All-inclusive vs. European Plan – Which resort is right for you?

My job as a travel agent is to match my clients desires with the perfect vacation experience.  This week, I would like to give you the ins-and-outs of all inclusive (AI) resorts versus the European plan (EP) resorts to help you decide which type of resort fits your vacations needs.  Many of my clients assume they want an all-inclusive resort but when we start discussing their vacation needs they find that they are not a great fit.

The All Inclusive

All-inclusive is just what it’s name implies.  The per night charge includes all food and beverages, including alcohol, all taxes and gratuities and numerous restaurants and bars.  Many of the resorts also include extra amenities such as limited water sports or other activities not available at EP resorts.  This type of resort is perfect for those travelers who just want to get away and don’t have any plans of venturing off the resort frequently for excursions in the surrounding area.  If you are looking for a great place to hang out, relax and are not too adventurous at heart, the AI’s would be a perfect fit.  Here is a quick list of the pros:

  1. Fixed price – You do not have to wonder how much cash you need.  Everything is included with the exception of any money you will want to spend on souvenirs or excursions.  If you will be partaking of the alcoholic drinks at the rate of several a day, this could be a good option.  Drink prices can range anywhere from a few dollars to the $20 dollar range in some areas.
  2. Size – These resorts have everything you could want in a vacation destination.  They offer numerous options for dining, activities, pools, spas, etc.  There are AI’s designed for every type of vacationer.  If you want luxury, they have it.  If you want a party atmosphere, there is one for that.  Adult-only… that too.
  3. Total relaxation – Room service, swim up bars, beach loungers, casual to fine dining.  The resorts will take care of everything for you.  All you need to do is relax and enjoy the vacation.

A quick list of the cons:

  1. Price per night – The cost of an all inclusive resort is generally higher than it’s counterpart.  If you will not be spending all of your time at the resort it may not be the best option for you.
  2. Resort size – Generally, the AI’s are the largest of the resorts.  This means more people and sometimes that relates to less one-on-one service unless you are willing to pay the upgrade price for the luxury service.

The European Plan Resort

The term “European plan” simply means, pay as you go.  You pay a per night rate for the resort like you would any other hotel.  Your meals, drinks and other amenities are not included in your room rate.  You may wonder why you would ever want to choose an EP over an AI.  If you want everything in one place, you wouldn’t want to make that choice but if you only want a great place to stay while you explore the area and all it has to offer then the EP is a perfect choice.

The pros:

  1. Unique Resorts – Many of the boutique hotels and smaller quaint resorts are based on the EP model.  I particularly love the boutique hotels because they are unique and often very quaint and full of charm unlike the overly large AI resorts.
  2. Freedom – I’ve seen clients get into the habit of feeling like they have to rush back to the resort for meals and such to make sure they get their moneys worth.  If you have chosen a resort or hotel with the EP, you are free to explore local restaurants, shops and excursions that you might otherwise miss out on.  Treating your resort as a place of rest and relaxation after a day of exploring is a real treat.
  3. Price – The price per night is often substantially less than that of the AI.  This allows you to feel like you have saved a few dollars that can be spent on more adventurous outings.

The cons:

  1. Price – You will be on your own for meals and drinks.  If you are on a tight budget and want to know exactly how much you will be spending, this type of plan is not for you.
  2. Size – If you are looking for a great resort with tons of amenities and activities, this is probably not a good fit.  The EP’s do not often offer the multitude of restaurants, bars and activities of most AI’s.

When asked about my preference by clients, I try to steer them not to my preferences but to what it is they are looking for in a vacation.  I will say that though I have enjoyed both immensely, I often prefer to book an EP resort because I rarely stay on the resort.  I am an adventurer at heart and love to explore the surrounding area.  Talking to the locals is an excellent way to find the best food in an area as well as the best places to explore and shop.

I hope this helps you in choosing the right type of resort for your vacation or getaway.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or help you need in choosing.

Happy travels,


Categories: all-inclusive, Luxury, Travel, Travel, Uncategorized, Yapa Now Travel | Tags: | 35 Comments

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35 thoughts on “All-inclusive vs. European Plan – Which resort is right for you?

  1. I am also an adventure traveler at heart, so I would go for the European Plan. Yes, it’s less routed and definitely not as secure – but for me, thats what makes travel fun! When I’m traveling I find that the more open my schedule is, the more deals I find – so I don’t necessarily have to spend more money doing things spontaneously.

    • Ahhh, a traveler after my own heart! My personal preference is to save on the resort so I have more to spend on day trips, excursions and exploring the culinary offerings of the area.

  2. You’re reminding me of how I used to do European Plan before I got married. I was really good at it! I would imagine in the world of smart phones and the web that traveling is much easier.

    • You’re right Mona. With the apps available for smart phones, it is very easy now to keep from getting lost, find a great restaurant or just about anything else, no matter where you are.

  3. kerrberr

    Terrific comparison! Another consideration is the requested destination. Someone who has been to an AI in Jamaica, Mexico or Dominican Republic, may ask about an AI in St. John, St. Maarten or Tortolla. There aren’t many AI choices in these destinations because of what you mentioned as “Freedom”. In these destinations, most people want to experience the local culture, dining & activities, and not feel limited to their resort. So the available resorts reflect that.

    • So true. Not all that many destinations feature a good selection of AI’s, the US included. I can’t wait to check out the new resorts in Costa Rica.

  4. WOW! Love the comparisons Edwina! I haven’t traveled in years but when I did, I loved the All Inclusive packages, especially when I went to Jamaica! I believe that on my next vacation, I’ll like take the same. I find it one less thing to worry about and it is less costly. Thanks so much! I’d love to be in the “hut” in your photo right now!

    • Jamaica has some amazing resorts. You are totally right in that it is one less thing to worry about. Let me know when you want to hang out in the “hut”… 🙂

  5. Great post weighing up the pros and cons. We tried All Inclusive but because we love to explore it wasn’t the best option for us. thank you!

  6. Love this comparison, it really gives the reader an accurate assessment of what to expect.

  7. Mandy Edwards

    Great comparison! At Disney, we do AI, but anywhere else, it’s EP! Thank you for the comparisons – it touched on a few things I wouldn’t normally think of when deciding.

  8. Very nice explanation of both- I think I’d do the AI as an introduction to an area and then try the EP.

    • Di, that is exactly what I mention to clients if they have not traveled much. AI’s are a great way to go if you don’t know how much you will be exploring outside a resort.

  9. Someday when I can afford a trip, I will take these into consideration. I always felt like I wanted all inclusive, so I didn’t have to worry about how much I was spending. I am an adventurer too except, I may adventure too much and end up completely lost. I like safe, and AI is safe too me.

    • Tony, the AI’s are definitely safe. I’ll be posting something in the near future about safety tips when travelling. With a little common sense and knowledge of the area, it’s safe to be adventurous.

  10. Hi Edwina Parker,
    I just stumbled across this and, Me and my wifey are a youthful few(23) on a finances but we absolutely love to travel,and we are exploring into a holiday vacation this 12 months with an absolute max expendature of $2000(give or take a few hundred), so I guess the actual major is locating a superb all-inclusive resort or one that isnt that pricey so we dont use up the total 2000 on just flt resort, I havent observed a complete ton of all inclusive like what u get in Cancun. We’re adaptable on the journey time but perhaps in spring.

    We had an fantastic getaway previous yr for our honemoon, an all-inclusive Cancun excursion exactly where flt
    I look forward to your next post

    • I’m sure we can find something within your budget. The flights are the most difficult as far as price goes. I personally love Mexico. There are some amazing areas south of Cancun that you might enjoy in the Riviera Maya. Compared to Cancun you wont even realize you are in the same country. Cancun is very commercialized and the areas south tend to focus on the natural beauty that is Mexico as well as the wonderful area of Playa Del Carmen and the Mayan ruins throughout the area.

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  12. Anita Fiander

    Ahhhh…I so need a vacation. Love the comparisons:)

  13. Thanks for sharing this information…I often wondered what the difference was. Thanks for clarifying it in this well written post:)

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  15. Thank you! This is so good to know Edwina! I love the pros and cons ~ it helps people to make the right choice! 🙂

  16. Carol Giambri

    Thanks for great comparisons. Very useful to know.

  17. Dear Edwina Parker,
    I was wondering on a similar note,, There are a variety of offers to choose from for vacationers who want to drop by and see the Caribbean for the period of vacations.

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  19. of course like your website however you have to check the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to tell the reality nevertheless I will surely come again again.

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