It's time to take another look at all-inclusive hotels and resorts. "Going for an all-inclusive no longer means having to sacrifice luxury," says Jaime Stewart-McConnell, brand director for the Royal Plantation Collection and daughter of all-inclusive pioneer Gordon "Butch" Stewart, founder of Sandals Resorts. "No matter what your budget may be, everyone wants to be pampered." Philippe Kjellgren, president of high-end travel-planning site
, agrees: "Even with upscale hotels, the current trend is to offer all-inclusive rates so guests know exactly what they're getting and can plan—and budget—in advance."
Though some all-inclusives shy away from using the term, says Kjellgren, many properties are incorporating additional perks into their fixed rates, like spa treatments and upgraded dining options. To help choose the property that best suits your needs, our experts offer the following tips:
Determine the Destination
Though the Caribbean is still their primary domain, all-inclusives come in many forms and locations, so the first thing to do is narrow down the field. "Look at the destination you're interested in, instead of just searching for all-inclusive properties," recommends Kjellgren. "You might be surprised at where you'll find them, as they've moved beyond the beach to include culture and adventure." Kjellgren also points out that "some properties are naturally all-inclusive because of their secluded locations," citing African safari lodges and remote island resorts in the Maldives as examples of places that typically include all meals, activities and transportation.
Get the Details
"There are no industry standards regarding who can call themselves an all-inclusive," Stewart-McConnell warns, "so be sure to get all the specifics. Ask what's not included, and check for hidden fees." Both experts say the typical things to look out for are taxes and service charges—room-service meals may be included in the rates, for example, but there might be a "delivery fee" for each order—as well as premiums for top-shelf liquors, spa services, in-room Internet, airport transfers and access to certain restaurants and activities, such as water sports.
Save—and Snag Perks
Even when the rate is all-inclusive, there are still ways to save. "Price flexibility comes with room categories, and with being willing to travel off-season," explains Stewart-McConnell. Kjellgren counsels clients to "ask for things you'd like included. It's easier for a hotel to throw things in than to give you a discount, so there's no harm in trying to negotiate." He also suggests checking whether foreign properties can lock you into a rate in U.S. dollars, which might help avoid any exchange-rate surprises.
Hermitage Bay, Antigua
Set on Antigua's west coast, Hermitage's 25 freestanding Cottage Suites—some on the beach, others on a hilltop—are surrounded by more than 140 acres of undeveloped land, creating a private-island feel. Rates include water sports, yoga, a 30-minute welcome massage, afternoon tea, premium beverages and all meals. Rooms from $950,
Longitude 131, Australia
Named for its position in the Australian outback, this beautiful property's 15 luxury tents offer dramatic views of red-hued Ayers Rock and surrounding Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Rates include daily guided tours to the cultural centers and natural sites, airport transfers, premium drinks and all meals. Rates from $4,200 for a two-night package,
Ocho Rios, Jamaica__
Once the hideaway of jet-setters like James Bond creator Ian Fleming, this sanctuary was renovated and relaunched in 2004. Opt for the all-inclusive "Royal Plan" to enjoy perks like all meals, premium beverages, scuba dives, airport transfers and greens fees at the nearby Upton Golf and Country Club. Suites from $1,420,