All-inclusive holiday cynic? Me too. It’s always seemed at odds with my quest to bag the ultimate holiday bargain. But the rising cost of living put a spanner in the works, and a holiday where you know exactly how much you’ll spend started to sound much more appealing.
That's why, for the first time, I went on an all-inclusive getaway this year. In one of my most chilled-out investigations ever (hello, pool time!), I’ve gone all in to discover if an all-inclusive holiday can be good value for money – or if you’re better booking it all yourself instead.
This deep dive looks at a seven-night holiday at the Lara Barut hotel in Antalya, Turkey. For a week in early May on an ultra-all-inclusive basis, it cost £1,329pp including flights. Taking away the price of the flight – £137pp – this deal worked out at £170.29 per person a day.
Compared to standard all-inclusive, ultra-all-inclusive usually means more options and better quality across your food, drinks and activities. This was certainly the case for Lara Barut, where there were eight à la carte restaurants as well as an impressive buffet. I loved that there was always an option to order from a menu too – with or without a booking – and without a surcharge.
Other perks included its vast array of drinks, padded sunbeds at the beach and poolside waiter service. There’s also a spa – though treatments will cost you extra – a waterpark, kids’ clubs, daily activities and nightly entertainment. But was it worth £170 per day?
To compare, let’s look at the five-star pay-as-you-go Hotel Akra, about 30 minutes’ away from Lara Barut, and a ‘do it yourself’ option that includes restaurants, bars and activities around Antalya and Lara Beach.
While there are absolutely places where you can keep to a tighter budget, Hotel Akra has a similar appeal to Lara Barut, with various pools and eateries that include fine dining, vegan options, a buffet and a live jazz bar. Outside of the hotels, I looked at mid-range to luxury restaurants, bars and beach bars that are well-rated and match the aesthetic appeal of both Lara Barut and Hotel Akra.
The table below tots up the cost of everything I did during one day at Lara Barut compared to the cost of similar options outside of the resort. It includes breakfast, coffee, alcoholic drinks, an amazing lunch and even better dinner (which included a shared chateaubriand), as well as entertainment in the form of its on-site waterpark and live evening music.
ItemDIYPay as you goUltra-all-inclusiveFood
Activities (waterpark access)
£3.00 for a sunbed and umbrella
With the day wrapped up and with money left over for the two options (just!), the ultra-all-inclusive option didn’t work out too much more per day – and that the £170.29 price for a day at Lara Barut included my night’s stay, which hasn’t been factored into the other two options.
Given it was a beautiful space with a king-size bed, balcony and free minibar, I think it’s fair to say that it places the deal I found in the ‘good value’ camp.
The vibe of your all-inclusive holiday will come down to what type of resort you choose. Cheap, cheerful and family friendly? Expect lots of young families and activities to entertain them. Opting for adults only? Unsurprisingly, you may find this option a little more chilled out.
The truth is that the reviews are your ultimate guide here as they’ll tell you what to expect from the people who have experienced it firsthand.
Most all-inclusive resorts will usually have pools, spas, sports facilities and perhaps even a beach. This is perfect if you’re after a holiday where you’re happy to relax and laze around. However, if you know you’ll be tempted to go out and explore, check to see if your all-inclusive hotel runs any shuttle buses, if it’s close to public transport, or if it has attractions within walking distance.
All-inclusive holidays weren’t all created equal and it’s worth digging into the fine print to see exactly what you’ll get for your money. Look for any inclusions and exclusions such as:
I was surprised to find that many package deals do not include a transfer from the airport. Fortunately, TravelSupermarket makes it easy to see the price difference, though it’s likely that included transfers and baggage will have a natural increase in the price of the package.
If you’re like me and get carried away with spending when on holiday, all-inclusive is a pretty safe bet – it was great knowing exactly how much my holiday was going to cost upfront. And if your holidays usually involve lounging by the pool and chilling all day, there will absolutely be an all-inclusive deal that works out as great value for you.
However, if you’re someone who’s keen to get out, explore and try all the local delights, you may find that you end up spending more outside of the hotel, making your deal less ‘worth it’.
For me, I’m not ready to hang up my local exploration just yet but I would absolutely book myself into an all-inclusive resort for three nights as a treat at the end of a busy holiday. After all, we all deserve a little bit of relaxation!
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