After my Tulum trip I received multiple questions about personal travel style and the benefits of inclusive stay’s vs. traveling like a local. I grew up staying at all inclusive resorts with my family and during my study abroad program I traveled most of Europe on foot, train, and crashing in hostels, discovering the local terrain. There are many benefits to both resorts and living like a local, but how do you know which one’s right for you? Lets compare the pro’s & con’s of each and find your perfect match.
ALL- INCLUSIVE STAY
All-Inclusive resorts are glamorous and provide luxury stays. They typically offer stay + food + drinks in their package for predetermined price. Resorts and cruises provide unique access to activities, food options and services guests may otherwise be unable to afford or even find on their own. This makes the booking process and trip planning almost effortless.
Another pro of booking an all-inclusive trip is that it’s paid for up front. Even with the add-on expenses, the majority of your trip is accounted for before your feet hit the sand. Giving you the ability to sit back and relax!
Here are a few good reasons why luxury resorts may be for you:
- You’re looking for an escape from work. You want to spend the majority of your time relaxing.
- Safety. If you are going to a bad area, you want to make sure you, your friends, and family are protected. Hotel zones typically provide extra protection.
- You have young kids. You want a place that offers free activities or are included in the price of your stay – giving you and your hubby some over due time alone.
- Timeshare. If you, your friends or family have a timeshare – use it. You’ll typically get the best bang for your buck and booking will be effortless.
- Discounts. There are PLENTY of vacation packages booming all over the internet. You can get some great flight + lodging deals if you look at sites like CheapOAir, Kyack, and Budget.
Many vacation packages offer great value and provide truly luxurious experiences, BUT it’s important to understand that “all-inclusive” does not necessarily mean “everything is included.”
Generally speaking, all-inclusive resort vacations and all-inclusive cruises include lodging, food and basic drink service for the duration of your stay or journey. Some include airfare if you book through a travel agent or travel website. However, there’s no universal standard for the term; what’s included for free at one resort may be an upcharge at another. And to ad to that, most extra activities within the resort or booked through the resort staff are provided by preferred vendors – which can double the price of a local vendor. Because of this guests rarely leave the resort grounds, the economy suffers.
I’ve stayed in many all-inclusive resorts- perks of growing up with a time share. I’m very grateful for all the experiences I’ve had but wanted to throw in some personal opinion here. The biggest thing I’ve noticed that suffers at an all inclusive resort is the food – especially if you are traveling during peak seasons or the holidays. When hotel’s book out – there are more mouth’s to feed, and unfortunately, the quality of the food suffers from it. In my experience the local dishes are much tastier and you probably have a wider selection to chose from.
And lastly, a huge con of an all inclusive is having limited options in terms of destination, the structure of all-inclusive trips can leave some feeling tied down to their hotel or resort compound with little opportunity to experience true local flavor. In fact, you’ll probably feel less fulfilled while your staring at the same view day after day and mingling with the same crowd. Even if it’s relatively easy to go into town, you may feel like you’re paying twice by eating out or stopping for a cold one beyond the resort walls.
TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL
While strawberry daiquiri’s and photo worthy beaches are a tempting prospect, they’re not everyone’s cup of rum. If an urban adventure is more up your alley, an all-inclusive resort may not be the best fit. Traveling like a local is an anthropological delight.
Wherever you travel in the world, part of the experience is learning, through observation and participation, about the people who live there. Their traditions, their culture, their history, their quirks, and their cuisine! Although it can be challenging to adjusting to a new social norm, the experiences and memories you create will be so vibrant and colorful.
Traveling like a local also gives you the ability to meet more people and even pick up the local slang. Nowadays there are lots of exciting websites and apps that serve to link curious travelers with locals all across the globe. If you’re visiting a bigger city, Meetup and Couchsurfing events are plentiful and typically full of folk looking to make new friends.
Another pro of traveling like a local is ability to challenge yourself. Traveling alone or in groups out side the country can make people feel uncomfortable. Many people who do travel, are looking for something diffrent in this world. They’re looking to discover not only a culture, but something within themselves. I can tell you first hand that traveling the world is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life. I still have many more places to go, but if I die tomorrow – I’d still be happy.
Traveling like a local demands a lot of planning and attention to detail. Planning excursions and tours can be exhausting, and you want to make sure you are booking with reputable companies. This requires more effort on your part, keeping up with money, booking, transportation, and schedules.
Many expected and unexpected things can occur that can ruin an experience while traveling. One that I can relate to is being homesick and missing family milestones. Since Wi-Fi and phone connection is not as easy, or cheap, to come by while traveling, keeping in touch is much harder. If it is a long trip, it can feel even longer without that connection with your home.
Food wise you may have more options, but you are also left open to a greater risk of food contamination or allergies. I have a tree nut allergy so I have to be VERY careful where and what I eat. For the most part, this has never been a problem. I always make sure to know the local language so I can communicate my allergy.
MY STYLE – TRAVEL LIKE A LOCAL
When it comes down to it – I enjoy both. However, 90% of my trips will be spent traveling like a local. There is something about the adventure of traveling, meeting new people, and exploring new terrain that absolutely excites me. I think my study abroad in Spain turned me into another twenty something wander lusting gal. Although, that’s fine with me. On top of discovering new places, I get to see a new corner of the world. The geography, culture, and experiences are all so very different.
You can go on any big brand name website and find travel recommendations, but I like to visit other travel blogs instead and see what they have discovered. Sometimes, they have the best kept secrets. Obviously, I love to write about my discoveries and share them with my friends and family – hence my blog. I hope you enjoy this part of the journey as much as I do.
MAKING THE RIGHT DECISION
At the end of the day, the purpose of a vacation is to come home happy and content about the experience. If you already have a strong preference for or against all-inclusive trips, do yourself a favor and let that be your guiding force. If you’ve read through and are still undecided on your next destination or the best way to travel – try taking this TripMatcher Style Quiz by Airbnb!
Let me know if you have any questions about an upcoming trips! I want to know where you guys are heading and can’t wait to see your adventures!