If you are debating cruises vs. all-inclusive resorts with your travel companions, then congratulations! You are one step closer to experiencing a potentially life-changing vacation!
The good news about both travel options is both are great options. The cruise industry and the all-inclusive properties worldwide have all evolved based on guest preferences, technology, and industry-wide improvements and oversight.
Which vacation option is better?
Cruisers love to cruise, and they might shrug at other vacation options, even an all-inclusive resort. Others tend to hate cruising but love the one-stop shopping of an all-inclusive. The reality is that both vacation options have pros and cons, many which are similar. If you don’t know which category best suits you...let’s dig into the details.
An all-inclusive resort is generally as it sounds. You pay one price in advance for your room, all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and non-motorized watersports. Extras may include golf, spa treatments, excursions or day trips, WIFI and premium or upcharge restaurants. When evaluating which all-inclusive is perfect for you, a little self-reflection is in order before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars.
The Pros of an All-Inclusive Resort
Known costs – The pros begin with you know what you are paying for upfront with little room for surprises. My suggestion is to check with a qualified travel specialist on which all-inclusive is right for you based on your preferences. Be honest and don’t be afraid to say exactly what you are looking for, chances are that property exists and good travel professional knows which ones to recommend and which ones to avoid.
Central Location - One of the other pros of an all-inclusive is you can make it the hub for all your exploration. By booking an all-inclusive (just like an ala carte resort), you always return to the same room each night. But remember, you get what you pay for.
Upgrades - If the resort has a club level or private check in or concierge, I suggest you splurge and pay for added service, amenities or a larger room. You don’t want to get there and realize for just a few extra dollars a day you can avoid some of the crowds by “upgrading”. Making real-time changes to your accommodations can sometimes be problematic.
Immersion Experience – One of the biggest benefits of an all-inclusive you are in the space place for your entire vacation, which means you can immerse yourself in the local culture. You can get out and explore every nook and cranny of the region.
Cons of All-Inclusive Resorts
Limited programming – One of the biggest drawbacks that some consumers complain about at an all-inclusive is boredom. The programming options are at your own pace which means, if you don’t participate, you may find yourself a little bored. Also, selecting the correct resort for YOU is essential. Otherwise, you could end up at a property that doesn’t meet your needs. Simple questions like kids or no kids, romance and reflection or party hardy, what’s your budget, what time of year do you wish to travel...will all affect price and property selection.
Destination Costs – Keep in mind, the all-inclusive may be in a destination that you have to fly to. If budget is a concern of yours, then remember that airline ticket pricing will vary based on the season and supply and demand.
I would suggest if you are traveling outside the US for an all-inclusive, that you also secure a vacation insurance policy in case of a medical emergency or the unlikely evacuation.
Cruising is ideal if you like the idea of exploring different ports of call for a short period of time. Think of it as a chance to get a quick glimpse of these destinations to decide whether you wish to return on future visits.
The very first rule I live by when selecting a cruise is... who else will be on that ship? That’s a big one for me. I take lots of vacations for two basic reasons, work and pleasure. Work is one thing but for my own personal vacations...it matters to me who I am sailing with. But more on that in a moment.
The cruise industry is a big industry and cruise companies have lots of ships and itineraries to choose from. On the plus side, you’ve got options. The Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Europe. Ocean cruising vs. river cruising. Much like an all-inclusive, you pay upfront for certain things such as port charges, taxes, your stateroom, gratuities, amenities, entertainment, food and nonalcoholic beverages. Of course, there are lots of ways to part with your money as well after your initial purchase. Premium restaurants, WIFI, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments and shore excursions are a few that come to mind. It’s safe to say some cruise companies/itineraries include all the extras so no additional cash is needed on board.
Factors affecting price include:
Pros of Cruises
Ease of travel - You only need to get to your embarkation city and then get on the ship. Which may mean, the airlines will play perhaps a smaller role in your trip planning.
Multiple activities - Yu can be as active as you choose. The cruise director and his or her staff have activities, lectures and entertainment going on around the clock both on your at sea days and some of the port days.
The Food – The larger the ship the more options you have every day. Gone are the days of a just a steam table buffet and a cattle call. Also, cruise lines understand the needs of passengers when it comes to dining. Most lines have flexible dining times and like the rest of the travel industry the dress codes have been relaxed...for the most part depending on the cruise line.
Cons of Cruises
The ship could leave you – The ship will not wait for you should you be delayed and miss embarkation. Getting to the next port of call is at your expense.
Appears crowded – Another potential con to cruising is you will be near potentially thousands of people while you are on board and presumably when you are in port. However, it is important to note just how big these ships are. They can easily accommodate this large number of passengers and crew, so you are comfortable and happy.
The cruise industry builds itineraries with two basic types of days...at sea days and port days.
Static itineraries – You pretty much must stick with the itinerary the ship is. If weather affects your trip, you may miss a port or change a port of call due to extenuating circumstances.
Cabin space – It is not the largest place to call home for a week, but it does serve its purpose. An upside here is getting adjoining staterooms or a multi bedroom suite so you can feel free to spread out just a little more.
In addition, unless you are an experienced cruiser, I would always book at least a balcony cabin. Cabins are divided into inside cabins with either 1) no windows or a virtual balcony (a giant television that acts as a window with real time view), 2) an ocean view cabin which is a cabin with a window, 3) a balcony cabin or 4) a suite. I suggest you seriously consider booking a suite. It will cost more but the extra amenities in my opinion are worth it. Concierge service, private areas of the ship reserved for suite guests, priority dining and shore excursion bookings, and expedited embarkation and disembarkation are just a few of the perks that ease the annoyances of travel. Plus, in most cases you’ll earn more loyalty points towards achieving “frequent cruiser” status which provide even more amenities and services.
Cruise lines like some all-inclusive resorts have loyalty programs; I suggest you sign up immediately once you book.
How to book a Cruise
Planning and booking a cruise can be done online directly with the cruise line. However, I strongly suggest you use the advice and booking services of a trusted travel professional. They are an invaluable resource when it comes to selecting the perfect cruise for YOU. They also have access to deals and specials that are either not available or hard to find online.
We announced last week that while the staff here at Erik The Travel Guy takes lots of trips, to help bring you the latest and greatest info, we want you to be a part of the selection process.
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Keep in mind, this video is for educational purposes only. This video also contains some editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research before making travel purchases.
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Are we there yet?
Those four words make any parents’ shoulders rise and their molars grind. Whether they're still in the car seat phase or not quite a teenager, taking your youngsters on trips can be tricky. I have two girls, five and eight, and I've been traveling with them since before they could walk. Over the years, I've found that the key is to keep them entertained. Follow these steps, and with a little luck, the vacation will go smoothly…for EVERYONE.
Let Everyone Have a Say
At all cost, get in the planning process early. Not only is it important to pick a destination the drivers will enjoy, allow the little ones to have a say too. Narrow the search down to three options, preferably the favorites and then make the final decision. This way everyone is happy.
Birds of a Feather
The next step is to stress the importance of sticking together. Now, I'm not suggesting having family shirts made. You know, the ones that are color-coded and have the last name at the top like a football jersey (unless your family is major sports fans). Instead, I like to take the ‘wolf pack' approach, clarifying that mom and dad are the leaders, but no cub goes unnoticed.
Food, no matter what age your kids are, is essential for any trip. Smart meal options can lead to saved time and money. Stopping at a grocery store when you first arrive at a destination is a good rule of thumb. Purchase what I like to call "cry snacks," (don't we all get upset when we're hungry?) like granola, gold fish, cereal or even yogurt.
Book a Hotel with Breakfast Included
The Grand Floridian is a great example of a family-friendly hotel, which worked well for my family on our last Walt Disney World vacation. However, if it's a smaller trip, I'd suggest looking for a Holiday Inn option, where breakfast is included. Essentially, it was killing two birds with one stone since I was able to earn more IHG points, while also having the expense of breakfast covered before even departing for the day.
Tips to Keep Kids Engaged
Keeping kids engaged while sightseeing has a lot to do with getting them involved early in the planning. Highlight a few points of interest either before departure. This way, you can make a checklist of items that you know they will see on the trip. If your children are anything like mine, they usually love seeing new things that I get excited about, therefore include spots that appeal to you too.
One thing that helps keep my kids more occupied are the small notebooks I bring along. Decoration is encouraged and so is a list of attractions they liked to see at each place. This way, they can actively cross out the things we've seen. The notebooks can also be used to write down things they would like to buy. Instead of just "buying the souvenirs to keep them quiet," I say that there will be many items they'll want to buy, but set some limits. I give them a daily budget. For the things outside of their price range, I suggest they just write them down. This way it's easy to keep the items in mind for the next holiday or birthday (which I promise is right around the corner).
Traveling with Teenagers
The only thing different about traveling with teenagers is the additional ‘slack’ parents are willing to give. Even though my girls aren't at that stage yet, my friends who do have teens say they want more free time to explore on their own. Society considers them young adults, so parents should keep the "embarrassing" moments to a minimum. If you can gain approval points from the older ones, you can bank on more precious Kodak moments in the years to come.
Bottom line: plan, plan, plan! I can't say it enough and with the holidays fast approaching, a "Clark Griswald" persona is always appreciated, just make sure to not go overboard.
The outcome of air travel has a lot to do with the attitudes of the parents. Visiting an airport and flying can be fun…if you make it so. Flight delays can happen but if the parents remain in a good mood, chances are the kids will too. Keep it positive and follow these tips to reduce the stress of flying with kids!
Don’t Over Schedule
Getting from point A to point B can be long, so I try not to schedule any important events during a travel day.
Book transportation as early as possible
This includes the flight and car service (both ways). Making reservations in advance, not only allows you to budget the expenses beforehand but also eliminates walking time. Seeing a driver dressed in suit and tie, holding a sign with your name on it would make anyone feel special, including your kids. Maybe the driver will even let one of them wear his shiny black hat. If this happens, parents are awarded bonus points.
Plan for Security
If you haven't done TSA pre-check before, traveling with children is the time to do it. Lines are shorter through airport security, eliminating the hassle of standing for long periods of time, which is helpful when the kids are getting too big for that handy-dandy stroller. Slip-on shoes for everyone are also a good idea, especially if you're asked to remove them.
I allow my kids to pack a small carry on (yes, mine have the Frozen backpacks), for a change of clothes, their swimsuits, coloring books, iPad, a deck of cards…etc. If it fits, pack it. If I'm on my game, I sometimes prepare a route map for them and even an itinerary, so they can follow the course. Don't forget anti-bacterial wipes for the tray tables and chewing gum to help with the altitude changes (ear popping) often experienced during take-off.
Seat Kids Near the Windows
Not only do little ones like to look out the window, but you also keep them away from the food and beverage cart, where hot coffee and water could easily spill.
Budget or Bring Snacks
A budget for snacks or light meal on the plane is my usual protocol. Kids love to order from the menu, especially if it's out of their routine, so give them some freedom to the items you know they'll like and most importantly eat. Other parents I know pack easy, low-sugar finger food such as string cheese, Cheerios, pretzels, carrot sticks, and granola. You don’t want to bring anything too messy, but boys are these options helpful when your kids are hungry.
Do you have other tips for air travel with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!