Understanding the Truth About All Inclusive Resorts

Living in the information age is truly a perk when planning a wedding. What did our Mothers and Grandmothers do without Google and Pinterest? On the other hand, searching potential destination wedding problems that may arise when trying to decide between having a destination wedding or stateside wedding can often give couples many misconceptions that are simply not true, especially when it comes to all-inclusive resorts. Our expert concierge Amelia breaks down all of the things to consider when choosing between an all-inclusive or a European plan resort to host your big day. 

What is an all-inclusive resort? A true all inclusive resort will include per room per night pricing that includes: all taxes, resort fees, gratuities, meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and generally non-motorized water sports and evening entertainment. A European Plan resort will include per room per night rate, plus: lodging tax, VAT (value added tax), resort fees, and may also include a continental breakfast, but will not include any food, drink, activities or the service fees and taxes for those products. There are some resorts that are somewhere in between; you can add a meal plan to your room rate to make it as inclusive as you choose with either 1, 2, or three meals each day, and optional beverage packages. Knowing the difference between these three options and what it means for your wedding costs, and your guests can be key in finding the right fit for you.

Where are true all-inclusive resorts located?

So, where can you find tried and true all-inclusive resorts? The Caribbean is the true birthplace of the traditional all-inclusive resorts, particularly in Jamaica and the Mexican Riviera Maya during the 1960’s. Since then, the trend has spread throughout the Caribbean Islands, developing areas such as the Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and the western coast of Central America, to name a few.

When you’re looking for the best budget friendly destinations with the widest range of price points and resort variety, these are areas you should consider first: Mexico, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.

Where else can I find all-inclusive resorts, and where are they developing?

The following places offer a wide variety of both true all-inclusive and European Plan resorts, but tend to have a smaller breadth of product, or tend to be more expensive to fly into: Costa Rica, Panama, St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Aruba, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Southeast Asia.

Where would I be hard-pressed to find an all-inclusive resort for my destination wedding?

The United States (including Florida and Hawaii) and Europe.

How will an all-inclusive resort affect the bottom line of my weddings costs?

One of the top reasons couples consider a destination wedding is to cut down on the costs they would incur stateside for the event- depending on your preferences and origin- the average stateside wedding costs about $27,000! The beauty of an all-inclusive resort is that with food and drink already included in the room rate, the costs per person are considerably lower than you would find for a domestic wedding. While it does vary widely by resort and hotel brands, wedding packages generally include all of the basics for set up, semi-private or private receptions, the venue cost, the officiate, basic décor and florals, such as the bride’s bouquet and groom’s boutonniere averaging at a starting rate of around $1,500. While you’ll likely still be paying per person for a larger, private event, the costs reflected are for set up, service and food that is made especially for the event, and is minimal in comparison to a stateside or European Plan resort. Many packages are even offered complimentary for groups that qualify by booking minimum room nights for their guests. Alternatively, considering that it does vary greatly between all European Plan resorts, you could be looking at set event menus totaling over $100 per person plus service fees and taxes, venue rental fees, and pricey open bar packages, making for a much more expensive event.

At both all-inclusive and traditional or European Plan resorts, you will likely be working with their in house or preferred vendors for florals, décor, photography, and musical entertainment, and looking elsewhere means eating the cost of external vendor fees. However, in an all-inclusive resort, your financials and logistics on the big day (and the entire week) are easily managed in a one stop shop; the resorts have tried and true working relationships with their vendors, and the property by nature is designed to facilitate every luxury (or emergency) without leaving the resort. This can come in handy when you’re talking about steaming or altering your dress at the last minute, or worrying about whether or not your caterer has access to the resort’s refrigerated kitchen area.

How will an all-inclusive resort affect the bottom line for my guests’ travel costs?

This is usually the second most important factor for couples when determining their choice for a resort. While the all inclusive resort cost is almost always more expensive up front, the simplicity of eliminating the guess work of what is and isn’t included, as well as the ability to find resorts that have something for everyone can really help to create a stress-free experience for you and your guests. The staggering sales and service taxes that add up quickly, coupled with the confusion that comes with all of your guests coordinating dinner and drinks with different meal and drink packages, much less different budgets can quickly become a headache for your guests. More often than not, your guests are going to end up paying more than they would at an all-inclusive resort. If you are set on a European plan resort, do your guests a BIG favor, and be sure that your resort is located in a city-centric location that allows for your guests to safely explore the area for food and drinks outside of the resort.

Overcoming the misconceptions and cautionary tales about all-inclusive resorts:

“It’s not really all inclusive:” At the end of the day, this is something you need to do your research on, or talk to someone who can help you determine what is and isn’t included up front. Some resorts charge extra for lobster or specific a la carte restaurant experiences, while others include gourmet dining on all levels. For example, Karisma and Excellence resorts include lobster with all guest reservations and boast true gourmet experiences. All resorts will have additional charges for spa and excursions, but some offer resort credits to be applied towards an activity, like Hard Rock and Palace Resorts. Some resorts offer complimentary 24/7 room service, airport transfers, or even free Wi-Fi, while others do not. Knowing what’s important to you and your guests from the get go, can prevent unpleasant surprises later.

“I’ll never experience the culture:” While it’s true that some resort locations, such as Puerto Vallarta, Playa del Carmen and Montego Bay or Negril, offer more safe and nearby options to get off of the resort to explore the local scene, all destinations work with dedicated ground handler companies that offer something for all  guests to get the chance to get off of the resort to explore the natural beauty of the landscape, historic city tours, or even culinary tours. Many resorts make an effort to incorporate local flare and culture in their evening entertainment and dining, such as the Hyatt Zilara in Montego Bay, where the Jamaican beachfront open-air restaurant, HoriZon, offers traditional Jamaican dishes with a local Jamaican band playing within earshot.

“I’ll be bored after a few days of lounging:” Like anything else, remember who you’re catering to- there are resorts made for the adventurous travel addicts, and there are resorts that cater to beach lovers, and whether you’re looking for romance or a family focused vacation or somewhere in between makes all the difference. If it’s important for a bride and her girls to hit the resort club or for the boys to spend the evening in a tequila and cigar lounge for an in destination bachelor/bachelorette party, be sure to ask about it. If you need a change of scene each day, consider a property that offers stay at one, play at all exchange privileges, such as Sandals Montego Bay, Royal Caribbean and Sandals Inn in Jamaica, which offer free transfers between all three very different resorts, or the Grand Palladium complex in Punta Cana, which hosts an entire city of family fun, spread between 5 different properties.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Amelia combines her easy-going attitude with an eye for detail to create a wedding that reflects the happy couple. She also loves to turn her personal love for seeking out unique travel into an extra-special experience for the entire group. Email her and ask her how she does it or visit WeddingsbyFunjet.com.

This post was written by Weddings by Funjet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *