/ Travel & Leisure

Will you consider taking an all-inclusive holiday this year?

More Brits are opting for holidays where all their meals, drinks and activities are included in the overall price. Saving money may well be the main reason, so are you tempted by an all-inclusive?

There’s every sign that all-inclusives are all the rage now. From this summer, every First Choice holiday is on an all-inclusive (AI) basis only, while our latest survey of travel companies confirms the trend, showing that more Which? members chose all-inclusive holidays than self-catering or B&B.

If you’re looking for a package holiday, there are some destinations, such as the Maldives, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where you haven’t got much of a choice other than going AI. But even in Spain, where all types of board are common, half of those on a package trip in the past five years chose an AI holiday.

The attractions of all-inclusives

So what is it that’s attracting people to these types of packages? I’m preparing an article for Which? Travel magazine and am keen to find out. Is it simply because they’re seen as good value for money and an easier way to fix a set travel budget?

AI hotels can appeal for other reasons. The hotel complex probably has such wide-ranging facilities and activities – especially for families – that you can stay there day in, day out without getting bored. As you’ve pre-paid for virtually everything, there’s no need to take out much local cash. Perhaps you want to avoid known safety risks in the outside local area or are turned off by the idea of the local food.

My friends have just returned from an AI holiday in Turkey. They chose it because, having done their sums before booking, AI did work out cheaper, and they preferred knowing up front how much the whole holiday experience would cost.

Trapped in a tourist bubble

But the AI experience doesn’t easily lend itself to local cultural interaction.

Organisations such as Tourism Concern have highlighted the negative effects of all-inclusives, such as profits flowing to international hotel chains and operators, rather than the local population – who are often in poorer countries.

Having been to a few gated all-inclusives, often not within walking distance of the nearest town, I’m not a big fan. I’ve been in a tourist bubble, tagged with a wristband and gorging on bland, international food. I prefer to get my teeth into the local food and culture. At least First Choice has recently said it is considering ‘dine-around’ packages, enabling customers to eat and drink at certain local town restaurants.

Have you booked to go on an AI holiday this year, or have you already been on one? What made you choose an all-inclusive?

Or if you’d consider going on one in the future, what kind of information would you want before choosing a suitable all-inclusive hotel, destination or tour operator?

Holidays - how do you like yours?

It depends on where I'm going (33%, 71 Votes)

Self-catered - I like to do it all myself (27%, 59 Votes)

All-inclusive - with everything provided (21%, 46 Votes)

Bed and breakfast - a bit of pampering, a bit of independence (18%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 215

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Personally, I’ve always booked a self catering holiday.

Although the thought of having all inclusive drink and snacks is appealing, I like to go out and visit the local restaurants on holiday, something you miss when holidaying all inclusive.

In some resorts it would definitely be worth doing where the resort is large enough to be your main attraction, but in typical tourist destinations the food doesn’t tend to be too expensive and gives me the freedom to pick and choose where I eat, what time I eat, and what I eat.

We went on an All Inclusive holiday in Tenerife in the Canary Islands last year. It was our first time doing it that way and we were very satisfied. Basically we went for the guaranteed fine weather – we weren’t particularly interested in mingling with the locals or eating and drinking in local places. The hotel was good with plenty of amenities and entertainment available. The holiday was fairly expensive but we didn’t do any sort of cost analysis or make any attempt to ensure we got full value from the AI tariff – it just seemed more straightforward to eat as and when we pleased. Since we don’t drink much – even on holiday – perhaps we didn’t make the most of it but that was not imporrtant. The cuisine was of a fairly high standard overall and, compared with English hotels, was generally first class. The grounds of the hotel were spacious and varied enough to allow us to pick a good spot and relax however we liked. We did go for walks around the resort and go on a couple of trips out [packed lunches were available within the AI deal] but we were not very impressed by the local eating and drinking establishments in the resort. One of the consequences of the AI scheme is that local restaurants are starved of trade and have become rather low-grade premises with cheap beer and football on TV their main appeal – hence they attract a less discerning clientele and the relative decorum of the hotel restaurant acquires a certain allure. All the cafes and bars along the sea front had barkers shouting their offers at every passing tourist – until they noticed the hotel wristbands when they grumped about the All Inclusive packages. We have been on a few cruises and – obviously – they are ‘all inclusive’, but high quality. We hadn’t expected the resort holiday to match that standard but we were pleasantly surprised. I think you have to do a lot of homework to find the right hotel and probably choose a quiet time of the year to avoid over-population of the facilities but we are thinking about going on another AI holiday later this year. Comparing the last AI resort holiday with a previous B&B holiday in a very good hotel in Cyprus I would say that the AI package was more agreeable. The Cyprus hotel was in an area with a rather poor selection of local restaurants; we tried a couple which were reasonable, but not a treat, so on other nights we dined in the hotel restaurant at considerable additional expense. The real bonus of the AI package is that if you feel like a soft drink, or an ice-cream, or a little snack during the day you can just get it without thinking how much extra you are spending and having to sign chits all the time.

With a palette like Richard Hammond, I really have to be in charge of my own food on holiday. On holiday especially, I also don’t want to be forced into someone else’s schedule. Self catering in a studio apartment / villa is perfect for me because I can eat what I want and enjoy the fun of trying to work out what food is what in the supermarket!

Plus if I just want some toast whilst laying out on the veranda, then I can

I’d always go for self-catering over all-inclusive, mainly because the idea of being tied to a resort for a week or two doesn’t sound like much fun to me. The places I stay when I’m on holiday are usually no more than a place to rest my head, as during the day I’d rather explore, take in the sights, and eat at the local restaurants.

Depending on the country you can eat really cheaply from local places, or by buying local street food (Korea has utterly amazing street food). But a word of warning – there are certain countries/areas where you need to be much more careful with what you eat because of contamination. I can see why people who just want to relax might not be so keen on this ‘experimental’ eating!

Definitely all-inclusive. It doesn’t mean you can’t eat in restaurants outside the hotel. I like all-inclusive because I don’t have to worry about how much money goes on food and drink, which soon adds up, considering you have to eat and drink something everyday. Going on holiday is all about relaxing, not worrying about the cost of food and drink for the entire trip and not worrying about cooking and clearing up afterwards. I would still go to restaurants more than once to have something “different”, but not everyday and definitely not several times a day.

Carol says:
11 June 2012

For the last couple of years I have booked all inclusive holidays because my two daughters have very different tastes in what they want to eat and one of them is very fussy. I now find going all inclusive means they can eat what they like and I don’t get stressed if they opt for something and change their mind after tasting their meal and want something else instead. Before we went all inclusive, we would waste so much time trying to find somewhere to eat that had food that all of us would like. Also my eldest daughter is a grazer and with all inclusive holidays she can normally find something to eat throughout the day.

Sophie Gilbert says:
12 June 2012

I will only consider all inclusive at the Solana in Benidorm with all the crew there, especially Tim Healy in drag behind the bar.

Other than that it depends of where I go, self-catering or B&B, because of the freedom. I dont like room only very much though, it hasn’t worked as well for me.

But joke aside, I can understand perfectly why self-catering will be ideal for some. Maybe it’s not for me, yet?

I’ve just got back from an All Inclusive holiday to Turkey with two friends. We didn’t set out to book AI, but having carried out a head-to-head price comparison, (we all work for Which? after all!), it worked out cheaper to book the AI package compared with booking the flights, transfers and self catering accommodation separately.

I’m a big fan of Turkey and love the food, so have never travelled AI there before. Our hotel was located just outside a small fishing harbour, so the great AI price meant we were able to eat at the hotel in the day and head out to eat locally on a number of evenings. While the hotel food was perfectly fine, I wouldn’t have classed it as ‘authentic’. It was very much designed to cater for the international palette, so I would urge people to eat out too where this is an option.

One of the big bonuses of the AI is the unlimited drinks – and no I don’t just mean the alcohol! I hate the feeling of guzzling down a soft drink on a boiling hot day and then resenting having to pay out for a second one. Our hotel had bottles of water available throughout the day and you could fill up on soft drinks as and when – I can definitely see how this would appeal to families as Carol mentioned. Kids under 15 were even given free ice creams – unfortunately they never quite believed we were 14!

I certainly wouldn’t be put off visiting an AI resort again, but I would make sure it was in a destination or resort that allowed me to venture outside of the hotel too.

Dave says:
12 June 2012

I prefer several types of holidays each year. Self catering, all inclusive & city break!

all inclusive holida says:
14 June 2012

I think one looking for a package holiday there are some destinations, such as the Maldives, Mexico and the Dominican Republic make an all inclusive holidays.

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david anderson says:
22 October 2012

need advice on all inclusive holiday villages which are the best ones in spain,balaerics or canaries?