Geri and I, plus two other close friends, traveled to Acapulco a couple of years ago.  It was fun to get away from the husbands, kids, work, and daily house chores, and spend a little “girl” time together.

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort, meaning you pay one price for the hotel, food, basic cocktails, and other amenities. This is much like a cruise where most everything is included in one price. But how exactly does it work, and is it always the best deal?


Does all-inclusive really mean that everything is included? Can the resort sneak in additional charges?

In reality, there is no such thing as an entirely all-inclusive resort. And more importantly, each resort will define the idea differently. Here’s what you usually can count on wherever you go.  Your rate will include your room and three meals per day (with good drinks). Beyond that, it depends on the place.  Usually, activities conducted on the premise are also included.  In Acapulco, we had beautiful pools, outdoor activities, fitness room, game nights, karaoke, and more, all included.  Excursions that we took outside the resort were not included.  Special services like babysitting or spa treatments cost extra.

Even with a few extra costs, you usually still get a great value. But watch for those resorts that throw in everything. Those freebies are usually rolled into your room rate (remember, nothing is really “free”), so if you don’t plan on attending every single free perk, then shop around for those resorts that include the activities that you’ll attend.  The overall cost may be cheaper.

Is the food good?

In Mexico, as well as other countries, our digestive tracts aren’t used to their normal flora.  We felt much more confident eating the food at this all-inclusive resort because of their careful preparation and cleanliness.  The food was good and abundant.  We had a choice to eat in a couple of different of their resort restaurants, but a third restaurant on-premises cost extra.

Some resorts have time restrictions on their restaurants, so if you sleep late, you may miss breakfast, for example.

What about tipping?

Usually, guests are discouraged from tipping for expected service like carrying bags or serving food. But if you want to tip, certainly go ahead. Tipping is expected for any extra service provided, like a tour guide or spa treatment. 15% is customary. High-end all-inclusive resorts assign butlers to each room; the company recommends you tip an average of $25 per day.

Location, location, location

Many of these all-inclusive resorts are in Mexico or the Caribbean. Why? Because you usually travel to the area and stay put, the all-inclusive concept works best in these areas.  But let’s say you’re traveling to Japan or Greece. You certainly wouldn’t want to spend your time stuck in one resort, eating at the same restaurant every day.  That’s why it’s more difficult to find all-inclusive resorts in other parts of the world.

All-inclusive is most attractive when you just want to chill. That’s why our vacation was so relaxing and rewarding. We liked the fact that we didn’t have to open our wallets for every meal, cocktail, or activity. Even though we knew the cost for these things was rolled into our final bill, it seemed we were getting something for nothing.  It made the trip more relaxing, and that’s the whole point, right?