There's this common misconception among soon-to-be-parents that life will be — more or less — the same after kids. As the mother of a toddler and a baby, I can say that this is most certainly not the case. Life with kids changes all sorts of things, including how I want to vacation.
I used to think that all-inclusive vacations were for spring-breakers in it for the all-you-can-drink aspect, budget-strapped retirees who live for buffets (even bad ones), or folks too lazy to plan their own adventures. But once I became a mom, I saw all-inclusive vacations for the sanity-savers they really are.
Having kids broadened my understanding of the all-inclusive, and now I'm hooked. Here are three reasons why.
1. They offer a one-stop-shop vacation.
Of course, there's the obvious reason why people (especially moms) choose all-inclusive resorts: convenience, convenience, and — oh yeah — convenience. At this stage in my life, the simple act of getting dressed and putting on make-up in the morning is a huge accomplishment, so anything that makes my life easier is a huge win.
From the booking process (pre-paid! All-in!) to the actual vacation, where everything is within walking distance and food is at the ready, a one-stop-shop stay gives me the freedom to breathe deeply and relax instead of running around trying to play chef and concierge simultaneously. I don't have to worry about going to a sit-down restaurant three times a day or making every meal in a vacation rental.
I want a vacation too — not just my life transplanted somewhere tropical! At an all-inclusive I can just show up with my suitcase and know that everything is sorted. And right now that's all I want on vacation (aside from a mojito, or five).
2. They're a great value.
This might seem obvious, but it's worth saying: All-inclusives offer great value. Although it varies from property to property, the rate generally includes the room; food and beverage; airport transfers; access to on-site amenities like tennis courts, fitness centers, and a kids' club if it's a family-friendly resort; plus non-motorized water activities, like snorkeling or kayaking. Some places will layer on even more enticements: sweet and savory minibar temptations, nightly cocktail and appetizer pairings, even spa treatments!
Of course, some will grumble that all-inclusive doesn't always mean all-inclusive, so it's worth doing a little bit of research to find out what's not included. Still, all in all, if you're not looking to add on loads of extras like a private boat tour or Dom Perignon at every meal, you're not only getting an excellent deal, but you're also going into your vacation with a very good idea of what it will all cost.
3. They can be really (really) nice!
For me, though, the biggest surprise was that there are really nice all-inclusive resorts out there that don't cost the equivalent of 10,000 boxes of Pampers. Just because I have kids doesn't mean I want to give up sojourning in style! I've discovered that all-inclusives exist beyond spring break escapes with fluorescent-hued drinks.
Take, for example, the Azul Beach Resort The Fives Playa del Carmen, a Riviera Maya mega-resort huddling 13 restaurants, 9 bars, 5 pools, kids' club, and baby amenities into its beachfront footprint. Rates start at $132 per person, so pack your Sunday best for these high-design digs, as the teardrop-shaped poolside pods and swim-up bars beg for family Instagrams.
How to Find the Right All-Inclusive Resort for You
To find fully all-inclusive resorts from Antigua to Aruba, I consult Resort Vacations To Go, an online travel agency specializing in packaged vacations.
Or, if you want some inclusion but also a little wiggle room, consult a metasearch website such as Expedia.com. Once you decide on a destination, filter the location results by meal plans, amenities, and property type. Doing this, I've hand-selected partial all-inclusives from Italy to Bali that include gorgeous breakfasts with fresh-pressed juices, spa access, and local transportation.
Now, please excuse me while I plan my next all-in escape: Costa Rica's on my radar!
What type of stay do you gravitate towards when traveling with small kids? Tell us in the comments below.