All-Inclusive Vacations–Do Kids Belong at All-Inclusive Resorts?

We all know that family vacations can be expensive. And not just in terms of money. Vacations cost time, energy, and all the willpower you can muster. Don’t believe me? I dare you not to lose your cool when your crying toddler refuses to wear shoes on the burning sidewalk, the baby spits up all over her third outfit of the day, your husband forgot the sunscreen, and you left a sippy cup of milk in the car parked in the hot sun.

Yet none of those things can keep me from taking (and enjoying!) a vacation. Instead, they make me want to be strategic and make sure that the family vacation we choose is really going to be worth our while! In my last post, I shared with you my thoughts on cruising with kids–the good, the bad, and the yummy.

Today let’s talk about another popular option: all-inclusive resorts and hotels.

All-inclusive vacations with kids.

For reference, we stayed at an all-inclusive hotel in Jamaica when our oldest was 2 1/2 years old and our baby was 9 months. We traveled with Nate’s sister, our brother-in-law, and our niece (who was also 2). We stayed at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort. (Full review of the property here.)

Let’s get the negative things out of the way first, shall we?


The food options might not be 24-7. When you’re traveling with kids, you need access to food. And kids’ bellies don’t always conform to socially acceptable mealtimes. At our hotel, most of the restaurants didn’t open for lunch until 11:00 central time and 6:00 p.m. central for dinner. This meant we ate dinner dangerously close to bedtime and meltdown o’clock. We compensated by packing our own snacks and taking cereal and fruit from the breakfast buffet to sustain us in between meals.

Reservations are (sometimes) required at restaurants. Our hotel required reservations for all of the sit-down restaurants. Because cruises usually have assigned seating and carefully scheduled meal times, you don’t have to worry about calling ahead and finding an available time slot for dinner each and every day.

The atmosphere is casual. This might not be a bad thing! But cruises are known for their fanfare.

You stay in one place. Again, is this bad? That’s up to you! But I do like being able to visit multiple ports and cities on a cruise without moving rooms or unpacking my bags.

All-inclusive vacations with kids. Comparison between all-inclusive resorts and cruises.


Crowd density. In my experience, common areas on cruises are always crowded. At all-inclusive hotels, there’s a lot more land and space available for guests to spread out.

Bigger rooms. Similarly, the real estate is bigger than a ship, which allows for bigger guest rooms.

Beach. Sure, cruises offer awesome ocean views, but they can’t give you 24-7 access to sandy beaches. Our girls loved exploring in the sand. In fact, they loved it so much that they inspired me to write my most popular post: 35 Free Things to Do at the Beach with Kids.

Total price. With cruises, you add in port fees, taxes, and tips. Our all-inclusive stay was truly all-inclusive. After we booked our trip, we paid nothing more beyond souvenirs and tours off of the property. There was even a note in our brochure that addressed tips: “Dear guest, please note that tipping is not required at our hotel, as you have already done so in your package.”

Free Wifi. Enough said. Internet prices on cruises are exorbitant.

Free drinks. Okay, so you pay for them in your total package price, but most all-inclusive packages include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. And, yes, while free alcohol definitely raises the value of your package, I was more excited by the free Diet Cokes. On cruise ships, water and tea are the only included beverage options.

Kids are free. As I mentioned in my cruise post, kids cruising free is the exception not the norm. When we were searching for an all-inclusive option, several resorts allowed kids under 12 to stay with their parents for free.

All-inclusive vacations with kids. Should you choose a cruise or all-inclusive resort?

So which do I prefer? An all-inclusive hotel or cruise? Tough call. We will probably do both again! But I think that the all-inclusive resort fits well with the pace of life that comes with very young kids.

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