All-Inclusive Travel: What a concept!

Photo-By-Denton-Morris.jpg

By Jae-Ha Kim
New York Post
November 4, 2008

Look at all those fat people. I bet they shop at Walmart. God, do they ever stop eating? Jeez, they’re so tacky with their Midwestern accents. I bet they’re from Wisconsin.

Okay, wait. I’m not saying that. Everyone else is. If you read articles and blog entries (and whatever else people write these days) about all-inclusive resorts, particularly in tropical climes, your lead is probably going to involve at least one of the above cliches. And let’s not forget the buffet cracks. It’s always about the buffet, and how high the food is piled.

I like all-inclusive resorts very much, even though I am not fat and pasty white, though I am from the Midwest, so maybe the rumors are partially true.

Really, though – consider my latest visit to one of these supposedly dreadful places. Grenada was the setting, the hotel the Spice Island Beach Resort. As I swamp in my very own pool, located on my very private patio in front of my very private room, I was thinking about two things. One, some of the cliches really are true. I could overhear little American tourist spawns shouting “Marco . . . Polo!” at each other from the communal pool. I didn’t have to look at them, though. Make that double my pleasure: I also couldn’t see the European guests, who were actually in some cases as fat as the Americans, except they didn’t even have the decency to cover up. (Some things, particularly when they are barely encased in a Speedo, cannot be unseen.)

Here’s the thing though. I felt skinny. I didn’t have to worry about sucking it in when in public. Really – is there a bigger vacation killjoy than realizing that you don’t look as fit as your fellow tourists?

The first time I went to an all-inclusive was like the first time I cruised. Everyone told me how horrible it was going to be, and by everyone, I mean people who had never cruised or gone to all-inclusive resorts. The food would be awful! The service would be worse. Everyone was going to be very obnoxious. Worse, I’d be forced to join hands with all of them and sing “Kumbaya.” And perhaps most importantly, that all-inclusive doesn’t actually mean that everything is included.

Whatever. So far, so good, for me. (Knock on wood.) I’ve been to all-inclusive resorts where it cost less than $1,000 per week (including airfare) and I’ve stayed at resorts where each night can cost almost that much. I’ve enjoyed both ends of the spectrum.

Here are a few reasons why. One, I hate tipping. Wait – I mean, I hate dealing with tipping. Back home, you just slap down 20 percent and the server likely won’t throw anything at you. On vacation, I really don’t want to do that much math. I don’t want to have to get my phone out and fire up the tip calculator. Worse, I am not stuffing cash in my bikini. The beauty of many all-inclusive resorts is that the tips are already included.

There are other things that are included. For example, Spice Island offers complimentary tennis, golf and Hobie-cats. The Sandals properties in St. Lucia offer 24-hour room service (and trust me, I took full advantage of this). And the Grand Lido Negril in Jamaica includes free manis and pedis. Never mind that the salon employees talk about you while you’re sitting there. It’s still a free mani/pedi. With all this stuff available without you having to worry about paying more for it, you end up doing a lot more with your time than you would if you were obsessing over how much more it was going to cost you.

Did I mention the liquor? Drink as much as you like! You’ve already paid for it. (Not true for the aspirin you might need the next morning – you’re on your own for that.)

Look – with the economy the way it is, you want to make sure that when you travel, you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck. Most of the time, just booking a hotel that barely includes continental breakfast is not the way to go, at least not anymore. What better way to truly enjoy a vacation than not having to worry about how much each little thing will cost or whether that last Mojito or three will break your budget?

Of course, there’s the one caveat – not all amenities are included. You may have to pay extra to go scuba diving or take yoga lessons. But really, doesn’t that just give you the perfect excuse not to do yoga on your vacation?

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