Young couple drinking cocktails on the beach in the cafe

Vacation. Is there a more beloved word in the English language? We think not.

What about an all-inclusive vacation? That might depend on who you ask. One bill for an entire trip may sound like an incredible convenience, but not all all-inclusive packages are created equal. They can vary widely in cost and what is actually included. And if you’re the type of person who enjoys handling every detail of your vacation, the perks of an all-inclusive trip might be less than appealing.

As U.S. travel trends and spending start to (finally) return to normal, it would seem many of us are ready to get away. When it comes to planning a vacation, it never hurts to take a closer look at your options, especially when the success (and the cost) of your next trip hangs in the balance.

Know your limits

The first thing you need to know about all-inclusive travel is that it can mean something different at every resort, cruise line, travel agency, cross-country tour … you get the point. That’s not a dealbreaker, but it does mean you should read the fine print before you purchase. Common exclusions to look out for can include:

  • Taxes
  • Transportation from the airport
  • Resort fees
  • Tips and gratuity

Some travel packages might also only include some meals or certain beverage options and you may have to pay for extra excursions (like that day trip to the coral reef). Understanding what is and isn’t part of your package can help you plan and budget appropriately. It may also help you determine that the a la carte travel option is a better fit.

Break out the calculator (and the calendar)

As a savvy consumer, you know it never hurts to compare prices. All-inclusive deals may be convenient, but sometimes strategically booking your trip based on your vacation priorities can save you a lot of money. For example, many resorts will include the cost of group activities, but if you’re happy lounging by the pool all day it might not be a worthwhile expense.

Do your research, calculate the costs and compare options to find the right fit for your trip and budget. Also, keep in mind that whether you book all-inclusive or a la carte, timing can play a big factor in how much a trip will cost. If you have flexibility, consider traveling off-season for your dream destination. It can help your travel budget go further and spare you some of the crowds.

And whether you decide to dive into all-inclusive or design your own vacation, don’t forget to pack your budget (and stick to it). Starting to set aside those funds as part of your planning process can set you up for vacation success from the start. Saving tools like Ally Bank Online Saving Account’s buckets and boosters can simplify building a vacation fund by letting you automate contributions to your specific saving goals (getting you to your vacation savings goal that much sooner).

 

Get to know your options

Not only do all-inclusive vacation options come in different budgets and packages, they can also offer various types of experiences. Some of the more common options include:

Cruises

Whether you’re hitting the high seas or gliding down a river in France, many cruises are all-inclusive. However, you will likely have different tiers to choose from, which could alter what kind of room you have, the excursions included, meal choices and more.

Tours

If you’ve dreamt of traversing the Italian countryside but dread the thought of booking multiple hotels (or actually driving on Italian roads), then an all-inclusive bus tour might be the right choice for you. These kinds of trips often offer different routes and accommodation options depending on the kind of adventure you’re looking for.

Resorts

From sandy beaches to a mountain top ski paradise, many resorts offer packages that include everything from meals to off-site trips to meet every kind of vacation goal.

But wait, there’s more. For a truly customized vacation experience, you could work with a travel agent to build the inclusive excursion of your dreams. It will likely be more expensive, but if planning isn’t your thing it may be worth the investment.

Your vacation, your rules

It can be a little overwhelming when you start planning travel (one of the great ironies of taking a vacation), but remember, there’s no wrong choice here. One isn’t better than the other. To find the right fit for you and your next trip, stick with your travel style. (And if you haven’t yet found your vacation vibe, we suggest starting with one of our travel resources.)

Do you just want to sit on a beach with unlimited food and drinks? Sounds like all-inclusive could be perfect. Do you like having the flexibility to change plans or take an impromptu day trip to a nearby town? Might be best to build your own adventure. Whatever you choose, remember that with your vacation dream, a well-planned budget and a well-deserved break on the horizon, you can’t lose.