Five Reasons I Don’t Like All-Inclusive Vacations


All-inclusive vacations

sunset in paradise, Montego Bay, Jamaica


I’ve never been on a cruise, and I’ve only stayed at an all-inclusive resort once. So I’m not an expert on travel experiences that require one to pay a large lump sum up front to then enjoy all the experiences without a care in the world. But I have traveled enough to know why I love NOT staying at all-inclusive resorts. Here are my five reasons I don’t like all-inclusive vacations.

Lack of local experiences

Travel, to me, should be about enjoying a local place. I don’t visit chain restaurants when I travel. I don’t visit chain restaurants at home, for that matter. But when we visit a new place we want to experience it like the locals do. I like to enjoy local experiences, ones that only can be found in a destination. On my one stay in an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, I felt like we were isolated from the true local experiences. We stayed in an amazing resort and had a wonderful honeymoon. In fact, we enjoyed the visit so much that I will return to this space next week with reasons I like all-inclusive vacations. But when we were on our little peace of paradise in Montego Bay, Jamaica, I never had any clue what the city of Montego Bay offered. I never stepped foot in a local restaurant or shop. My only time getting out in the country other than our transport from the airport was when we took a trip across the island to experience Dunn’s River Falls.

Just because it’s fabulous food doesn’t mean it’s the best

The food we had at our resort was second to none. It was fabulous. I ate so much while on the resort I must’ve gained at least 10 pounds that week. But just because it was wonderful food doesn’t mean it was the true local dining experience I cherish when we travel. I didn’t get to visit the Jamaican version of a mom-and-pop restaurant, or discover the local greasy spoon. On our ride back from Dunn’s River Falls, we passed a little jerk chicken shack. Something tells me the food they served was fabulous. But I’ll never know because I instead was ferried back to the resort to eat our fabulous five-star meal.

Are we really shopping local?

I question how much of the money we spent in the resort shop actually went to local people. The resort did let vendors set up on our beach one day, and we happily bought a couple of wooden vases that seemed to be handmade, but who knows. With both of these experiences, we didn’t get the chance to shop local, to haggle with the vendors, to get the full experience of visiting a local market.

Only seeing what the resort tells us to see

all-inclusive vacations

When we stayed at our all-inclusive resort in Jamaica way back in 1999, we loved our little beach. We were on our honeymoon and made the choice to relax for a week gazing at the Caribbean Sea instead of sightseeing around Europe. But what if we would’ve chosen a simple hotel in Jamaica instead of an all-inclusive resort? Would we have had a chance to mingle with the locals more, see different beaches, have a chance to walk around the city when we wanted? I have to think so. We did enjoy going to Dunn’s River Falls with all the other romantics trying to re-create the Tom Cruise/Elizabeth Shue scene from “Cocktail.” But there weren’t a lot of options for us to get out and experience the country away from the postcard-perfect scenes of the resorts.

Being herded along with the crowds

This is one of the main reasons I avoid cruises. I’m sure cruises have plenty of virtues. I’m sure taking a cruise through the Mediterranean Sea makes it much easier to visit all those cities in Italy and Greece. But it also seems like you’re just being herded along with the crowds to see the highlights of a port of call before heading off to the next one. It just seems like the restaurants and attractions in a port of call are more like amusement park attractions.

9 thoughts on “Five Reasons I Don’t Like All-Inclusive Vacations

  1. Not to mention being stuck with the same bunch of people the whole time…many of whom I really wouldn’t choose to hang with at home either…and never getting to meet any locals. Besides which, I detest manufactured fun!

  2. The same people, yes that’s so true! And those people at our resort the whole time, they were just creepy to me. I will say it was my first experience with anyone going topless on a beach. It wasn’t a topless beach, but this British woman chose not to wear a top all week. I found that a little interesting. My wife would be rolling her eyes at me if she saw me type that statement.

  3. We’ve never been on a cruise either – and it’s not on our radar. There are so many stories about illnesses and equipment malfunctions etc., and I just have no desire to be out on the open ocean on a boat. But, there is one cruise we would like to take on and that would be a small ship cruise on an Alaska inside passage.

    Beyond that, we’ve never been on an all inclusive resort vacation either. I don’t like the idea of limited options and being herded like cattle. But, with that being said, I think there might be some situations where it would work. Say, you’re burned out and want nothing more than to lie on the beach or by the pool, no tourist sites, just 100% relaxation, then I think it could work. But we’ve never been so what do I know?! Ha! Ha!
    Patti recently posted…Finding the Balance ~My Profile

  4. When you’re burned out and just want to relax, I couldn’t agree with that sentiment more. I do like the idea of cruises on little rivers or hidden spots. I’d love to take a Mississippi River cruise, for example.

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  6. I tried all inclusive travel in November last year, not by choice. My friend was getting married at a resort so of course we went along and shared the special moment with them!

    Overall though I did not enjoy that style of travel. I felt terrible for the workers at the resort, I felt like I saw little to no true culture, the excursion prices were absurd, the people when at the buffets were like zombies and last but not least I felt like the people inside the resort were led to believe that the people/locals outside the gates we terrible and scary (maybe just my own assumption?). Funny thing about the last part is that I was more so scared of the people inside the resort than I was the locals out of the resort.

    While we were staying at the resort I wanted to visit a local school in order to drop off the school supplies that I had brought with me. It was $60USD just to get a 20 minute return drive a local school… I was sad that I really didn’t get to see a lot of culture.

    I do not wish to travel that style again, but I don’t regret going because I got to spend great quality time with my friends on their wedding day. 🙂
    Dawn Kealing recently posted…Why You Must Visit the Volcanic Island of Ometepe, Nicaragua.My Profile

  7. Dawn, thanks for stopping by. You have great insight. I agree with you. I do think all-inclusive resorts can be a lot of fun. But they really can mask what’s really going on in the surrounding area.

  8. Hey, I came across this article via a Google search for “where to stay if I don’t like all inclusive” 🙂
    If you get a chance to go back to Jamaica, stay at The Rock House hotel in Negril. It is the best of both worlds…super high class amenities, private, and you have the option of eating on property (their food is great and you can charge it to the room so no remembering your wallet) but there is so much opportunity to explore and hang out with the locals. I went “off campus” for groceries, to get my hair braided (when in Rome) and for all sorts of other food and errands. And when we did go on a hotel-sponsored tour, it was me, my husband and our driver, that’s it! He knew all the folks who worked at the tourist traps and he would get us freebies and shortcuts so we could see all the touristy stuff in a shorter time. Rock House Rules. Happy traveling!!

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