak up the sun while not having to shell out any extra dough to eat, drink or be merry. You can find a resort catering to families with young or older children, large groups, or couples: it's all up to you.

If you want to check out places like Europe and visit many cities in one vacation, an all-inclusive cruise may be for you. Visiting famous cities as you cruise the open ocean in between can appeal to those wanting a more adventurous and energetic vacation. You can enjoy nightly entertainment and visit ports of call during the day. You can find cruises for singles, couples or families with small children.

Whatever your favorite all-inclusive meaning, you can find the perfect vacation for you. Be sure to do your research, read the fine print and ask all your questions upfront. Be clear on pricing and what all-inclusive really includes. Whatever package you choose, happy vacationing!

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