Family travel can be daunting, but choosing an all-inclusive resort makes it easy. No worries about where to eat or what to do; everything is at the hotel, with many activities multi-generational families can enjoy. Read on to learn all about all-inclusive vacations, and decide if it works for your family!
Is an All-Inclusive Right for Your Family? Everything You Need to Know
- What is an All-Inclusive Family Vacation?
- What are the Pros and Cons of Booking an All-Inclusive?
- Where are the Best All-Inclusive Resorts?
- Is an All-Inclusive Really a Good Deal?
- Are There All-Inclusive Resorts in the US?
- What About Food Allergies?
- Are There Deals for All-Inclusive Resort Vacations?
- Do You Tip at an All-Inclusive?
- How Do You Protect Yourself and Your Family?
Planning your next family vacation? Get something for everyone with an all-inclusive family vacation. What’s that you ask? Read on…
What is an All-Inclusive Family Vacation?
All-inclusive resorts take much of the planning out of a vacation. And no worries about surprise charges. You choose where to go, where to eat and what to do, and you know how much it will cost because everything is included. These kid-friendly vacations appeal to the whole family, from toddlers to teens.
An all-inclusive resort means you get three meals a day, plus activities. Think of it as a cruise on land. Some all-inclusive resorts include alcoholic drinks, while others don’t, so check this if it’s important. Also, there can be extra charges for some water sports activities, or off-site tours and special upscale restaurants. Airfare may or may not be included.
Most kid-friendly all-inclusive resorts have kids clubs, with activities all day long. One of my kids liked this so much she insisted on day care when we returned from our all-inclusive family vacation.
What are the Pros and Cons of an All-Inclusive Family Vacation?
If planning a family-friendly vacation makes you break out in hives, an all inclusive resort gives you peace of mind. You don’t have to plan each day. An activity sheet usually shows up in the morning detailing the schedule of different activities, and meals are right on site. You also know what the vacation costs up front, so aren’t surprised by a big bill at the end.
But there is a downside to all those activities. You can feel overwhelmed by the wealth of free choices, and guilty if you just want to read a book on the white sand beach instead of taking a macrame class. And you don’t get a local feel.
Going off property is an additional cost, and if you decide to explore the island or local area, any cost, including a meal you have off-site, feels like you are paying twice. Why miss a meal or activity you’ve already paid for?
Where are the Best All-Inclusive Resorts for Families?
The Caribbean has the most popular and well-known all inclusive resorts for families:
- Beaches Turks & Caicos
- Club Med Cancun
- Jamaica’s Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa
Beaches Turks & Caicos is wonderful for young Sesame Street fans. The family-friendly beach resort includes a water park with water slides, a lazy river and a swim-up bar where my daughters drank unlimited fruit smoothies.
Club Med Cancun includes water sports like water skiing, tennis (with racquets and balls) and yoga on the white sand beach. This Club Med has a concierge level, with private check-in, quiet infinity pool, and larger rooms.
In Montego Bay, Jamaica, the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa is for water lovers. The Sugar Mill Falls Water Park has giant water slides and a lazy river, and the long white sand beach fronts the gentle surf. You can try traditional Jamaican dishes like ackee & saltfish for breakfast and jerk chicken for lunch.
How Do You Know if an All-Inclusive Family Resort is a Good Deal??
Look carefully at what is included and see if you will take advantage of the offerings. Unlimited top-shelf alcohol is not needed if you are pregnant or a non-drinker. Don’t pay for lots of group activities or elaborate children’s programs if your kids prefer to sit in the sand with a bucket.
Deal or No Deal?
One way to compare is going to Disney World versus a smaller amusement park. At Disney, you pay one price and every ride is included. At an amusement park, you pay per ride. If you spend the whole day and ride over and over, your cost might creep right into Disney prices. But if you only spend a short time, pay as you go is better.
So if you are a foodie who wants to explore the local food truck scene, or an explorer who wants to soak in the local culture, an all inclusive is ‘wasted’ on you.
However, if you want to put the children in the kids club, have access to unlimited meals, spend the day at an on-site water park, take group lessons in circus arts – you will “do better” at an all-inclusive.
When we took a family vacation to Cancun, we spent half our time at an all-inclusive Club Med and half at the nearby JW Marriott. During our time at the Marriott, we took off-property trips to Mayan ruins.
But our Club Med days were spent taking advantage of the resort amenities because they were included in the daily rate. A day at the Marriott using their kids’ club, tennis courts and water sports would have cost twice as much as a day at Club Med.
Download the TravelingMom All-Inclusive Price Comparison Worksheet
Are There All-Inclusive Resorts in the USA?
Yes! And, depending on where you live, you can drive to them! Here are some of the best family-friendly all-inclusive resorts in the US:
- Florida’s Club Med Sandpiper
- Mohonk Mountain House in New York
- Club Getaway in Connecticut
- Woodloch Resort in the Poconos
- Pittsburgh’s Nemacolin Woodlands Resort
Club Med Sandpiper, in Florida, is the only US Club Med. Our kids were so busy here that they didn’t even notice there is no ocean nearby. So if you need to wiggle your toes in a white sand beach, this isn’t for you. Otherwise, it remains one of our top family vacations.
Historic Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, has nature walks year-round, and water sports or winter sports, depending on the season. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating and tubing in winter; (equipment is provided) swimming, boating, and fishing in warmer weather. In addition to three gourmet meals a day, afternoon tea offers homemade cookies. The kids club is for ages two to 12, and family events revolve around weekly themes.
The all inclusive family vacation Club Getaway, in Kent, CT, is camp for the entire family. Families can hike or bike together, sing at campfires and square dance, or everyone can do their own thing. There is no swimming pool, but the lake has a sandy beach, with a roped-off area for the youngest campers and kayaks, rowboats, canoes and paddleboats for the taking. This is for rustic families, who stay in cabins in single beds.
Woodloch Resort in the Poconos, PA, has a slew of activities. Depending on the season, you can go snow tubing, ice skating or water skiing. Unique activities include bumper boats, archery and go-carts. We spent one of my daughter’s birthdays here and she still remembers the entire resort singing to her.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a winter paradise, with downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. In warmer weather, there is horseback riding, mini, disc, and regular golf and a zip line.
What If My Kids Are On a Special Diet? [Or Just Very Picky?]
The best all inclusive resorts cater to a wide range of food preferences and restrictions. We have found plenty of vegetarian and vegan options at every all inclusive and noticed robust gluten-free and Kosher offerings. Check with a resort about peanut allergies or other life-threatening allergies before you commit.
Dining Options at All-Inclusive Resorts
Most all inclusive resorts have several dining options, from breakfast buffets filled with fresh fruit to casual and more formal lunch and dinner choices. You won’t find authentic Mexican food at a Mexico all inclusive, but the dining choices will be influenced by the local cuisine.
If your child is a very picky eater, be sure to pack a secret stash of a shelf-stable food. As a toddler, one of my kids became extremely upset when she couldn’t get a cold glass of milk. The French-influenced all-inclusive in St. Lucia only served warm or room temperature milk. We creatively saved the day by introducing her to smoothies, with milk and ice.
How Can I Save Money on an All-Inclusive Family Vacation?
- Choose an all-inclusive that you don’t need to fly to.
- If you are set on the Caribbean, go in the offseason. [Be warned: this often coincides with hurricane season, June 1 to November 30]
- Check travel discount sites like Travelzoo, Cheap Caribbean, Expedia, and Jetsetter.
- Sign up for promotional emails from all-inclusive resorts to find their specials. I have a separate email address for this so my regular inbox doesn’t get cluttered. Mohonk Mountain House has frequent ‘kids stay and eat free’ deals. Club Med runs last minute deals at huge savings.
Should You Tip at an All-Inclusive Family Resort?
At the all-inclusive resorts I’ve been to, I haven’t seen anyone tip. If you see that the bartender has a tip jar, then you probably want to tip, and the housekeeper, too.
Read More: Tips on Tipping During a Family Vacation
How to Protect Yourself
Recent news reports of people getting sick and even dying during all-inclusive vacations in the Dominican Republic should serve as a cautionary tale. Any time you are traveling, you need to be prepared for medical emergencies.
Consider Travel Insurance
Travel insurance that includes evacuation coverage to get you back to health care in America could be a life-saving expense. Companies like MedJet specialize in that. Allianz also provides trip insurance. My youngest daughter had an allergic reaction at Club Med and had to take an ambulance; most resorts don’t have a doctor on staff.
And anywhere in the Caribbean, unfamiliar bugs can be dangerous. I was bitten by a centipede and I thought to save the bug after my husband killed it. The concierge at the resort (in Puerto Rico) called a doctor, who came and gave me a shot to counteract the venom.
Have you loved other all-inclusive resorts? Let us know in the comments.