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All Inclusive vs European Plan

The all inclusive fad is in full swing. So much so that we get a lot of requests for all inclusive resorts for destinations here in the U.S., even though there are basically none. It seems everyone thinks all inclusive is the way to go. Well is it really? The answer to that question is no and also yes. Let me explain.

Actually before I explain the no and yes answer, lets make sure everyone truly understands what an all inclusive resort is. A resort that is truly all inclusive will include all meals, all beverages, room service and even whats in the minibar in the rooms. There are a few exceptions to this but 99% of all inclusive resorts will be offering all of your food and drink for one packaged price. This is in contrast to resorts that are not all inclusive or European Plan (EP), as some are called. EP simply means no food or drink are included with the exception of the occasional breakfast daily or a resort credit of some sort which are usually offered as promotional items at the time of booking.

So are we clear on the differences between the two? All inclusive resorts allow you to pay one price for all of your food and drink AT the resort and resorts that are EP will be charging you for any food and drink that you consume onsite at their resort above and beyond the room rate you might have paid.

So some are probably reading this thinking, "why on earth would I want an EP plan when I can pay one price and get all of the food and drink included? Well the answer depends on the type of traveler you are. If you want a beach, some sun, and you really don't want to move yourself from the pool or ocean for your entire trip, then an all inclusive is a great option. If you are not one who needs top cuisine or craft cocktails, then an all inclusive is a great option. If you have children and you don't want to have to worry about what they are about to order off of a menu while on vacation, then an all inclusive is a great option. If you fit into one of those 3 categories, my answer would be yes, an all inclusive is the way to go for you.

BUT...if you are not in those 3 categories, then here is why an all-inclusive may not be a great option for you. First, all inclusive resorts tend to "dumb down" the food and drink quality. What I mean by that is demand for non stop food and drink makes it hard for the resorts to keep up and the quality suffers. They have gone the way of the cruise lines. Cruises used to be known for excellent cuisine and pampered service. Now, cruisers can't wait to get onboard so they can hurry to the buffet and eat as much as possible before then heading to their stateroom so they can get ready for more food at dinner to only be followed by a trip to the all night pizza or burger or cookie stations around the ship. The constant demand for food has created a situation where cruise lines have to cut down on quality just to keep up with the constant demand for more and more food. Well, all inclusive resorts are now faced with the same issue. They know that as long as they can keep food in plentiful supply 24/7, their average guest will be satisfied with their stay. They can no longer afford the best of ingredients and the time needed to produce true gourmet cuisine. So if you like to taste incredible dishes while on vacation, you may be better off at a resort that is not all inclusive and where you pay for the actual amount of food you consume.

Second, if you are a traveler that likes to get out and see and do and eat more of the food that the destination actually offers, then you may be better off by not doing an all inclusive. If you pay for an all inclusive resort, you are paying for breakfast, lunch and dinner and all snacks. If you were to venture off the property and come across a great place to eat, you would most likely not eat there because you realize you have already paid for all of your food while on vacation. Staying at a non-all-inclusive gives you the freedom to eat wherever you please including great options away from the resort.

And third, if you enjoy sitting in a wonderful lounge and enjoying a cocktail that was produced by a true mixologist, then all inclusive resorts are most likely not for you. Again, because things have been dumbed down at all inclusive, top spirits and beer are not always available and please don't count on being wooed by anything a bartender may produce at an all inclusive. Can they make a margarita or a mojito and it taste ok? Sure! But they are again producing drinks as fast as they possibly can because they have to keep up with those vacationers who like to have 2, 3 or 4 drinks in their hand at one time.

Now this sounds like I am poo pooing all over all inclusive resorts but really I am not. I am just making sure everyone sees and understands what you get for the price you pay. Going on vacation with wrong expectations is usually why you see some really bad reviews on travel review sites. Someone saw an all inclusive that was supposedly 4 star and thought they were going to get the same quality of food and drink as they would have at a real 4 star resort that is not all inclusive.

So before you jump on the all inclusive bandwagon, please talk to a travel professional and let them explain to you the pros and cons before you spend your hard earned money on your next vacation.

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