Wes Moss: Is the all-inclusive vacation a good deal?

Spring break is over. Mercifully. When there’s no school for the kids, but mom and dad still have to work, it’s no vacation for anyone. All of a sudden, it’s a circus at the house. It’s enough to make you think it will be worth the money to go somewhere.

I’ve always wondered about the financial wisdom of the all-inclusive trip. Is it really a good deal? So this year I talked to several families that went to an all-inclusive resort with their children for spring break. I found out the real numbers behind (at least one) popular family destination.

I looked specifically at Beaches, a company that offers all-inclusive packages in Turks & Caicos, which is just a quick – and direct! – two-and-a-half-hour flight from Atlanta. A passport is required, and I’m not factoring the cost of a passport into my calculations. You’d need it for this destination whether you were going all-inclusive or pay-as-you-go.

Here’s the math. Minus airfare, here’s what a day in an all-inclusive paradise will cost you, based on a family of four. I’m assuming there are two adults and two kids.

Five nights (Sunday through Thursday) will run you about $3,750. Spring for a sixth night, and you’re looking at about $4,500. Either way, the average cost, including lodging, food and all the incidentals at the all-inclusive resort cost is $750 per day.

Now, let’s break down what a typical day, per family, costs at a place where you’re paying a la carte. These costs may even be on the low side. Kids have a way of turning parents into human ATMs:

Breakfast buffet: $15 x 4 = $60
Kids’ camp in the morning: $60
Gym workout (For your sanity – not for the kids) FREE
Lunch $ 17.50 x 4 = $70
Afternoon drinks, 5 x $10 = $50 (One for each family member, plus an extra)
Kids’ camp in the afternoon: $60
Dinner for the two grown-ups, with drinks: $100
Other (there’s always something else!) and after-dinner drinks: $50
Snacks and desserts: $30
In-room waters/soda: $15
Kayaks and windsurfing: $15
Nightly entertainment/shows for the whole family (fire twirlers, comedy): FREE
Hotel: $250 (at least) per night

Without the hotel, we’re looking at approximately $510 a day in food, drinks and fun. And that doesn’t even count gratuity. That could be another 20 percent on top of $515 per day. If you pay $102 a day in tips, your per day total is $612.

If you add in a hotel room for $250 per night, we’re at $862 – certainly higher than the $750 per night at the all-inclusive resort.

And at the all-inclusive place, you’ve also saved yourself the hassle of paying for every meal, drink, dessert, show and bottled water.

Throw in Xbox games, water slides, a lazy river, ice cream three times a day, another umbrella drink for mom and dad at the pool, souvenirs, sunscreen, aloe for the sunburn and all the other extras, and it looks like all-inclusive is the better deal.

Next spring break, go all in(clusive).

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