By Christina VanGinkel
Choosing a vacation package can be a great way to save money on the overall cost of a trip, but take the time to find out what is included in each package that is under consideration. For example, all-inclusive does not necessarily mean what it sounds like. It might mean all-inclusive at the resort or hotel, but not include any travel expenses. On the other hand, it might mean that all attractions are included for a single price, maybe some vouchers for meals, but surprisingly, you must make your own reservations for lodging and cover all of your own travel expenses. These are rare, but I have seen them listed in conjunction with amusement parks and similar destinations. Then again, for some trips, such as a cruise, an all-inclusive price might include travel to and from the departing and incoming port, your cabin on board ship, meals, even gratuities and travel back and forth to the ports of call along the way, truly an all-inclusive assortment of travel items.
What exactly is Included?
Our local area has a small travel agency that puts together all-inclusive packages to NASCAR races. The packages include your travel, your room, and tickets to the main race. All your meals and additional tickets to other events at the destination on the same weekend are all extra. They offer similar getaways to casinos. They provide bus fare to the casino, a meal voucher, even money to be spent in the casino, often referred to as Fun Money, and tickets to a show that the casino may be hosting. Chances are though, that it is not the headliner, and if you want tickets to that particular show, there is an extra cost, often as much as the cost of the complete inclusive package that they originally advertised. This does not mean that the all-inclusive package is a bad deal; it just means that you need to be aware of what the term means each time you are considering it, as it does not mean the same thing each time.
Question the Small Stuff
Ski resorts often offer all-inclusive packages. Again, all-inclusive can vary greatly on its meaning, depending on the resort in question. Some might offer lodging, and access to some of the amenities, such as limited access to the gym or pool area, along with a beginner’s ski lesson, and a ski rental. Others might include access to all the amenities, including lift tickets, meals, lodging, even travel. Keep in mind that those packages that include items you do not need, such as lessons or rental equipment can be more costly than they seem. Do not assume that just because the rental and lesson are included that your lift ticket is also. Read the details, or else you might end up having to put out extra money upon your arrival for items that you assumed were included in the all-inclusive package, and having paid for amenities that you do not need or want.
Never Assume Anything
Beach resorts are another place that commonly offer all-inclusive packages, and as with all the others, they vary from resort to resort as to what is included. If you plan to scuba dive, bike, snorkel, etc., you should ask specifically if any of these extras are built into the packages, you are considering. If they are tied directly to the resort, you can sometimes get them added, or at least discounts on rental equipment needed. Other times, beach resorts will build packages around these activities that are such a draw for customers. Again, all-inclusive might or might not include travel there and back, or any travel that might be needed while you are there, especially if you are staying on an island, and you plan to visit surrounding islands.
Get the Details
All-inclusive can mean many different things. Ask upfront the details of any packages, right down to the basics, and never assume something is included. If you are unclear about a detail, question it before you sign on the dotted line. Get it all in writing, and that way the monies you bring with to shop while sightseeing will go for that, and not to cover some basic amenity that you wrongly assumed was included in your package.