How to choose the best all-inclusive holidays
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In tough times, knowing the full cost up front makes it easier to stick to a budget without having to worry about forking out for extras.
All-inclusive holidays are more popular than ever. But not all packages offer the same value or level of service. These tips will help you to find the best all-inclusive holidays.
Finding the best holiday providers
The biggest all-inclusive operator in the UK is First Choice, which only sells this type of holiday. Thomas Cook, Virgin Holidays, Kuoni and Hayes & Jarvis also feature many all-inclusive options.
For reviews of tour operators and to find out which ones we recommend, visit Holiday Companies Rated.
Finding the best-value holidays
It’s possible to find packages giving you a week’s worth of breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks and activities for less than £700 per person, including flights. But as with any hotel, a cheap deal will still be poor value if the quality of food, amenities and service is bad. Remember that if you have booked a package and the reality differs from how it was described, you may be protected under the Package Travel Regulations.
All inclusive may not always be the best value option. Some hotels offer the option of staying on a B&B or half board basis instead. Whether it’s worth going all-inclusive usually depends on how much you think you’ll be indulging in the all-inclusive 'freebies'.
What an all-inclusive package usually includes
- Buffet breakfast, lunch, dinner
- Snacks through the day (eg fast food, ice cream)
- Locally produced wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks
- Selected activities (eg aerobics, beach volleyball)
- Gym and swimming pools
- Children’s club (where the hotel has one)
- Entertainment (eg live music, nightclub)
Don’t assume that absolutely everything will be free once you’re in the hotel. Some items are almost always included, others are almost never included in standard packages, and many depend on the hotel. Always check what’s included before you book.
Food and drink. Avoid buffet-only hotels. You'll end up eating elsewhere to avoid the monotony. At the very least, go for a deal that allows a handful of visits to the a la carte restaurant. Drink allowances vary too. At the cheaper end, you will get local beer, wine and spirits, but pay extra for international brands. Some hotels impose a curfew (11pm or midnight) on their free drinks. Bottled water is usually included, but it can be pricey and a hassle to buy if not.
Activities. Non-motorised water sports, such as snorkelling and stand-up paddleboarding tend to be part of the package, but they are sometimes restricted. You're likely to pay extra for anything motorised or involving tuition. Many places also charge for using the billiards tables or sauna. Golf, bike hire and horse riding are occasionally provided on site, but tend to cost extra. Tennis is typically free. If you're looking for sporty holidays try Mark Warner or Neilson.
Additional extras. You will almost always have to pay more for excursions, massages, visits to the hair salon, spa treatments and golf. Scuba diving is usually charged extra, although many packages include a free, one-off try dive. Some resorts have a strict no-tipping policy but, at others, staff will appreciate it if you tip as you go. Always check in advance.
Finding the best resorts
All-inclusive holidays are appealing in new, undeveloped regions where there are few alternative restaurants, hotels and activities. But the downside is that many resorts are self-contained enclaves, sometimes miles from the nearest town. This can mean little immersion in local culture, and your tourist money goes to international chains, not the local economy.
Find out the exact location before you go and ask if the hotel employs local people, pays a local living wage and sources food and products from the region. Also look for hotels audited and accredited under the Travelife scheme for sustainable tourism.
If you do have a problem with your package holiday, take a look at our guide to find out more about your rights.