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All-Inclusive Resorts: The Key to Vacationing on a Budget?

How often have you given yourself a limit as to how much you’ll spend while on vacation, only to find you spend much more? One way to control this phenomenon is to book your next vacation at one of the increasingly popular all-inclusive resorts. An all-inclusive resort offers one price for many of your main expenses, including accommodations, meals, daily activities and nightly entertainment. Some places even include gratuities, bar drinks and transportation to and from the airport.

Club Med pioneered the concept of the flat-fee resort more than 60 years ago. Since then, hundreds of luxury hotels and cruise lines have honed the idea to create a popular option for vacationers. However, be aware that even all-inclusive resorts may charge extra for things like spa treatments and motorized water sports. Some packages may charge an optional daily beverage fee, as the inclusive fee may not include alcoholic beverages or even sodas. You also may incur charges for Internet access, and all-inclusive resorts seldom foot the bill for activities enjoyed in the local community.

Some travelers may not mind paying the extra fees since so much is already included, but keep an eye on your bottom line or you could end up going way over budget. Instead of keeping tabs on the small daily charges, add them to your running tab for the entire vacation, as that’s the number that will help keep your ancillary spending in check.

Many travelers enjoy the simplicity of an all-inclusive vacation, knowing they don’t have to carry cash around the resort or check prices at every juncture. It also can be much easier than researching local restaurants to figure out where to go for each meal.

For 2015, several media outlets have picked their top recommendations for all-inclusive resorts. The following is a diverse sampling.

Generations Riviera Maya, Mexico — Generations features 144 suites on a secluded beach with a collection of infinity pools, swim-up suites and hot tubs. The all-inclusive package features butler service and customized gourmet experiences allowing guests to complete a culinary preference questionnaire before they arrive.

Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, Jamaica — The Hyatt’s first all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, this adults-only retreat features beach butlers and poolside food trucks. Exotic cuisine choices include a Japanese teppanyaki grill and Brazilian churrascaria, plus the all-inclusive fee includes free rounds at two local golf courses.

Riu Palace Antillas, Aruba — An adults-only resort for active beach enthusiasts, featuring windsurfing, snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and scuba lessons. You can also get beach pavilion massages, go nightclub dancing and gamble at an onsite casino. Note that the all-inclusive fee does not include gambling funds.

Secrets Resorts & Spas, Mexico — The “Spoil Yourself and Repeat” package features up to four spa treatments a day, plus complimentary green fees, nine dining options and six bars. If you choose this spot for your honeymoon, the resort will grant you a free night on your anniversary each year.

Blackberry Farm, Walland, Tennessee — If you’re looking for an all-inclusive domestic resort, consider the combination of downhome activities and luxury amenities at Blackberry Farm. With a view of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, canoeing, fly fishing, gardening, farming and even truffling. There are cooking demonstrations, whiskey and wine tastings, a full-service spa along with golf and tennis. Most activities are charged separately but meals and accommodations are included in the singular price.

The Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Montana — Billed as an all-inclusive luxury ranch resort offering “a slice of raw western adventure paired with unprecedented comfort and amenities,” this Montana retreat offers an interesting vacation alternative. Vacationers can enjoy fly-fishing, massage treatments, horseback riding and regionally inspired cuisine. Accommodations feature “glamping,” or glamorous camping, options: Canvas tent-cabins featuring 810 square feet with two rooms separated by a curtain, and rustic yet luxurious wood cabins featuring private baths and comfortable beds with luxurious bedding. The resort’s Rod and Gun Club offers a variety of activities ranging from fishing to horseback riding to pistol shooting, while the Granite Spa offers rejuvenating treatment packages. The all-inclusive fee (plus 20 percent “ranch fee”) includes room, board and your choice of two daily, on-property, guided activities with all gear and equipment, as well as access to the fitness center, pool and hot tub.

Kaitlin Wells. MarketWatch.com. June 8, 2014. “10 things all-inclusive vacations won’t tell you.” http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-things-all-inclusive-vacations-wont-tell-you-2014-04-17?page=1. Accessed March 18, 2015.

The Huffington Post. “10 Best Caribbean All-Inclusive Resorts for 2015.” Feb. 17, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/fodors/10-best-all-inclusive-res_b_6349578.html. Accessed March 18, 2015.

Luxury Travel Magazine. Dec. 23, 2014. “Travel Channel Names Top 10 All-Inclusive Resorts of 2015.”http://www.luxurytravelmagazine.com/news-articles/travel-channel-names-top-10-all-inclusive-resorts-of-2015-22867.php. Accessed March 25, 2015.