This is an insanely long overdue post. I mean – it’s been over a year since we went on our all-inclusive trip to Mexico, but as I’ve been getting a serious travel itch as of late, I keep thinking back on this trip and wondering: was it even worth it?
I mean, for one, I feel like I didn’t get a real experience.
When booking this trip to Mexico, I imagined I’d be eating my weight in tacos, tamales and enchiladas. I’d start every day with some café de olla and concha, eat unique finds like huitlacoche quesadillas, all the while sipping an abnormally large quantity of horchata. Then we’d spend our days exploring Tulum, visiting the pristine beaches, exploring the ruins, swimming in the many cenotes, and maybe signing up for a food tour or two.
Unfortunately, by staying in an all-inclusive, we didn’t get to experience what makes Mexico such an interesting place – the culture. The first morning we arrived it took them so long to put us into our room that we ended up missing the time slot for lunch and didn’t get to dine until dinner. When asked what beverage I would like, I asked for a horchata and was informed they don’t serve that due to catering to the palate of the guests. Then, as I walked over to the large buffet, I noticed that my dreams of gorging on Mexican cuisine was being shattered as I took note of the smallest selection of Mexican-fare.
I quickly realized that this vacation was going to be a little less about exploring the culture of this beautiful country and more about getting the same type of pampered experience I could back at home: sitting around a pool, eating copious amounts of Americanized food, and sipping on drinks all day.
Really – this resort could have been picked up and put anywhere that’s how little of the culture was experienced on the resort grounds.
However, as I mentioned before, I had every intention of leaving the resort to experience the local culture, but what I wasn’t expecting was that the excursions were insanely expensive.
I did my research prior to going to Mexico – as I do with any trip I take whether it be international or an hour away. I wrote a list of everything I’d like to experience and had my eyes set on a local guided tour with 7 stops that took us on a culinary experience enjoying dishes such as mole, pastor, and tacos de guisado for $54 per person. It sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, our travel companion did not want to book an excursion outside of the resort due to safety precautions so we were left with a taco tour that cost triple the price.
Another downside to booking excursions through the resort was that the excursions available are so touristy. Don’t get me wrong – I love touristy things! I’m obviously a tourist and these adventures are touristy for a reason. I mean, I definitely wasn’t going to go all the way to Mexico and not see the Yucatan Peninsula from cenotes, the ancient ruins, or some of the most amazing beaches this region has to offer. However, joining one of these tours meant that I was heading to the same touristy attractions as a million other tour buses during peak hours and while I loved being able to see all of these incredible landmarks, it would have been nice to adventure out on our own.
So, it’s safe to say that this type of vacation is not for everyone. Being a single mother to a six-year-old, I’m not a partier. I can’t lay out by the pool and drink all day. Nor would I want to. I like adventure. I want to swim with the whale sharks and climb the steps of Coba. I want to spend a day out on Isla Mujeres and cliff dive at Cenote Zaci. And I want to indulge in all of the delicious delicacies this part of the world has to offer. Sure, spending a day or two of relaxing is perfectly okay in my books – but I’m not the type of person that can book a one week trip and spend it lounging around. That’s just not my style.
Which brings me to my most important tip: choose your travel companions wisely. Ha ha ha.
Now was our entire trip terrible?
One thing that we loved was that everything was already paid for. So, when we did lounge by the pool and wanted an ice cold cocktail, we didn’t have to worry about bringing our purses with us. Or calculating how much of a tip to leave the bartender (ah hem, American tipping culture at its finest). Plus – I loved that there was numerous different cuisines to dine out at. While my initial reaction was “where’s all the Mexican food?!” I can’t say that I hated being able to dine on Indian one night and then grabbing some Italian the very next. Our resort had 7 different eat-in restaurants as well as a buffet, so we were definitely set when it came to satisfying our taste buds.
I also loved that the location we chose was kid-friendly. Obviously, not every all-inclusive resort is, as I can imagine if you don’t have children your idea of vacation wouldn’t be spent around a bunch of screaming little humans. But if you do have kids – the opportunity to spend time at the water parks or signing up for a kids club might be enticing. When I booked the trip, we stayed on a resort that had 4 different hotels. I ended up spending a little extra and booked us a room at the Luxury resort so that we had access to the remaining resorts, their restaurants, and their activities. Including the wonderful evening shows the resorts hosted. One night we saw a magic show and another night a show titled “Origin” where there was acrobatics, singing, and dancing involved. It was definitely well-worth it.
Another perk was being able to see the excursions the hotel offered. While they may have been a bit over-priced, there was definitely some activities that I never would have thought of on my own. One of my favorite days of the entire trip was our very last full day where we did a jungle buggy tour through the Yucatan jungle to Aktun Chen Park. We stopped off at a wildlife zoo, where Audrey got to feed a banana to the cutest little monkey, and then made our way to a cenote. It was definitely a perfect ending to our trip.
So – do I think all-inclusive resorts are worth it?
Yes, depending on what type of trip you want. If you want to just show up, relax, and enjoy yourself then I can totally see the appeal to an all-inclusive. However, if your idea of travel is a little less pampering and a little more exploring, I’d probably go a different route.
I feel the same way about cruises, too. While my entire extended family loves going on a cruise, I’m not sure if I’m ready to spend that kind of money to relax pool-side.
What are your thoughts? Have you been to an all-inclusive/on a cruise? Do you prefer that way of traveling or are you more of an explorer?