Why I love All Inclusive Vacations.

December 12, 2012

I love travelling. Part of the reason that I resigned my old job and started working as a Business Operations Consultant was because I wanted to be able to travel more. They say be careful what you wish for because it might come true. Well, it did come true. For the first 6 months of my new role I was home a total of 35 days. I spent the rest of the time on the road.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I love flying, and airports and visiting new places, but visiting for work is different than visiting somewhere for fun. Back in 2009, my friend, Anita and I took off for Europe for 6 months. We backpacked our way through most of it. That was an adventure. Not knowing what hostel we were going to stay at when we got off the train in any given city was both exciting and nerve-wracking. But we had fun. We met some of the most amazing people on our journey, and I can say that I was altered by it. Europe, also, took a bit of planning, and we needed the time to create our adventure. Having a week off work isn’t the same thing. I can’t fly over to Germany and hang out for a week, it doesn’t work like that, and quite frankly isn’t in my nature. I need/want to explore the city, live with the locals, learn their ways. This is one of the reasons behind interviewing for roles in Argentina. I wanted to live there and feel settled.

The first time I travelled by myself was 2008. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of 2 years, been in a car accident that totalled my car, and might have been somewhat traumatized. I went online, found a trip to Cuba for the next evening and packed my bags. (My boss was kind enough to allow me leave after seeing pictures of my car, and the cuts on my face). The goal was to spend a week in the sun, get my tan on, and read. That was it.

I paid $490 taxes in for an all inclusive trip to Cuba. I know that I have a few readers from the States and flying to Cuba is a bit of a challenge, but let me tell you that it is worth it.

Since then I’ve been to every Caribbean country, and would still pick Cuba. Let me explain why.

I don’t go to Cuba for the food. That’s not the point of the trip for me. I enjoy the experience. I also love getting on a plane and knowing that my hotel, flight, food, is all taken care of. Β I also like my cigars (I don’t smoke cigarettes). This is especially important to me since I have a limited amount of time for vacation, and spending the most amount of that on the beach is a priority. The majority of the trips that I’ve gone on are 7 day last minute ones. I have gone on the rare 4 day weekend trip to Varadero as well. The country just doesn’t disappoint.

For those who have issues with the food, I say suck it up. Cuba has some of the world’s best beaches, really friendly people and tourists(mostly Canadians), and its only a 4 hour flight from Toronto. Β And, this being a personal finance blog allows me to point out that Cuba is most likely the cheapest destination for most Canadians. Where else are you going to find a flight, food and alcohol, ground transportation and hotel for that price? I can go to New York for 2.5 days and spend that and not get tanned, or go away for a week on an all inclusive vacation for the same price.

Cuba is a very close second to my favorite place in the world. And knowing that I get on the island for under $700 at any time makes me love it that much more.


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  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup December 12, 2012 at 9:34 am

    All-inclusive vacations rock. Since I am a planner, these types of vacations make it easier for me to deal with the other unknowns of vacationing. I would always pick an all-inclusive over anything else.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      ME TOO! You don’t have to do any work!

  • Michelle December 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

    We’re going on our first all inclusive next week! Super excited.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Where are you going?

  • Jacko December 12, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Yeah they seem like a good idea but they are charging you like $200/day for meals.

    I don’t know about you but I don’t eat that much food. I went to San Juan a few years back and rented a condo.

    The owner helped me get everything I needed and the trip was WAAAAAAY better.

    I went to the local grocery stores and got my own food beer wine and had a great time and saved plenty money.

    I’m just saying.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

      How are they charging you $200/day for food. You math is wrong here.

  • AverageJoe December 12, 2012 at 10:49 am

    Do people think Cuban food sucks? Maybe I’m spoiled, because I’ve never been to Cuba, but I’ve been to two awesome Cuban restaurants (out of about two). One, in (believe it or not) Louisville, is just absolutely fantastic, and it’s in a strip mall. We pulled up and I didn’t want to go in. Now I can’t wait to go back.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Cuban food on the resorts aren’t the greatest, but then again, I can live off of fries for a week.

      • Pauline December 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

        I didn’t know about the food, I did all inclusive once in Dom Rep and it was fine, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to make up for the junk food. I guess in Cuba there are some restrictions too. I have never had the occasion to go and would love to explore that country! It is pretty expensive to fly from Guatemala, strangely.

        • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm

          That’s really odd. Then again, its pricey to fly around Cuba, too.

  • Jacob @ iheartbudgets December 12, 2012 at 11:00 am

    My wife and I found out the hard way that we LOVE all inclusives. We spent a week in Hawaii, and it was frustrating because we had to make TOO MANY money decisions, and since our funds were limited, kinda put a damper on the whole thing. Cuba does sound nice this time of year, especially since it 38 degrees and raining here…

  • John S @ Frugal Rules December 12, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    We’ve never done an all inclusive vacation. Hearing the benefits of them though I really do want to some day. We’ve been to quite a bit of the Caribbean and would love to try Cuba, I’ve heard so many good things about it. I hope the US restriction gets lifted on it so we can go there at some point in our lives.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      Its worth it!

  • Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin December 12, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    I’m jealous, we have never been on an all inclusive trip but the points you make are very valid. Hopefully one day it will become much easier for us Americans to travel to Cuba. It looks gorgeous!

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      I think you need a visa and have to fly from Mexico.

  • Tackling Our Debt December 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    My friends and I did 2 weeks in Varadaro Cuba in Nov of 1998 and you are right about the beaches. So very beautiful. I love Caribbean beaches, but there was something so nice about the sand on the beach in Cuba. We did one bus tour while there to see Cuba itself. The rest of the time was spent at the resort. We met so many Canadians. The only drawback of the trip was the flight from here to there. We did Air Transat and via Toronto and we were packed in like sardines. So uncomfortable.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      The flight is the biggest drawback. I figure that I can suffer for a few hours.

  • Chris @ Stumble Forward December 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Wow that’s odd that you would pick Cuba over every other island in the Caribbean. I guess I’ve never thought of Cuba as real vacation destination. The only island I’ve ever been to was Aruba and I loved it. It had a certain peacefulness to it.

    I’ve never been to an all-inclusive resort but I heard they are a lot of fun. On the other hand I did stay at a Timeshare down in Aruba but I can honestly say I wouldn’t do it again simply because with an all-inclusive they cover all the cost from the drinks to the food which can save you a bundle.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 3:50 pm


  • Amanda L Grossman December 12, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    Traveling for business is definitely different. I make a point to do one fun/personal thing while on a business trip, and it really changes things up. Like when I traveled to FINCON this year and rented a car to go to a natural hot springs an hour outside of Denver!

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm

      And you didn’t invite us?

  • Mo' Money Mo' Houses December 12, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I do and I don’t like all-incluvies. The first trip I went on I loved, the second, well I think we just picked the wrong hotel. Plus because I’m usually busy in my normal life it takes me like 4 days to finally relax. I just don’t think I’m good at vacations really. But I do love that you can find some really great deals for all-inclusives.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:03 pm

      They work for me when I need a break. But yeah, I’ve had a few bad experiences in other places, too.

  • KK@Student Debt Survivor December 12, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    The BF and I haven’t been on a vaca in a while, and we’ve not been on an all-inclusive vaca together. My last all-inclusive was in the Dominican Republic and it was great (all you could eat and drink, beaches, warm sun, what was not to love?) I like paying in advance and not worrying about anything but relaxing.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      You need to go. Definitely worth it.

  • Canadian Budget Binder December 12, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I’m well travelled myself and am one person that can’t stand resorts or all-inclusive but never on business. I prefer to hang out with the locals, travel around and mingle to learn what the culture is all about and throw myself into it. I want to meet the people, learn from them and maybe teach them a bit of where I come from. I’ve eaten some of the best foods in little run down shops, huts and side streets and long for it sometimes.I’ve been to a resort once and yes it was all fancy, boxed in like we were in paradise but it wasn’t for me. It’s one of those things that you either love or hate it. Glad to hear your all inclusive experience is one that you desire. πŸ™‚

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm

      I do that too! Some of my best meals were from food carts and small stores in Turkey. I also venture out of the resort a few times, but I need more time to chill with the locals. If I need a break, the all-inclusive gives me that.

  • Country Girl December 12, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I’ve never done an all-inclusive, but it’s something I would like to try at some point. I imagine sitting on a beach in Cuba beats shovelling snow in February every time.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      We should plan a blogger vacation.

  • Budget & the Beach December 12, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I’m pretty sure when it’s allowed, people from the US are going to flock to that country, and probably drive up costs of tourism there. I’ve heard great things.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Don’t ruin Cuba for me!

  • Mandy @ MoneyMasterMom December 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    My in-laws love Cuba. My mother in law just got back actually. It is the beginning of some hunting season here and my father in law was planning on disappearing into the bush, so the MIL said forget it, I`m going to Cuba.

    • Marissa December 12, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Did she go by herself?

  • fabulously frugirl December 13, 2012 at 6:22 am

    I`ve been to Cuba once, and it was with my family about 5 years ago. Even though I wasn’t expecting to like it – I always thought of myself as backpacker-explorer-type-of-traveler, it was a lot of fun. Usually our biggest decision of the day, was deciding what to have for dinner. I was also expecting the food to be so-so, but I really enjoyed it. Looking back, it was perfect for getting on a beach and doing nothing.

    BF and I have been doing self-guided tour trips, but we’re usually too busy to plan too much in advance, so it’s nice to take the work out of it. And let me know if there is a blogger vacation coming up!

    • Marissa December 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      I see a PF blogger vacation on the horizon!

  • DC @ Young Adult Money December 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

    We did an all-inclusive for our honeymoon and it was definitely worth it. We went to Jamaica and the beaches were beautiful. We loved that we could eat at any of the restaurants whenever we wanted (I seriously was NEVER hungry because I ate so much, I loved it!). We are going on a cruise in February but I would love to go to another all-inclusive sometime in the next few years.

    • Marissa December 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

      Where are you going on your cruise?

  • Anne @ Unique Gifter December 13, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Interesting. I found Cuba to be okay. Not sure if I would go back without a reason (like a wedding). Friends of ours who have traveled very extensively spent 3 weeks there backpacking/in resorts and ended up leaving early, they hated it so much. At the resort it was fine, but being actually in Havana was annoying.
    Two friends went on exchange there and one basically never left the apartment, he was so sick of being harassed. The one with a very dark complexion found it fine. ..I digress.

    • Marissa December 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Yeah, Havana is a bit different.

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life December 13, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I’m doing my first all inclusive in Cuba this year, it’s for my honeymoon and I can’t wait!

    • Marissa December 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Yay! Where are you going in Cuba? Varadero?

  • CF December 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Brian and I have never been on an all-inclusive vacation yet and I’d really like to! I’m not sure where we would go, but anywhere warm, tropical and relaxing would be fine for me πŸ™‚

    • Marissa December 15, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      That’s pretty much my mentality, too!

  • Kathleen @ Frugal Portland December 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    wow I did not know Cuba has all inclusive vacations! I really thought this would be about Mexico. πŸ™‚

  • Audra December 28, 2012 at 2:09 am

    I love to taste different foods when moving to vacations. But, I haven’t tasted Cuban foods yet. Marissa, you are same as like me spending more time in road then in home.

  • Mat December 28, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    I’ve never been on an all-inclusive vacation before (in fact, any sort of vacation is rare nowadays). However, I think it sounds awesome to have everything taken care of and not have to spend as much time on day-to-day details and decision-making. Even the pre-vacation planning is not something I enjoy, so the package deal is attractive to me. I see the pros and cons, but I would imagine it really just depends on the particular resort and pricing as to whether it’s worth it or not.

  • Vicky January 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Kind of late catching up with the blog and my fiest time writing.
    Just wondering what were you interviewing for in Argentina?
    Great blog always helping me trying to out my money in order lol

    • Marissa January 23, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Operations consulting. Its a good gig.

      • Vicky January 23, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        Finally you decided to stay there? Its not a great economical time to be living in Argentina. We are having soo many issues, in fact we have to ask for permission to the Afip (something similar to the irs) to be able to exchange local currency to us dollars or any other foreign currency, and 95% of the times they dont allow you to exchange it. And saving in local currency (argentine pesos) with an inflation of 20% per year its kind of nit worth it… You might have dodge a bullet there lol. Btw I looove your posts, they are super interesting and helpful!! Congrats!

        • Marissa January 24, 2013 at 1:07 am

          Aww, thank you for stopping by. It was going to be a 6 month contract, and an adventure. πŸ™‚ Alas, I ended up in North America instead.

          • Vicky January 24, 2013 at 3:40 pm

            If you ever happen to come down here, contact me!!!