Since the original evolution of the all-inclusive hotel way back in the 1990’s, popularity has continued to gain momentum. Following the global economic crisis of 2008, all-inclusive resorts have upped their game, and even luxury chains that once claimed to be too upper-class are getting in on the concept.
Today all-inclusive hotels are a far cry from what the generations above us may remember. Dodgy one-time fee holidays in Europe back in the early 90s have slowly grown into a fully-fledged business model, popular all over the globe. From Mexico to the Bahamas they no longer only target families and 50 plus holiday goers. Offering exciting concepts from adult-only, family friendly, luxury and millennial targeted, the all-inclusive sector really is seeing some exciting changes.
With this in mind, I couldn’t help but book in for a 2-night stay at an all-inclusive resort on the notoriously luxurious Riviera Maya whilst travelling through Mexico earlier this year. I booked this 2 night stay extremely last minute. In fact, I booked it the night before my arrival which meant I ended up getting almost 35% off the original price on booking.com. After much research I booked the Valentin Imperial Riviera Maya Hotel, based close to Playa del Carmen. Valentin Imperial tempted me with their five-star status, 7 a la carte restaurants, 9 bars and adult only, beachfront location.
I was sold.
So, as young adult and part of a growing market considering experiencing the new wave of all-inclusive resorts, here’s my run down of pros and cons in comparison to the usual rough and ready millennial way of travelling.
Price – Luxury vs Backpacking
I guess the price is always top of everyone’s agenda when choosing a holiday or researching a trip. I was lucky to get a great price on the Valentin Imperial and at that price, I probably ate and drank enough to get my money back. Not forgetting the super comfy room, with a bath and a free mini bar.
Do bear in mind that all-inclusive resorts tend to include some hidden fees. For example, at the Valentin Imperial one of the a la carte restaurants, the spa and the shisha bar were payable. Also, if you’re into water sports and activities then these tend to be additional also.
It’s true that we probably spend less money backpacking. Hostels are cheap. But don’t forget, you get what you pay for. So, for me, paying for two nights in a luxurious resort seemed like good value for money. I wanted 2 days of relaxation pool side and this appeared the perfect option.
Food & Drink – Buffets and a la Carte vs Street Food
Definitely one of the biggest perks of going all inclusive is the food. Waking up in the morning to a beautiful breakfast buffet and fresh coffee. Something that can be hard to find when you’re out on the road. Included in your price is a constant stream of food. International buffets and a la carte restaurants, all in the comfort of your own resort. During my stay I visited the French and Japanese restaurants, both of which have fabulous menus and a great ambiance. Not paying the bill at the end for an evening of eating and drinking in a fine dining restaurant was quite the novelty.
And the drink… well, the Valentina Riviera truly did surprise with an array of international brand alcoholic drinks and masterful cocktail skills. Especially at the Don Miguel bar where cocktails are served to piano music and come waited to your table smoking and bubbling. Some impressive mixology goes on here. Of course, these things make your experience less authentic. You’re in Mexico, yet you could be anywhere in the world.
Relaxation – Poolside vs On The Road
OK, so for me this is the biggest pro vs con. All inclusive hotels are 100% catered to make you relax, chill out and basically do nothing. The most strenuous thing you will do is placing your order at the pool bar (but they even have poolside service at the Valentin Imperial), or lifting your margarita to your lips. You will be cooked for, waited on and basically treated like a princess throughout your stay.
This is why it was perfect for me for 2 nights. I needed a rest. When we are out on the road, staying in local neighbourhoods and sleeping in hostels and guest houses, there is always some adventure lurking around the corner. Adventurous is one thing all-inclusive is not. It is however, crazy great chill time for the soul.
But truthfully, more than 2 nights I would have been bored. You’re not trapped in the resort. In fact, at the Valentina Imperial you can get a taxi into Playa del Carmen or Cancun, but then you need to weigh up whether it’s worth being all inclusive if you’re not in the resort 24/7 to enjoy all it has to offer.
Ethics – Supporting International Hotel Chains vs Local Economy
This is something that I thought about on more than one occasion during my stay. And probably something you subconsciously think about quite a lot when you travel. The truth is, staying in hostels, guesthouses, shopping in markets and eating in local restaurants does wonders for local and remote communities. Helping to build their economy and providing local people with much needed business. By giving our money to huge international hotel chains are we giving something to a mass company that doesn’t need our help? I guess that’s something to consider.
I think as time goes on and all-inclusive resorts continue to find their feet, as millennials catch on to this way of travelling, there is surely a place in the sector that allows all the differences to be combined. Greener, more ethical hotels and local, authentic experiences to name just a few.
If you need a few days to unwind then this can be quite the luxurious experience. However, if you’re after adventure and to delve into the country around you, then maybe all-inclusive resorts aren’t quite for you. Not just yet anyway.
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