/ Travel & Leisure

All-inclusive holidays – love them or loathe them?

Girl sat in rubber ring in swimming pool

Next summer, all First Choice holidays will become all inclusive. Our research proves they’re popular, but are they better quality or value? And are you attracted to the idea of eating all your meals in the same resort?

Two years ago when we asked travellers about their travel frustrations, some of the biggest issues were the hidden charges that bumped up the price of the holiday and the costs of things in the destination.

Holiday companies have got savvy to this and now offer more all-inclusive holidays than ever before. And research that Which? Travel has just conducted with over 10,000 members of the public across Britain shows that over one quarter of all the holidays taken in the past 18 months have been on all-inclusive basis.

First Choice goes all inclusive

TUI Travel has just announced that its First Choice brand will only sell all-inclusive holidays from summer 2012. Having the whole holiday paid for in advance is clearly very tempting for a lot of people, and dedicating an entire brand to this shows that TUI clearly believes there’s further growth in this area.

But is it really cost effective? Choosing the all-inclusive option over half board may be best if you want to take full advantage of the food, snacks, drink and activities on offer.

Do all-inclusive holidays work out cheaper?

When we recently looked at hotels that offered both all-inclusive and half board options in Tenerife, we found that – unless you were going to spend almost £50 per couple per day on lunch, snacks and drinks – half board was the better option. Plus, you had much the same access to food and facilities.

Interestingly, in terms of value for money, there is clearly divided opinion. In our research, more people rated their all-inclusive holidays as excellent or good value for money overall compared to any other type of board. However, there were also more stating that it was either poor or very poor.

Personally, I generally prefer to have the opportunity to taste different foods, meet local people and experience the culture. Still, I can see the appeal of a lazy week in a resort to just kick-back and relax. What’s your view on all inclusives – do you love them or hate them?

Do you ever go on all-inclusive holidays?

No, never – I can't stand the idea (56%, 219 Votes)

Occasionally, it depends on my mood (30%, 118 Votes)

Yes, all the time – they're great (13%, 52 Votes)

Total Voters: 389

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My last holiday was not all inclusive, but almost all lunches and dinners were either included in the holiday price or on an organised ‘optional excursion’ basis. But…and this is the important bit – the meals were rarely in the hotel and usually at local restaurants and other town-centre eateries.

Result: controllable costs, genuine local cooking, no eating/drinking to excess!

Over the last few years my main holiday has been long haul and all inclusive. Main advantage is convenience. Some resorts there are few decent places to eat locally and hotels are usually very good. I can budget accurately and often spend very little outside. Remember though, this has a downside for the local economy.

It depends on the holiday – I usually want to hike and explore the country at my own pace – changing my immediate destination on a whim – either cook my own meals ‘in the wild’ – or stop to eat where I fancy. I have travelled extensively – except China and India.

All inclusive holidays are usually too restrictive for me – Only ever had one overly expensive meal (all the restaurants or cafes seem to usually display the costs ) that was in Paris – where they had a displayed costed menu for locals – but did not make it clear it was only from 12 to 2 and we ordered at 2:03.. It was however delicious!

But If I’m going to stay in one place – I’ll take an all inclusive holiday but perfectly happy to eat somewhere I fancy and forego the paid for meal.

Ray Monk says:
10 April 2011

All inclusive is great for families ,but i think too restrictive for older couples .In the long term ,if all tour operators went all inclusive i think it would kill the resorts and be left with hotels and no bars or resturants

Tend to agree if you think only of resorts. For out of the way places it is likely to open them up more.

Steven says:
12 April 2011

Our last trip was not AI as this was New York, LOTS to see and do, with very little time spent in our hotel. Prior to that our last four or five holidays (Jamaica, Mexico and Egypt) were AI and have all been superb.

AI makes sense if you’re looking to stay in a large resort and are after a relaxing holiday. If you’re planning to be out of the hotel ‘seeing the sites’ then AI’s not really appropriate.

We like the all inclusive style of cruising or adventure cruising. Or for instance train touring. If you are going to out of the way places (which we do and like) then you do not have the bother of searching for eateries and dealing with currencies and tipping etc. I hate having to get to a place at night then go looking for an eatery which you do not know and may turn out to be a disaster. If the operator has booked the places and you trust them then it takes all that bother away. I would not go to a resort in Spain say on the same all inclusive basis. But then I do not see myself going on that type of holiday at all. Did that many years ago.

Bill says:
15 April 2011

We have been on two all-inclusive holidays and they were excellent, very relaxing and great fun. You do tend to eat too much though and probably drink too much too! It’s good to not have to think about costs while you are on holiday.

John says:
15 April 2011

I can see why many like AI but it’s not for me. I like to get out & about when I go on holiday & ,because I’m a light drinker, AI is an expensive option.
I bet First Choice love it though. AI means they get the lions share of their customers total holiday spend & they get it “up front”. A sizeable deposit up to a year before the holiday happens then the balance around 8 weeks before. I wonder when they pay the hotelier?

We have just returned from our first All-Inclusive holiday in Tenerife and thought it was the best way to enjoy the holiday. The hotel was very good and we didn’t feel that we had to stoke up at breakfast time to see us through the day and then go hunting for a decent restaurant in the evening. Good food and drink was available in some form throughout the day and, in addition to the indoor restaurant and bars, there was a handy cafe/bar near the pool that served beverages, snacks, light lunches and drinks. We did not check whether we were getting our due ration from the AI tariff – possibly not, because we don’t drink much liquor – but we were spared the hard-to-control expense of the local restaurants. When we wandered around the local area we were not very impressed by most of the eating establishments which seemed to be showing soccer matches all the time and appealed mainly to lager drinkers; it would have been hard to find a place with better food and service than the hotel. Perhaps this is one consequence of All-Inclusive since so many people seemed to be on that tariff and the restaurants were struggling to pull in enough custom to survive. To attract people to go All-Inclusive, a hotel has to offer a high standard of service and amenity with varied menus, plenty of choice, efficient catering, and good hygiene standards; such factors ensure that a high staffing ratio is employed on fair terms and conditions thus benefitting the local economy, whereas the independent local alternatives probably pay only subsistence wages, work their staff round the clock, and are not too fussy about how they source their produce.

rosie says:
29 April 2011

Agreed and the cost of eating out now on holidays especially for families is silly money now, gone are the days of cheap food on holiday. We went into Side in Turkey and 2 coffees a beer and a tia maria cost us £17.50, ridiculous.

Enjoyed your views on AI,and for the first time ever my husband and I were thinking of staying in Tenerife and going AI. Just wondered what hotel was it you stayed in? Thanks Linda

MacInally says:
15 April 2011

My wife and I find that half board is ideal for us foe two reasons. Firstly, wherever we go we like to be out and about exploring as much as we can of the area and its people, and so are only at base to sleep, have breakfast and return late as possible for dinner. And secondly, we are finding it much cheaper to go half board than to eat out, sometimes even cheaper than self-catering except for drink and nibbles for in-between meals. And the quality, variety and choice of dishes in hotels can be surprisingly good.

Anita says:
16 April 2011

I have only been on two AI holidays. Cuba. The hotel was isolated and so there was no option of local restaurants. Food was plentiful BUT kept in very poor conditions on the hot buffet. Sauces bubbling but food stone cold for some reason. Meat not cooked through properly. Overheard many complaints of sickness and tummy upsets.Tended to use the poolside pizza and pasta bar where food freshly cooked – and a better atmosphere. Mai nrestaurant used for desserts and smoothies.
The other holiday in Agadir food fantastic, cooked well at ALL outlets including afternoon coffee and waffles! Bar tender treated you very differently on second week and gave us bottles of wine to take to room. Again no other nearby reastaurants.
Have also stayed at hotels offering AI as well as HB or B&B. Cannot see the sense in AI where hotel in a centre where many local outlets to choose from. Also often cheaper to book HB direct with hotel on arrival and not through travel agents – some will allow deals of 7 days HB and 7 as booked B&B. Check the internet for advice as this has saved us many pounds. Hilton hotels often allow this.

Mrs T says:
17 April 2011

Our last 3 hols have been AI, and in a way it takes the hassle out of trying to find a place tht is suitable for everyone’s catering needs and taste!! Being a vegeatarian however, there is always something to eat!!
Price wise I tthink it can be debatable, sometimes it can be cheaper , depending on the resort and country.
You also have the option of going out if you are a bit fed up of what the hotel has to offer you.
Paricularly good with young families as you dont have to fork out so much money for drinks and ice-creams!
I would always go for AI now even if it’s a bit dearer!!

Personally, rather than First Choice going “All Inclusive” I think they should go “Adults only!”

When I go on holiday I do NOT want other people’s kids “enjoying” theirselves, at the top of their voices, 24/7!
Please can some parents, who say “but they’re on holiday so they should be allowed to enjoy theirselves”, explain to me why the same argument isn’t allowed to apply to me?

rosie says:
29 April 2011

when we were younger we liked to hire scooters and explore but now in our late 50’s we prefer AI especially 5 star, so many varied foods to choose from, waited on hand and foot, lots to do if your inclined and of course the spa treatments. Places like Antalya in Turkey and Nabq Bay in Sharm Egypt , dont have much outside of the hotels anyway, and the hotels are so luxurious and have everything you need and the entertainment programmes can keep you active all day long. Good holidays for families as little uns are taken care of most of the day with activities

Anne says:
8 May 2011

AL holidays? no way, I like to eat local and experience where I have chosen to go. The only areas that they are desireable is where it is dangerous to do otherwise. Good local restaurants or tavernas are frequently unbeatable. I discovered this when we had to eat out because an excursion was late back, – best meal of the holiday!!

rosie says:
8 May 2011

local food now is so expensive you will need a mortgage if you want to eat decent food, as for desirable in dangerous areas….is that why Lara beach is full of A1’s and fit to burst with holidaymakers lol
Done all the locals over the years and in their day were cheap and reasonable food, not today though far too expensive thats why A1’s are so popular now.

mart says:
24 April 2012

We booked 2 weeks in Mexico for 10th January 2012, staying at the El Dorado Royale. This was advertised in the brochure as 5 star luxurious accommadation with ultimate gourmet a la carte dining and personalised conceirge service, where nothing was too much trouble to make your stay the best possible holiday you could have.
What a load of rubbish this was.
on arrival we were expected to stay in a damp and mould infested room with damp on the walls. Everything in the room was damp. The service was terrible and whatever you asked for was just ignored. The food was poor, it was just cold and you could not change what was on the menu because it would still be delivered as it was on the menu. Every time you wanted something you had to spend 2 hours trying to get food.
I asked the holiday advisor about a room change and were offered a very old damp room that smelt of urine as well as damp. The First Choice advisor was also very homophobic and despite trying to resolve the problems in resort, we could not as she just didnt want to do anything to help us because we were a gay couple and this she made very clear in what she said to us.
Three months of trying to resolve this with First choice now back home and they refuse to acknowledge the advisor was homophobic and think that their offer of £200 in cash or £300 in a voucher is acceptable. Trading standards have been trying to resolve this with them but their legal team are just not responding to them. The information we requested and sent the fee to get, they claim they never recieved despite having proof that it was delivered but again they refuse to admit they have had it. First choice are a total disgrace and we will never be using them again after this. Our special holiday was ruined by them and they do not even care. This company just treaats you very poor and lies to you all the time to get out of paying compensation for their failings. I asked them where does it say in their brochure that their hotels may have mould and damp in the rooms and there food be cold and poor. They answered with why would we say that in the brochure, that would stop us getting any bookings. Why do they get away with treating the customers this way?