As a Manhattan assistant district attorney and mother of three, Kerry Chicon can make a persuasive case for needing a break from stress and planning. So finding a low-maintenance vacation is her high priority: “When we travel with kids, we always go with an all-inclusive vacation,” she says.
Savvy travelers like Chicon aren’t just taking the easy way out—they’ve discovered that an influx of service-oriented hoteliers has raised the bar on the all-inclusive resort model, introducing more amenities and more of a sense of place.
Related: America's Best All-Inclusive Resorts
Better still, the perks and convenience of an all-inclusive vacation can be had at a great price (from $471 per night at the Ocean Coral & Turquesa on Mexico’s Riviera Maya). Keep your eye out for air/resort packages offered by big travel providers, and you may find even lower rates.
One of the biggest improvements at all-inclusives like the Ocean Coral & Turquesa is the food. In years past, the cuisine at many all-inclusive resorts had all the flair of a Holiday Inn buffet, with a few slices of pineapple to signify location. Buffet lines haven’t disappeared entirely, but resorts are recognizing that showcasing fresh ingredients and local cuisine will lure guests with more refined palates.
Taking the focus on cuisine even further, Azul Beach Resort on the Riviera Maya calls itself “gourmet-inclusive”: The 148-room resort operates five restaurants, several snack bars, and a lounge dedicated to tequila, just to keep foodies coming back.
Gone, too, is the desperately perky social director organizing a poolside conga line. Resorts are one-upping each other with an ever-expanding roster of diversions: golf, tennis, ziplines, kids’ clubs, snorkeling trips, Spanish lessons, beachfront climbing walls, kayaking, and trapeze instruction. Even lazing on the beach has received an upgrade: you’ll find hand-carved Balinese beach beds under palapas at Meliá Caribe Tropical.
Lolling on the sand used to be enough; exploring outside a resort’s gates was discouraged. But some all-inclusives now embrace local pride. CocoBay urges guests to check out the nearby national park and local museums to get a taste of Antigua that can’t be experienced from a hammock. In Barbados, Mango Bay invites local bands to play and runs casually guided excursions to area shops.
Sure, you may be able to find great food, thoughtful service, and a wealth of activities elsewhere on the beach, but at what cost and after how much research?
Related: 12 Affordable Private Island Resorts
These all-inclusive resorts guarantee vacations where, for a few nights, you can count on economic stability and ease of planning. Treat yourself to one of these trips as a kind of stimulus package for your budget—and your peace of mind.
• Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, Mexico
• Azul Beach Hotel, by Karisma Puerto Morelos, Riviera Maya
• Casa Velas Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
• Barceló Langosta Beach Tamarindo, Costa Rica
• Mango Bay Holetown, Barbados
• CocoBay Resort, Antigua
• Dreams Los Cabos Los Cabos, Mexico
• Divi Aruba and Tamarijn Aruba Oranjestad, Aruba
• Meliá Caribe Tropical Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
• Ocean Coral & Turquesa Puerto Morelos, Mexico