Why I Only Take All-Inclusive Vacations

It’s almost vacation season once again! In a few short months the semester will be over and my wife and I can enjoy a trip to the beach. Okay, not just a trip to the beach, but an all-inclusive excursion to the Caribbean. And this is not our first, or second, or third… I love the all-inclusive vacations.

According to the Rossen Report on the Today Show, all-inclusive vacations are actually a bit more expensive than if you pay for everything as you go. I am a financial person. All inclusive vacations are usually more expensive. So how can someone who says he teaches personal finance choose a more expensive option?

Easy. I teach personal finance. I know how I think. I used to get stressed about every detail of vacation. How much is dinner? How much is that activity? Did we put more on the credit card during vacation than we meant to? Now I can’t pay it off this month and it will take us a couple of months to pay it! Oh, the stress!

I have always had a difficult time enjoying my vacations because I was always stressed about our spending. The way I see it, there are only three approaches I can take, with my personality, to vacation spending.

Three Types of Vacation Spending

1-Estimate Your Cost and Pay it Off Later

Also known as the “bury-your-head-in-the-sand” approach, I could just try to spend reasonably and see how it works out. If I spent less than we had set aside then we have extra money for something else! If I spent more than we had set aside, then we will have to make some cuts for the next month or two – or three – until we paid off the vacation. But what fun is that? I would either be stressed as we were spending, or I would be stressed after we got back from vacation and regret that extra plate of fried conch. Without knowing how much I could spend, I may have skipped out on some fun activities that I could have otherwise enjoyed… if only I had known what my budget was…

2 - Set a Vacation Budget

I tried that. But guess what? I still had to stress about how close we were to exceeding the budget. What if we had $300 set aside for dinner and after 4 days we spent it? What were we going to do the other 3 days? Maybe now we have to cancel the dinner cruise in order to stay within budget for dinners. Or perhaps we did not dine out at nice places the first few days until we got to day 4 and realized there was a lot of money still available. How can anyone enjoy this type of vacation? I am stressed just writing about it.

3 - Book an All-Inclusive Vacation

Finally! A vacation concept that works for me (and my wife). Does it cost more paying for everything up front? Yes, but not when you consider the therapy that I would apparently need with regular vacations! As long as we save up enough money ahead of time to pay for the all-inclusive, I don’t have to think about money at all. Literally. I think I spent an extra $6 on a can of bug spray on one trip and another $20 in the airport for some snacks and drinks. Of course, if you want to go shopping that is its own expense as well. But literally, every activity (snorkeling, cruise, etc.) is included.

What About Hidden Costs?

There can be additional costs, but they are not hidden for most resorts. For instance, if you want to get a couple’s massage or a candlelight dinner for two, you will have to pay extra for that. But those are not hidden fees. They are simply optional add-ons. We had a couple’s candlelight dinner once, but we simply pre-arranged it so it was still paid for up-front. You can also choose to do other activities that are not on the resort, which you will have to pay for out-of-pocket. It really depends on what you want out of your vacation.

So What Is Included?

Every resort is different, but the ones we like include all of your food (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks throughout the day and evening) and all of your drinks (water, soda, alcohol). Our last few all-inclusive trips have been with Sandals Resorts – which are couples only. Other all-inclusive resorts also allow for families, including Beaches Resorts (which is also owned by Sandals).

The point is that we don’t want to pay for extra stuff or have to decide if it’s really worth having a second pizza at lunch. We like that there are also water sports available such as snorkeling – or even scuba diving (although you have to be certified). Some resorts include golf and tennis. They have activities throughout the day such as beach volleyball, pool volleyball, and other fun games. Perhaps the best part is that we meet the nicest people while on vacation. I think everyone is more relaxed and social at all-inclusive resorts because nobody is worrying about money.

My Conclusion

So for my wife and I, we prefer to pay up-front for an all-inclusive resort, even if it does cost a bit more. That way we are much more relaxed and social on vacation. In fact, if you see me at one of these resorts, come on over and chat. Drinks are on me!

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Bill Pratt

Bill is an Assistant Professor of Business at Piedmont Virginia Community College. He speaks on topics related to personal finance on college campuses across the country and is the author of multiple books on personal finance. He left the financial industry to focus on helping people become personally and financially successful. He lives in Charlottesville, VA with his wife and their three pets.

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