Paying a fixed price for an ‘all in’ holiday with meals, drinks and entertainment has often been popular for far flung destinations such as the Caribbean, but you can also secure all-inclusive deals closer to home including in Greece and the Canaries.
Big players in the all-inclusive field include Thomas Cook, Kuoni, Hayes and Jarvis, and Thomson but with so many packages on offer, you need to check the small print to make sure you get value for money.
1. Do your sums first
Paying a fixed price makes it easier to keep a lid on your holiday budget and can make for big savings compared with a room only deal where you have to fork out for meals and drinks.
Booking a week’s trip to Rhodes through travelsupermarket.com in June costs from £195 per person for three star self-catering, whereas an all-inclusive deal in a three star resort starts from £246. This means for £7 a day more, you’re getting all your meals and alcoholic drinks thrown in.
Travel website Greeklandscapes.com says a meal at a restaurant that includes a main course, a salad, and a soft drink would cost around €20 that’s more than £16 as at 20 December 2016.
There are also savings to be made by swapping a week’s self-catering in Crete for an all-inclusive. Prices start from £159 per person in June to stay in three star accommodation, or from £228 for ‘all-inclusive’. That’s under £10 a day extra but all inclusive.
2. Check what’s included
With most inclusive packages, you get flights, transfers and accommodation along with meals and drinks, plus entertainment and activities, such as non-motorised water sports.
Most basic packages include ‘buffet dining’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner along with drinks, (both alcoholic and soft drinks), and poolside snacks such as ice cream and fast food.
Some packages from operators including both Thomas Cook and Hayes and Jarvis also include a choice of ‘a la carte’ restaurants on top, where you can eat and drink for free – but you may need to book these in advance when you arrive at the resort.
3. Watch the bar bill
As mentioned above, most ‘budget’ packages include locally produced beers, wines and spirits as well as soft drinks, whereas the more expensive packages or trips to long haul destinations may include international brands and even cocktails.
Find out first and stick with what’s on offer; otherwise you’ll end up paying per drink.
Check when you can eat and drink too. It’s worth knowing if you can get a coffee at 4am if you wake up with jet lag and if there are poolside snacks or food available outside any fixed restaurant hours.
4. Read the reviews
Do your homework. It’s guaranteed that the brochure or website write up will sound idyllic but check what others say about the dining options, location, activities and whether it’s value for money. The website Tripadvisor.co.uk is a useful resource.
If you’re vegetarian, vegan or have any dietary requirements, check whether these will be catered for, or whether you’ll end up going hungry if it’s not clear what’s in the buffet dishes and there’s no ‘cooked to order’ option.
5. Take the family
Some deals may mean kids stay and eat for free, and if there are kids’ clubs or events as part of the deal, parents can be guaranteed a more relaxing holiday.
Plus it means you won’t be forking out every time they want an ice cream or coming up with ways to keep them entertained all day long.
6. Stay by the pool
If you want a relaxing pool or beach holiday, without having to hunt around for a bar or restaurant, an all-inclusive can fit the bill. Just make sure you’ve got enough choice of restaurants and bars so you’re not stuck at the same one every night.
But if you want to take some day trips or hire a car for a couple of days, you can end up paying twice over for meals and drinks, unless you’re prepared to go hungry until you head back to your resort.
7. Take your own mug
If you’re sitting by the pool and want a beer, you may find drinks are dished out in plastic cups. And in some cases, these can be somewhat on the small side.
So to save making return trips, take your own travel mug. Yes it’s one more thing to pack, but saves making repeat trips to the bar if you’re on the beach and keeps your drink cold (or hot), depending on what you’re drinking.
Not all resorts allow this, but it’s worth packing one just in case.
8. Be first at the buffet
Getting to the restaurant as the buffet opens means you’ll get the best choice, and be first in the queue for any ‘cooked to order’ food such as stir fries, pancakes, steaks or fish.
On a practical basis, getting there early also reduces the risk of too many people handling the bread rolls, or poking at the food before you get there.
9. Make the most of free activities
Some deals include non-motorised water sports, such as windsurfing. And depending on the size of your hotel or resort, there may be an entertainment team on hand to organise events including beach volleyball, pool games and even the occasional free shuttle bus or local tour thrown in. Some places have gyms too and there’ll usually always be at least one swimming pool.
If you push the boat out and opt for a ‘luxury’ all-inclusive deal offered by the likes of Hayes & Jarvis in places such as Mexico and Mauritius, you’ll get 24 hour room service, a mini bar, spa treatments and even a tour or two included.
10. Don’t go crazy
It may be tempting to sink a gin and tonic at every opportunity but over-indulging (especially in the sun), is going to make you feel ill and nobody wants to waste a day of their holiday.
On the plus side, knowing you won’t get billed for ordering a dish you don’t like, means you’ve got the freedom to experiment with different foods from around the world. So as you’ve paid for it, make the most of your chance to try something new!