Should You Go All In?

All Inclusive holidays are on the up, with some companies now offering nothing but all inclusive breaks. But are they all they propose to be? And how do you know if going all in is the right choice for you?

I couldn’t write this article without having experienced all inclusive holidaying for myself, so I’ll share with you my two experiences.

I’d heard many a good thing about all inclusive hotels, particularly those in North Africa, from people I knew well enough to trust. And sometimes, I like the ease of booking a package for a true break from the plate spinning of everyday life. Given that I’m a part-time traveller with a full-time job, I don’t feel guilty about doing this at all. Trying the all inclusive option just seemed like a logical step in the hunt for complete peace and a worry free getaway.

The All Inclusive beach – An extension to holiday paradise, or holiday prison?

Going All In

When I found a great price for a two week trip to Hammamet in Tunisia, I went for it. Limited means meant I was happy to be paying up front, safe (hopefully) in the knowledge that there wouldn’t be much additional money being spent in my destination. And apart from tipping in the restaurant and at the bars, there wasn’t. For the first week, things were pretty much great. Buffet food was plentiful and the beers could keep on coming whilst I did very little besides read and swish about in the silky sea. It was the escape I needed.

Unfortunately, as week two set in, so did a mild case of cabin fever. There wasn’t much variety in the food after a week, and I started to feel rather like it was Groundhog Day. This wasn’t helped by the location of the hotel (it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere), or the fact that our budget just didn’t really stretch to some of the excursions on offer (and it seemed that an organised excursion was really the only way to get anywhere else). Needless to say, I was glad to be home after the fortnight ended.

Note to reader: I never say that about Greece.

Alas, the following year, with a wedding approaching (mine, actually), I’d been trying to resist that unstoppable urge I get to book flights, in order to save the pennies. But it didn’t work and I found myself once again hunting for the ultimate bargain trip (I don’t call myself a holiday addict for nothing, you know). This time the answer seemed to present itself in the form of an all inclusive week in Hurghada, Egypt. Well wouldn’t you know? I booked it.

Foolishly, I expected it to be the same setup as the hotel in Tunisia. But these places are never quite the same and this time round, there were limits as to where and when you could get your free drinks, with the evening buffet being more of a free for all, school dinner scenario.

Then there were the endless interruptions to your breakfast to see if you wanted freshly squeezed juice (that’ll be about five quid a glass). Oh, and did I mention one very sick other half? I was relieved that we were only there for a week. And although we did venture out around Hurghada, it was much too purpose built for my liking. Plus, I felt like I’d let myself down when I came face to face with a McDonalds. Even more so by the fact that the hotel food actually made me want to go inside.

One of the main drawbacks of the all inclusive for me, particularly in my Egypt experience, was that you couldn’t help thinking I’ve paid for it, so I’ll eat it! And I did eat it. Even when it wasn’t very good at all.

Would you do the “holiday dance”? If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em (that’s me nearest to the camera)!

So, would I go All In again? It might not surprise you that my answer is no. However, I might reconsider if I had kids. But even then, there’s only a small possibility. I much prefer to self cater and dine out when it suits, trying a variety of eateries. But I do think there’s a place for these resorts and hotels and they will suit some people perfectly.

4 Tips for Trying All Inclusive:

Pick Your Location Wisely: And I don’t just mean the country. If you don’t mind staying put, then a remote location will be fine, but if, like me, you get itchy feet and like to venture out away from organised tours, you need to find somewhere that will meet your need to explore.

Read Reviews: Don’t book anything on a whim. Check the usual resources like Trip Advisor, and pay particular attention to food scores.

Check out the Family Entertainment: This works both ways. If you find somewhere with a great animation programme and plenty of child friendly activities, it could prove a fantastic holiday for Mums and Dads. On the other hand, if yours have grown up or you haven’t had them yet, bear in mind that other people’s children aren’t always much fun. 

Study what’s actually included: If you like your Gordon’s gin and expect to be drinking it past midnight, you need to weigh up whether it will cost you dearly, as often only local beers and sprits are included in your trip. Make sure you check all the details.

Other things worth bearing in mind…I know someone who went into a travel agent asking about 5 star All Inclusive hotels. The reply was that true 5 star establishments hardly ever offer this option. Be sensible in your expectations.

Spare a thought too, for the local tourist industry and small businesses. These large (and often chain) hotels usually end up on the fringes of established resorts, and there are constant reports of how local bars and restaurants, once flooded with happy holidaymakers are now closing or only pulling the odd pint for dwindling numbers of customers. Consider who you’d rather had your money in their pocket.

All in all, this type of holiday might be just up your street, but forewarned is forearmed, and despite the raving reviews I still hear from others, I know now that going all inclusive is just not for me.

Have you been on an all inclusive holiday? How was it for you? Or are you thinking of trying out the concept? I’d love to hear your views in the comments.

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