All-Inclusive Resorts

One of Mexico's most popular all-inclusives, the El Cozumeleño Bounty, on the island of Cozumel, advertises, “Bring nothing. Get everything.” Sounds good, doesn't it, especially if you have two or more kids in tow — one price, no surprises, leave your wallet at home. That's an irresistible combination, especially to families with kids, since many also include day care and other activities.

But you shouldn't take the term “all-inclusive” at face value. In Mexico, all-inclusive generally means all meals, most on-site land-based activities, and alcoholic drinks at meals and sometimes between. Most charge for imported liquor and some charge for wine with meals. Likewise, some charge for water sports, while others include everything as long as it is part of a scheduled activity. Spanish companies, including Iberostar, Barceló, Occidental-Allegro, and Sol Melia, own and operate many of them. The following is a list of the main all-inclusive chains operating in Mexico:

• Allegro Resorts (www.allegroresorts.com)

• Barceló (www.barcelo.com)

• Blue Bay All-Inclusive Resorts (www.bluebayresorts.com)

• Club Maeva (www.clubmaeva.com.mx)

• Club Med (www.clubmed.com)

• Iberostar (www.iberostar.com)

• Palace Resorts (www.palaceresorts.com)

• Qualton Hotels and Resorts (www.qualton.com)

• Riu Hotels (www.riu.com)

• Sol Melia (www.solmelia.com)

The per-person price at all-inclusive resorts provides not only accommodations, but often airfare in some sort of package, besides meals, drinks, and activities, so usually they offer good value for families. They operate on the same concept as cruise ships. But there are many versions of all-inclusives, and some include more than others. And many cater to a particular type of guest. Not all cater to families. Out of more than 100 all-inclusive resorts in Mexico, thirty-four cater to families.

While in the Caribbean, it's often difficult to go out for meals, so you end up eating most of them at your hotel. Because you're a captive audience, food is often high priced and of poor quality. This isn't so in Mexico. All-inclusive resorts here are usually located in resort areas with lots of restaurants and attractions. The main reason families choose to stay at all-inclusives is the affordable price. And when you're traveling with ever-hungry kids, having food available all day for one price is a definite plus.

Club Med was the pioneer of the all-inclusive concept. Originally, it had an image of a swinging singles resort, but now that's all changed, with many catering to families — those in Mexico are some of the best in the chain. Unlike other Mexican all-inclusives, Club Med resorts all follow the same routine, regardless of where they're located, but only Club Med Ixtapa caters to families in Mexico with four kids programs — Baby Club Med (for infants four to twenty-three months), Petit Club Med (for kids two to three), Mini Club Med (for kids four to ten), and Junior Club Med (for kids eleven to seventeen). Club Med's all-inclusive price includes all meals, snacks, drinks — premium alcohol, as well as sodas, coffees, and teas — all water sports, entertainment, and tips, giving you a true wallet-free vacation. But Club Med vacations can be regimented, and therefore they're not to everyone's taste.

The popularity of all-inclusive resorts makes it imperative that you book well in advance. Winter weekly rates range from $1,470 per person plus airfare at Allegro Resorts to $1,505 per person for a week at Club Med, including airfare.

New or Converted All-Inclusives

Many of the all-inclusives that have opened in Mexico are newly built, but some were formerly resorts that didn't prosper. After converting to the all-inclusive concept, all have become successful. However, a converted hotel may not be as good as one built as an all-inclusive.

Many converted properties are beachfront hotels — especially in Cancún — that don't have the physical space of all-inclusives in other parts of the Caribbean. While some all-inclusive hotels are isolated, in places like Cancún there's a lot to do outside the hotel.

Kitchens of a 1,000-room converted hotel may be designed to feed only 40 percent of the guests. This can cause long waiting times and poor service.

TRAVEL TIP

In Mexico, be careful of hotels that offer a mix of all-inclusive and standard European plans. It's hard for a bartender not to wait first on the customer he knows will tip him rather than on the all-inclusive guest whose identifying ribbon or armband announces “no tip.”

Before you book an all-inclusive resort, do your homework. Your family will thank you for it.

Where Are They?

Though you'll find all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa, Cozumel, and Manzanillo, the majority of them are in Cancún and along the Riviera Maya.

What Is There to Do and See Nearby?

Limiting your family to spending time only at the resort will detract from your enjoyment of Mexico. Plan on excursions to nearby towns or attractions, often highlighted in the resort brochures. Once you are at the resort, ask the concierge about local attractions.

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