Thursday, February 18, 2016

Does an All-inclusive Resort in Mexico Make Sense for Non-drinkers?

If you've read my blog over the last few years, you know it's no secret that we love cruising. Specifically, cruising on a Disney ship. We love that we don't have to think about where to go for our next meal, and I love that I'm not shopping for it or cooking it! We love that our kids can have an ice cream cone (or two or three) from the ice cream machine every night. We love the kids' clubs that enable me and my husband to have some dates on vacation, and we love the entertainment. We love the pools and the beach time as well as the touch of adventure we get from exploring a new port.

However....Disney cruises are not cheap, and my husband and I have both wondered if we can replicate part of what we like from our cruise vacations on land. Surely there must be resorts or hotels with great pools near a great beach with great kids clubs that are cheaper than a Disney cruise?

Well, if you find any in this country, please let me know because I've searched and googled and asked but have come up empty handed. I've found a few Hyatt hotels with kids' clubs near the beach, but for a family of five they can get pricey.

However, I found that in Mexico and the Caribbean, these type of resorts do exist! But they are all-inclusive. The rooms, food, alcohol, kids' clubs, entertainment and even tips are included in the price. Woohoo!!!

After much research, I chose Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for our next major family vacation. We could fly there using Southwest, American or British Airways miles (it's good to have multiple choices when trying to use airline miles for travel). It's only about a 2 1/2 hour plane trip, and it's in our same time zone. It is usually not as affected by hurricane season as Cancun, and it doesn't have the seaweed problem that Cancun has been having over the past year. The waves in Puerto Vallarta are a bit stronger than in Cancun, which my kids prefer.

We like big waves and I cannot lie....

I found several all-inclusive resorts in Puerto Vallarta that met our basic criteria: within our budget for a family of five, a kids' club that is open during dinner (I was surprised at how many resorts have kids' clubs that close by 4 or 5 p.m.), multiple pools (bonus if there is a water slide), and 4 to 4 1/2 star average reviews on Trip Advisor. 

During my research, I noticed a lot of the guest comments were about the alcohol. I get that alcohol is an important part of vacation for most adults. It's just not for us. My husband doesn't drink at all, and I only drink a little (Note to my college friends--my college drinking days are over!)

So I started wondering...does it make financial sense for us to book an all-inclusive resort if we don't "get our money's worth" by drinking a lot of alcohol? Would it be better to find a non-inclusive hotel in Puerto Vallarta that still had a kids' club but didn't include the food and alcohol in the price?

Since I'm a numbers gal, I was happy to crunch the numbers. I found some hotels in Puerto Vallarta that were not all-inclusive but still had kids' clubs. But a few were WAYYYYYY over our budget. And I couldn't find any that had kids' clubs open during dinner. But I found one that almost fit our requirements: the CasaMagna Marriott resort (not an all-inclusive resort).

The rooms, food options and pools look similar to our top choice all-inclusive resort. The reviews are similar. It would cost us $138 less per night than our all-inclusive resort.

But the kids' club (which closes at 5:00 p.m.)  costs $10 per hour per kid, or $35 for the whole day (9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) for each kid. So even if we used it for 2 hours a day, it would cost us an additional $60 (we have three kids). And then we would have to buy food for all five of us. If we conveniently ate at the hotel, I'm sure it would cost more than $78 per day for all of our meals (the cost of breaking even with the all-inclusive). And if we're paying for every ice cream, we probably would not encourage our kids to have multiple ice cream cones each day. So we didn't choose the Marriott.

Of course, there are less expensive hotels in Puerto Vallarta, or we could rent a condo. But then we start losing all the reasons we chose this destination in the first place--we'd have to cook for ourselves, or find restaurants, and hire a babysitter when we want to have a date night. I'm more comfortable with a staffed kids' club than I am with the thought of a babysitter in our hotel room.

So we went with an all-inclusive resort. And while we may not "get our money's worth" in the alcohol department, I'm sure we will still utilize the heck out of the kids' club, pools and entertainment options.

Are there any other non-drinkers out there who have gone with an all-inclusive resort? What has been your experience?


  1. I have been wondering this same thing as neither of us drink. Thanks for doing my homework for me.

  2. I have been wondering this same thing as neither of us drink. Thanks for doing my homework for me.

  3. We have gone to an all inclusive many times in Jamaica. It includes everything (including watersports and SCUBA) but we don't drink much at all. We go there for the diving and it is just not safe to drink and dive so we don't. I'm sure we get our costs worth in diving alone but plenty of people don't use that option at all.