Since the days of dude ranches (they're still out there!), we’ve been attracted to the hassle-free aspect of all-inclusive vacations. Once we arrive, we can store the wallet and relax. But along the way, all-inclusive resorts have since gotten a lot of stigma -- earning a reputation for being tacky, comprising dated rooms and subpar food. While this is sometimes true, in many cases it's certainly not. Here, we bust seven common myths and provide a reality check that might surprise you.Myth 1: All-inclusive resorts want to trap guests on property.
Reality: This is a particular concern for foodies. But in Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, Hacienda Encantada Resort offers a dine-out plan that covers meals at five partner restaurants in the Golden Zone of the nearby marina, just a 15-minute shuttle ride away. Yes, the hotel takes great pride in their six restaurants and bars onsite, but they recognize that travelers all want a taste of the local scene, whether they prefer lobster or pasta or sushi. How cool is that?
Myth 2: You'll only enjoy the free food if you like bad buffets.
Reality: Speaking of the culinary scene, all-inclusive resorts don't simply stick visitors with mass-produced dishes and unhealthy meal options. In fact, travelers will find themselves with more choices than they can probably explore at many resorts. The Royalton Riviera Cancun, for just one example, offers a whopping nine restaurants and 13 bars. Your options include a Japanese teppanyaki and sushi bar, a steakhouse, an Italian trattoria, and of course a Mexican venue. So can you indulge in a prime rib every night, at no additional charge? Yes, if that's what you want.
Like the general hotel industry, all-inclusives are making local sourcing a priority, too. At Generations Riviera Maya by Karisma, fresh herbs and produce are sourced from Karisma’s 76,000-square-foot greenhouse. And to take advantage of the natural surroundings, guests can opt to dine on the ocean pier for a private breakfast, lunch, or dinner, too.
Myth 3: Everything is already paid for.
Reality: The devil is really in the details of what's covered, and here's why research is so important. All-inclusive rates really have varying degrees of inclusivity, and you want to ask the right questions to avoid rude surprises. Our friend David Bakke of Money Crashers gives us some examples: "Your free alcohol options might be limited, and certain resort activities might come with an added charge as well, such as a visit to a spa." Sadly, WiFi isn't always included either, he says.
Myth 4: All-inclusive resorts are all about lying on the beach.
Reality: Chances are, the programs that you're thinking about are located on an amazing beach -- but you'll likely also find much more entertainment than water sports and tanning. Take CHIC Punta Cana and all the entertainment that revolves around its stunning pool, for example. Here, a DJ might spin tunes all night long for an outdoor dance party, Las Vegas-style showgirls might strut the over-water catwalk, or a "mermaid" might show-off her diving (easily seen through the pool windows). Luxe Casa de Campo, in the Dominican Republic, boasts a shooting range and equestrian center. And even on the beach, special events may abound. In the case of Couples Resorts, campfires with s'mores and beach parties are just some of the programming to look forward to.
Myth 5: All-inclusives are always the best value.
Reality: Again, you should do your homework here -- and spend some time thinking about exactly what it is that you want out of your vacation. "If on the list of things that are included on your bill are activities or other entertainment options that you're not interested in, you might find yourself shelling out cash for stuff you won't be taking advantage of,” Bakke points out.
Myth 6: Staying at an all-inclusive resort will feel cheap.
Reality: This unfortunate misconception is likely fueled by other myths about food and lack of amenities that we've just corrected. The reality is that, just as there are all sorts of regular hotels, all-inclusive resorts come in all forms, too. Yes, there are budget-friendly options that are more basic, and family-friendly ones that keep costs low for the clan. But you'll also find plenty of sophisticated adults-only properties as well as those that focus on luxury. If you're looking to splurge, we love Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, which recently debuted as a five-star, all-suite property. They take the all-inclusive concept to the next level with their butler suites, which includes access to an exclusive wine cellar, and with their swim out suites (exactly what it sounds like). Of course, this is an extreme, and there are endless options at every price point in between. The key, again, is doing your homework.
Myth 7: You'll be tempted to be unhealthy if you stay at an all-inclusive resort.
Reality: Here's another general trend that we love -- brands are helping guests achieve and maintain good lifestyle choices more than ever. At many all-inclusive resorts, you'll find a roster of opportunities to work off the indulging. Barcelo Hotels & Resorts, for one, has held wellness-related Zumba and Yoga theme weeks to encourage guests to truly focus on fitness, all while having fun. They offer juicing stations that with a range of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, many of which are hyper-local, too.