The Right All-inclusive Trip for You
When planning a vacation, sometimes it's simpler to pay one flat fee that covers it all — lodging, food, drinks and activities. It takes the stress out of figuring out where to allocate funds and counting coins when the check comes. However, there are so many variables that factor into planning an all-inclusive trip, with your desired destination, your travel companions and what's covered among the most important. So, whether you're interested in a getaway on land or on the open sea, U.S. News has a few hotel and cruise ideas with all-inclusive packages to get you started.
Note: All prices were correct as of May 20, 2014, with calculations based on weeklong vacations in 2014.
In Pictures: The Right All-Inclusive Trip for You
The Hard Rock Hotel Cancun sits amidst dozens of other properties in Cancun's hotel zone with prime access to the area's main attraction — one of the best beaches in Mexico. Whether you're a laid-back solo traveler looking to lounge and read a book or an adventurer hoping to meet new people at the bar, the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun is a spot where all types of travelers (solo and otherwise) coexist. Each room is outfitted with a hydro spa tub, minibar and liquor dispenser; all beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), meals at nine restaurants, access to entertainment and activities (like pool volleyball and tennis) and all gratuities are included in your room rate. The hotel also offers deals and resort credits available to use toward spa treatments, rounds of golf and tours of top attractions. Rates vary depending on room type and travel dates, but expect to pay about $400 per night for a weeklong stay in a Deluxe Room.
With studio cabins and no single supplement fee required, the Norwegian Epic is ideal for the solo cruiser. Those bunking down in these digs get exclusive access to the Studio Lounge, which offers unaccompanied cruisers the chance to mix and mingle among one another. Aside from lodging specifically designed for solo cruisers, the Epic offers a variety of options for dining and entertainment. On board, you'll find meals at seven restaurants (a la carte and buffet-style) are included in the cruise cost, and so is access to live comedy performances, the dueling piano bar and the Blue Man Group's show, among other entertainment venues. Upcoming itineraries on the Norwegian Epic stop in popular destinations like Barcelona, Rome and the Canary Islands. Studio stateroom rates for weeklong 2014 cruises start at $699.
Whether you're hoping to fit the whole crew in a suite or planning to book an entire row of rooms, accommodation options abound at the Majestic Colonial. One of U.S. News' top-ranked hotels in Punta Cana, the Majestic Colonial is situated along the beach on the Dominican Republic's northeastern coast. Apart from its coastal location, the Majestic Colonial offers a massive pool with ample lounge chairs and a swim-up bar, not to mention eight other bars and seven restaurants (plus an after-hours snack bar). All of your meals are included in the rate, and so are gratuities and service fees. The hotel's activities (also included in the rate) will keep you and your friends entertained: The Majestic Colonial grants complimentary access to kayaks and snorkeling gear and offers introductory scuba instruction in the pool. Rates at the resort depend on chosen travel dates and room selection; for information on pricing, visit the Majestic Colonial's website.
Royal Caribbean is one of the best cruise lines for the money, making it an economical option for larger groups. The fleet's Allure of the Seas is especially equipped to handle groups with its variety of stateroom, entertainment and dining options, and seven distinct neighborhoods. Active types can swing from the zip line, scale the two rock-climbing walls or ride the waves on two surf simulators while those in the mood for some R&R can lounge by one of the four pools, including the adults-only Solarium. Get the whole gang together for dinner at one of the 14 restaurants whose menus are included in your cruise rate (though soda and alcohol are not). The Allure of the Seas is currently sailing to the Caribbean, with upcoming itineraries stopping at popular ports of call, including St. Maarten, Jamaica and Cozumel. Seven-day trips aboard the Allure of the Seas start at $799 per person in 2014, but rates vary depending on cabin selection and itinerary. For more information on schedules and pricing, visit the Royal Caribbean website.
Couples young and old can admire the arresting red rock scenery of Sedona, Arizona, and enjoy the all-inclusive activities, dining and spa treatments at the Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa. If you're looking for R&R, wind down with yoga, guided meditation or a couples massage. To get your heart pumping, hit the surrounding trails on foot or mountain bike, challenge another couple to a game of tennis or get grooving with a dance session. Plus, activities like wine tastings, cooking demos and stargazing are tailor-made for reconnecting with your sweetheart. As for accommodations, rooms and suites are arranged in a cluster of cozy cottages affording plenty of privacy. The three-, four- and seven-day all-inclusive programs (which cover lodging, three meals a day, twice daily spa service and access to a bevy of activities) range in price depending on trip duration, travel date and room type. For more information, visit the property's website.
There are plenty of cruise lines that cater to couples, but Crystal Cruises' Crystal Serenity ship takes romance to another level thanks to its intimate suites. More than 85 percent of the cabins boast private verandas, and the ship is equipped with plenty of penthouses and penthouse suites — complete with Jacuzzi tubs and personal butler service. Along with accommodations, your rate includes all gratuities, beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), meals (including specialty spots like Silk Road and The Sushi Bar) and 24-hour room service. Also included? Couple-bonding activities, like language lessons and dance classes, as well as Broadway-style evening shows and cocktail hours at the piano bar are covered in guests' fare. Upcoming cruises on the Crystal Serenity include stops in Rome, Porto, Portugal, and New York City. Cruise itineraries vary by price, length and destination, but seven-day cruises in 2014 aboard the Crystal Serenity start at $2,790 per person (rates are based on double occupancy).
When you've got a large group of family members to accommodate and you're looking for a unique experience, booking through a travel agent or using a specialized company like Swain Destinations may be your best bet. Whether you're seeking a safari in South Africa, a glimpse of life in Sydney or exploration of the Great Barrier Reef, Swain Destinations customizes trips based on travelers' preferences and organizes airport transfers, meals, lodging and all activities. "Knowing what to suggest and what's right for the client is important," said founder Ian Swain of how his company works to make travel planning easier for families. He said his crew often coordinates one-of-a-kind experiences like chartered yachts to snorkel around exclusive Great Barrier Reef islands and helicopter rides to mountaintops for a picnic and golf practice. Prices vary by trip location, travel dates, excursions and more. For more information on Swain Destinations, including sample itineraries and prices, visit the company's website.
Carnival's "Fun Ships" offer a plethora of activities and a bevy of lodging options for cruising clans. One of the fleet's largest ships, the Carnival Breeze touts 1,845 staterooms ranging from ocean view cabins to grand penthouse suites. The Carnival Breeze is also Carnival's newest ship, outfitted with brand new restaurants Bonsai Sushi and Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ, and updated entertainment including Hasbro, The Game Show, where cruisers can play giant versions of their favorite board games onstage. Besides game night, families can enjoy shows at the comedy club or get active in the water park or SportSquare (complete with a ropes course and mini-golf area). And when parents need a break, the kid-free Serenity Adult Retreat delivers with bar service, whirlpools and lounge chairs. Meals, basic drinks and access to a host of activities and onboard entertainment are included in your room rate. The Carnival Breeze sails to the Caribbean, with ports of call in islands like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Rates vary by itinerary and sail date, but an Ocean View Stateroom on a 6-day cruise starts at $329 per person; the same room on an 8-day cruise starts at $529 per person.
A roundup of all-inclusives wouldn't be complete without some representation from where the all-inclusive resort model originated: Club Med. Touted by travelers and experts for its exceptional cuisine and charming location on the southwestern coast of Turkey, Club Med Bodrum Palmiye provides all the trappings for an enjoyable all-inclusive getaway. What's more, this Club Med houses a Wellness Centre (all-inclusive rates cover pampering in the sauna or Turkish bath), two restaurants and several bars (meals, most non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks are also covered). Plus, this resort's schedule of activities like sailing, bocce and scuba diving keep guests busy. When you're hankering for some R&R, head to the cabana-lined pool or the pebbly beach. Prices for a weeklong trip fluctuate depending on travel dates and accommodation type, but you can find more information by visiting the resort's website. Also check Club Med's website for seasonal deals.
With onboard activities like bridge, bocce and destination seminars, Silversea keeps its cruisers busy. Retirees should consider an Alaskan cruise aboard the Silver Shadow — recent travelers praise the mild climate, wildlife-watching opportunities and impressive scenery. The Silver Shadow boasts all-suite accommodations, all of which feature a window or terrace, a fully stocked minibar and a butler. Meanwhile, you'll find endless entertainment outside your suite — hit the casino for gambling, the show lounge for performances and the bar for drinks and dancing. Meals in three of the ship's four restaurants are covered by your cruise rate (the upscale Relais & Châteaux-affiliated Le Champagne is $40 per reservation), and so are all gratuities, beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic) and onboard programming. Transportation in many ports of call and small-group shore excursions are also covered in the price of your cruise. Upcoming voyages on the Silver Shadow include stops in Alaska, Vancouver, Bora Bora and the Cook Islands, with prices for seven-day trips in 2014 starting at $3,750. Cruise costs vary by itinerary and cabin type; for more information, visit Silversea's website.
In Pictures: The Right All-Inclusive Trip for You