The idea of all-inclusive holidays has been around for more than half a century. The pay-once holiday idea in its modern sense was dreamed up by Club Med in the early 1950s when the company’s Gerard Blitz opened his first resort at Alcudia in Majorca. At the time, Blitz said he wanted to “eliminate extra charges that can sour the sweetest of vacations”.
Others argue that the concept started a couple of decades earlier, with Billy Butlin when he built his first all-in holiday camp at Skegness. He offered holidays from 35 shillings a week, which included accommodation, three meals a day and free entertainment. Crucially, and perhaps shrewdly, alcohol was not included in the price.
The all-inclusive concept did not really take off until the late 1970s when Jamaica’s John Issa opened up Negril Beach Resort and added drinks into the all-inclusive mix. Other tour operators saw how successful it became and the holiday industry never looked back.
The whys and why nots of all-inclusive
Thinking about booking an all-inclusive holiday? There are some pros and cons to consider before you do.
You know the price
The most obvious advantage of an all-inclusive break is that you have near certainty over the total cost of your holiday. You pay the money upfront and the only extras are usually minor out-of-pocket expenses in the resort, such as any tips, buying things in resort shops and outside your holiday complex. This cost issue is the number one for many families and has become particularly relevant in the past year after the pound slumped against most major currencies following the Brexit vote. Because of the way in which holidays are priced, people could still get good value all-inclusives for this year. Next year, you may not be so lucky as higher prices filter through.
Childcare & activities included
Another advantage at many all-inclusive resorts is that childcare and some activities are included in the price. Mark Warner, for example, includes child care for children above the age of two as well as sailing, windsurfing kayaking, paddleboarding and tennis in its package price.
Kid- and adult-friendly food
The food is another big draw for families. Anyone with fussy kids (isn’t that everyone?) will know that there will be plenty of options, including the ubiquitous chips, pizza, pasta and nuggets alongside more grown-up dishes so there are no (or at least fewer) tantrums on the restaurant floor.
Too much of the same food
The provision of its food sometimes has its downsides. The best all-inclusives rotate what they include on their buffets but for some, by the end of your holiday, you cannot face another buffet meal with predictable offerings. Buffets also tend to lead to overindulgence thanks to the I-have-paid-for-it, I-have-to-eat-it principle.
You only see the resort
Staying all-inclusive also reduces the likelihood that you will venture outside into the real world. For many, all-inclusive feels like being on a military compound where any attempt to escape is met with scorn.
Where to go: my all-inclusive picks
- All-inclusive and Africa are not often in the same sentence. Ants Nest and Ants Hill in the malaria-free Waterberg in South Africa are the stunning exceptions. They are family-friendly properties on a lovely game reserve with a huge range of activities from game drives to horse riding, mountain biking and walking. Everything here is included, food, drinks, activities and even babysitting.
- On Majorca’s quieter west coast, Sa Terra Rotja is a luxury traditional Mallorquin villa with Med views and private pool terrace but without the stress of catering for yourself. Packages include all food and beverages (including wine, beers, spirits, Spanish sparkling wine and soft drinks), daily continental breakfast and cook service for lunch and dinner six days a week.
- Moriani Plage on Corsica is a wide, family friendly beach and is home to the San Lucianu Beach Resort with lush gardens and mountain views in all directions. This Mark Warner resort offers water sports, child care (day and evening) as well as guided biking tours around the nearby hills, where the Tour de France passed in 2013. The resort offers a fresh à la carte menu and drinks if you take the all-inclusive option.
- Beaches Ocho Rios in Jamaica has twenty-two acres of lush tropical gardens, a private white-sand beach, seven gourmet restaurants and three swimming pools (see main photo). Plump for a Luxury Included family holiday and you get everything thrown in, including tips, championship golf, premium drinks and a variety of watersports including scuba diving.
- Heard of a mini all-inclusive? Country Kids, a converted farm in the Langedoc region of France, has seven family-friendly apartments (sleeping 4-7). There are 30 acres to roam around in, food baskets on arrival, twice weekly babysitting, fenced pools, a petting farm, supervised horse and pony rides, playground and sandpit, treehouse and trampolines and bikes to borrow. The summer all-inclusive programme includes kids’ afternoon teas, buffet breakfasts, two communal lunches, evening meals delivered to your apartment a Friday morning PJ party so parents get a much-needed lie-in.
- Round Hill Hotel & Villas in Montego Bay, Jamaica regularly ranks at the top of the all-inclusive listings for the Caribbean. Round Hill comprises a 36-room Ralph Lauren-designed Pineapple House and 27 luxury villas. You can go for standard all-inclusive, which includes all meals and drinks, beachside activities and a newly refurbished Pineapple Kids Club (pictured below) or the Platinum Plan which adds in private roundtrip airport transfers and one bottle of wine and fruit plate in room on arrival.
Mark Frary is family travel editor of 101 Holidays (www.101holidays.co.uk).
Do you have a favourite all-inclusive resort? What do you think of them for your family? Leave us a comment below!