The term "all inclusive" is another part of travel jargon that lacks a standard definition. Don't automatically assume all costs are covered just because you see "all inclusive" in the advertising. Some all inclusive programs are more inclusive than others, and the bottom line for travelers is to find out -- in advance -- exactly what is included in the price.
A growing number of resort properties promote all-inclusive packages, and here are some of the points to consider in assessing these offers.
Is the airfare included? What about airport-hotel-airport transfers? Some hotels include this cost. Others don't.
Which rooms at the hotel will be assigned to you under the plan? Will it be on a “run-of-the-hotel” basis which means that you can be placed anywhere at the hotel’s discretion? Even at a top hotel, you can wind up with a less desirable accommodation.
All meals will generally be included. However, some properties also include snacks between meals. While programs may cover all beverages -- alcoholic and non-alcoholic -- while eating and at a lounge/bar, they may not include bottles of wine when dining. Is the use of the in-room mini-bar included or is it an additional cost?
Hotels may offer unlimited use of all facilities and equipment, while others impose a time limit. See if there is a charge for instruction in a particular activity. While the sheer number of activities and amenities at these resorts is usually impressive, if you're accustomed to having a TV in your room, make sure one will be available. Not all properties necessarily offer this in-room feature, though there may be television and movies in public areas. What about the use of the disco at the hotel? Does the program include the admission charge and any cover charges or minimums that might apply.
Some properties may have guest privileges at nearby golf courses and fitness centers. Are such privileges included? Is there shuttle transportation to and from the nearest town, and is it complimentary? How far is the nearest town?
Are there any other bonus features? For example, some properties may offer guided shopping and sightseeing trips and supervised children's programs. Find out what attractions are in the general vicinity in case you want to go by yourself. Does the hotel provide coupons or vouchers for these attractions?
Determine whether tips, service charges and taxes are included in your final bill. Some properties offer options where you can choose whether to tip on your own or to automatically have, say 15%, of food and beverage charges added to their bills at check-out.
Among the many areas with resort hotels offering all-inclusive programs are Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Originally, more isolated properties were the ones which offered all-inclusive packages. But the trend has been for resort hotels, regardless of their proximity to cities, to offer all-inclusive deals. Hotels are eager to keep guests on the premises and the all-inclusive plan encourages this but it's important to decide how much of a stay-put vacation you want and what the options are for leaving the property. Once there you may wish to explore more of the general area.
Some all-inclusive packages are tailored for singles, others for couples or families. At some destinations, such as Jamaica, it's possible to move from one property to another within the hotel chain, under the same all inclusive price. These are known as sleep-around and dine-around plans. Such programs enable you to see more of a destination -- but the cost of getting from one hotel to another may be up to you.
Besides hotels and resorts, tour operators may also use the phrase “all-inclusive” to describe some of their packages. But differences can apply here as well. Land transportation, accommodations and sightseeing are generally standard items. Airfare could be a separate cost, however, and the number of meals might also vary.
Overall, reading brochures carefully and asking detailed questions can reduce the possibility of misunderstandings and unplanned expenses during your trip.