Choosing Right All-Inclusive Resort

On vacation


12 Considerations when searching for that perfect resort vacation for your family

Why go?

The number of all-inclusive, family resorts grows every year. In particular, I’ve seen a tremendous of amount development in Mexico, particularly in Cancun, Tulum, Cozumel, Riviera Maya, and Playa del Carmen. I’m sure that every time you see photos of another all-inclusive resort pop up on your Instagram feed, it looks even more enticing than the last one. The choices can be overwhelming!

Here are 12 tips to help you choose the right all-inclusive vacation for your family.

1/Consider working with experienced travel agent

In most cases, the cost of working with a professional travel agent is built into the advertised resort prices that you find online. If you do all the work and make your own reservations, the resort pockets the profits, and you don’t benefit from the guidance and experience of an agent.

Ask your agent if he or she has visited your preferred destination or resort. Your agent will be happy to suggest all-inclusives that meet your specific criteria and then help you narrow down your options. Your travel agent doesn't want to simply sell you a trip; he or she wants to become your trusted travel adviser for years to come.

2/Set a budget

All-inclusive resorts include all your food, drinks (including alcohol), activities, child care, entertainment, tips, taxes, and more. Parents love these resorts because they pretty much know the entire family vacation cost upfront without hidden surprises. However, know that there may be some extras that you'll need to pay for like outside sightseeing and activities, evening babysitting, flights, and other transportation. Resort prices do vary greatly, especially during prime family vacation weeks.

KidTripster Tip: Some travel agents offer free payment plans to help with your budgeting.

3/Consider the ages of your children

Every experienced parent knows that if the kids aren’t happy and entertained, then parents can’t properly relax. Complimentary kids’ camps and teen activities are a huge draw when it comes to all-inclusive vacations but does age matters.

Will you be traveling with a 2-year-old or a 13-year-old. An all-inclusive that's perfect for a toddler may be a disappointment for a teenager. Or maybe you need a resort that’ll work for both ages. And do you need evening activities for the kids so that mom and dad can have a night out? Make sure to ask these questions early in the selection process.

4/Does everyone in the family have a valid passport?

A stay at an all-inclusive resort often means an international trip and the need for valid passports. If your family doesn’t have them, apply now. If your family already has passports, double check the expiration dates before you confirm your travel plans. Many countries require passports to be valid at least six months beyond your return travel date.

5/Understand your family’s idea of fun

Just like people, all-inclusive resorts have their own personalities. Some are vibrant and active, while others are laid back. Does your family like to be in the heart of all of the action or would you prefer to be off the beaten track? Does everyone want time alone to do their own thing or is your family looking to spend quality time together. What's more important: WiFi or being unplugged? A huge water park or a gorgeous beach? Understanding your family's travel style will help match you with the perfect all-inclusive option.

6/Calculate travel time

How long is the flight to get to a particular resort? How long does it take to get there from the airport? How long does it take to get to outside sightseeing and is that transportation included? Again, ask these questions before you book.

KidTripster Tip: Travel times are a particularly important consideration if you’re traveling with a special needs child. For example, many children on the autism spectrum do much better with a 10-minute drive rather than a 2-hour schlep to a resort.

7/Evaluate the quality of the food

Having all your meals included is a huge deal for families and most all-inclusives offer a great variety of dining options. If you have foodies in your family, upgrading to a resort that offers farm-to-table organic dining or Michelin-star chefs may be important to your vacation experience.

Or does someone in your family has certain dietary restrictions? Parents will want to choose a resort with a knowledgeable staff who can easily accommodate those special needs. And you’ll want to read this article from KidTripster’s food allergy expert.

Being able to immerse yourselves in the local culture by tasting indigenous foods can be a memorable part of your vacation. However, there are other families who’ll want the availability of familiar foods to satisfy picky eaters. Bottom line, know your family’s eating habits.

8/Right-sized accommodations to fit your family

All-inclusive resorts come with occupancy rules. For example, if the maximum occupancy is four people and your family has two parents and three kids, then you'll need to reserve two rooms.  Occupancy rules also determine pricing. Most pricing is based on double adult occupancy. If you're a single parent, then your child will be required to pay an adult rate. 

Some parents want privacy and separation from their kids while on vacation, especially if little ones have early bedtimes. Larger families may need more space and extra bathrooms to keep the peace.  Finding a resort room with the right floor plan can make or break a vacation.

KidTripster Tip: All-inclusive resorts in Mexico and Beaches Resorts do a particularly good job of accommodating larger families.

9/Finding availability

Just because you've found the perfect all-inclusive resort doesn't mean that it's available. Most families plan their vacations according to school calendars. Summer, spring breaks, and the December holidays sell out quickly. This is especially true when it comes to family suites, connecting rooms, and other preferred layouts.

My advice? Plan a vacation like you plan a family; start at least nine months in advance! Planning ahead not only ensures availability but also gives you the best pricing and plenty of time for payment plans.

10/Look for “kids stay free” deals

At certain times of the year, some all-inclusives will offer "kids stay free" or “BOGO" (buy one, get one) deals. Generally speaking, you won't find these discounts at peak travel periods. Every once in a while, you’ll score a deal. However, more often than not, these are marketing ploys where the adults are charged a higher rate to compensate for any discount.

KidTripster Tip: Read the fine print. These deals may come with highly restrictive terms.

11/Vacation with peace of mind

Did you know most U.S. medical insurance policies don’t cover your family when you travel outside of the country? And if you do a full read-through on your resort terms, you’ll find some hefty penalties for canceling a trip. Most flights to get to your vacation destination are non-refundable. And what happens if a hurricane or snowstorm interrupts your family's travel plans?

These are all reasons to consider travel insurance. Read KidTripster’s 8 questions to ask before buying travel insurance to evaluate your risk.

At KidTripster, we buy our policies through World Nomads. You can use the calculator below to estimate the cost for your trip.

Please know KidTripster is a partner with World Nomads. That means if you use the link provided here to purchase your own policy, we get some coffee money from World Nomads. There’s no extra cost to you. Just wanted you to know.

12/Make compromises confidently

Life is a lot like that Rolling Stones song - "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need.” What do I mean?

Imagine a vacation at your ideal beach resort would require a 15-hour flight with your 3-year-old. Or your son's idea of fun is ziplining through the jungle, and you hate heights. Or Grandma has generously offered to pay for a vacation but her tastes are very different than yours.

Determining your family's wants, needs, and deal breakers will help you make the right vacation choices. And if compromises need to be made along the way, so be it. A family vacation with a few compromises is better than no vacation at all!

Sally Black is the owner of a travel agency called VacationKids, author of the book “Fearless Family Vacations,” and a mom. An expert in family travel, Sally serves on the board of the Family Travel Association. If you need help planning your vacation, click here to reach her. By doing so, you also help support KidTripster at no additional cost to you.

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All-Inclusive Resorts for families