All Inclusive vs. non AI

Old Apr 13th, 2012, 06:28 AM
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All Inclusive vs. non AI

I'm trying to plan a trip for my husband and me for late May/early June. We've only been to the Carribean once - to a Sandals in St. Lucia while on our honeymoon 15 years ago. Is AI the way to go or should I be exploring the option of staying in a place that is not all inclusive? I was thinking an AI would be more cost effective. But maybe not?
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Old Apr 13th, 2012, 06:29 AM
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Also, I'm looking to spend $2500 - $3000, including airfare from DC. Hoping to do at least 5 days.
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Old Apr 13th, 2012, 06:52 AM
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the debate between AI's vs. non-AI's has been going on almost since the first AI was invented and will continue to go on as long as the option exists. There's no right or wrong answer. Ask 100 people and you'll probably get 50 thumbs-up and 50 thumbs-down.

Perhaps this will help -

1) AI's are not always cost effective nor are they always the least expensive way to visit a destination. You can have just as an enjoyable time in a given location and spend about the same amount of money going non-AI as you would going AI.

2) The food at most moderate and mid-range AI is just OK. High-end AI resorts tend to have better foods but they are probably out of your price range. Same goes for drinks - moderate priced AI's do not use Top Shelf liquors and some even water down their alcohol. Case in point, years ago we went to an AI in Playa del Carmen and drank "exotic cocktails" all day/night long and never once felt any kind of buzz - we figured the "liquor" they used was just colored water.

3) Going AI tends to make some people feel reluctant to venture off resort since they are "paying for their meals and drink". You lose out on experiencing local cuisine.

We did a few AI's early in our travel career but quickly found out AI's are not "our style" and ever since then have avoided AI's like the plague. We much prefer the alternative.
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Old Apr 13th, 2012, 07:23 AM
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I love AI resorts and have been to many. 15 to date and planning another one for this year. In all price ranges.

It really just depends on where you are going and what you are looking for in a vacation. Some destinations AI really can be the best option and some destinations not so much. You also have to weigh in the cost factor of getting to and from your hotel to resturants and back. Does that mean you need to rent a car or use taxis, which can get expensive and negate the savings. Convenience is also a factor. Some hotel restaurants breakfast buffets are very expensive and getting out to find a restuarant that serves breakfast can be a pain.

How much do you eat and drink on vacation? Unless you drink a lot of alcohol it may not be worth it to you.

Did you like th concept when you went to Sandals? Is that something you want to repeat or do you want to try something different? I have been to 2 Sandals and for that price point I felt the food was sub par compared to the mediocore AI resorts I've been to in Mexico. In my 15 trips I have never once felt I got watered down drinks or "fake" alcohol. Personally, I feel the Top Shelf alcohol is overrated and not a something I want to pay extra for in a resort.

One of the factors I use when deciding on AI or not AI in a destination that has both, (except for Mexico and Jamaica, which I will always go AI there) I look at the cost factor. If the cost of the AI is $800 or less than a regular hotel, I go AI. It usually costs us about $1,000 in food and drinks to go non AI. ALso, we are not that picky about food, though we have been to some AI's the food was pretty bad. We mainly choose AI for unlimited drinks, breakfast and convenience.

Our trip this year is Barbados. I debated long and hard over this same question, did the math and the research and decided to go AI. We've not been to Barbados before and if we should ever return I might rethink it for next trip.

DH and I do have some mobilibilty issues and we don't want to rent a car on vacation. We tend to blow and go on vacation that includes several tours and activities, so after a long day we don't want to go hunting for a restuarant or pay $5-$6 dollars for 1 can of beer of $10 - $12 for a mixed drink.

Many tours/activities usually include lunch and drinks. A few include dinner, like the dinner shows.

I guess first decided if AI or not is important to you and then we can recommened some destinations. Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are going to have the best concentration of AI resorts. I rarely recommend AI in Aruba as there are so many restuarants in various price ranges and they are easy to get to. Also Aruba charges 2 - 3 times more for an AI plan that what you will get in Mexico or Jamaica.
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Old Apr 13th, 2012, 01:44 PM
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It's not a clear cut yes/no question. Depends where you are going (is it an isolated resort location or right in the middle of town with lots of restaurants available?). How much you like to drink cocktails? How picky you are about food? Do you plan to primarily spend your time only at the resort? Or will you be out doing things off-property most days?
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Old Apr 14th, 2012, 08:36 AM
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I think you should explore the option of a non AI, and consider a cost analysis with your budget. I used to do lots of AIs because ones like Beaches would include SCUBA , Water Skiing and Banana Boats, and childrens programs. Now that many of these are extras and the kids are grown, AIs to me are just a place where my vacation dollar is just subsidizing those who enjoy drinking high end liquor all day long.


That doesnt mean AIs wont be a better deal. In Mexico they are almost always a 'better deal', but you live once and there really isnt a good reason to take an option just for the 'deal.'
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Old Apr 15th, 2012, 03:17 PM
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What are your likes? I went to 2 All Inclusives this winter - just got back today from Sandals Grande Riveria on Jamaica. The reasons were completely different for going to the AI's vs renting a villa and then a condo on St. Maarten a couple of years ago. It all depends on what you are looking to do.
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Old Apr 16th, 2012, 08:34 AM
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it depends on the island...really. If you are going to an island where it is difficult to get around, not many dining choices around or there is not much to do outside of the resort, then an AI makes sense.
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Old Apr 16th, 2012, 02:03 PM
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KVR is pretty much spot on.

If you like to have plenty of cocktails, and aren't super picky about food, then the AIs can be a great deal. Even at the ones that are supposed to have the best food, I thought the food at the buffets was still average at best. But we more than made up for that is drinks for the week!!

You can definitely do a budget minded vacation by getting a condo, buy all your breakfast & lunch stuff at a market, and going out for dinners.

Just look around, and compare the two. It really depends on your style & wants & needs.
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Old Apr 18th, 2012, 08:09 AM
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All Inclusive Resorts for my hubby and I or myself and my family are definetly the best way to go.

All Inclusive Resorts is a thumbs up!!!
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