Travel time: All about all-inclusives

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Wouldn't it be nice if you knew almost to the penny what you'd spend on hotel, food, beverages and some activities BEFORE you went on vacation? If your plans include an all-inclusive resort, you're well on your way!

I've sometimes heard all-inclusive resorts called "a cruise on land." That's certainly a colorful description, but where your ship takes you to several destinations, many all-inclusive properties are destinations unto themselves, making this type of vacation very relaxing. I've also found an all-inclusive vacation to be very budget-friendly, offering terrific value.

Here are some things to consider if you're contemplating an all-inclusive vacation:

What's really included at an "all-inclusive?"
The vast majority of all-inclusive properties will include all meals and beverages - including alcohol - in your package, along with your accommodations. Many will also include a variety of activities under the heading of "non-motorized water sports." What does that mean? It means things like snorkeling from the beach, boogie boards, sailboards and a variety of water toys.

A few high-end "super-inclusive" or "ultra-inclusive" resorts will also include "motorized" water sports like scuba diving and water skiing. Some of these deluxe resorts will also include things like golf, horseback riding and day excursions in the mix.

Most all-inclusives even include your tips!

Won't I get bored eating at the same place everyday?
In a word, no.

Virtually all the resorts have multiple restaurants and dining options right there on property. The menus are varied each day and often the dining areas will offer theme nights, leaving you less likely to get tired of their selections.

Many chains also have a "stay at one, play at all" policy where you can use the facilities of sister properties in the area. The various Sandals resorts all over the Caribbean offer this policy, while the Palace resorts, Iberostar and RIU properties in places like the Cancun/Riviera Maya also encourage you to resort hop, helping you make the most of your stay.

Where are the best all-inclusives?
I get this question a lot.

Mexico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are famous for their posh resorts, but I would add a few other islands to that list - St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos and Antigua are a few.

I'd also advise against all-inclusives in places like Grand Cayman and St. Thomas. For Grand Cayman, I don't know if it's because the chains that do this type of property so well are not currently operating on this lovely island, but in my opinion, the few that are here are not worth the extra money.

In the case of St. Thomas, there are two very nice all-inclusives, but their locations aren't the best - they sit up on bluffs instead of on the beach. The views are great, but you've got a little hike to get to the sand.

Who should consider all-inclusive resorts?
In my opinion, pretty much everyone as there are properties that cater to couples, families and singles of all ages in a variety of great destinations.

There used to be a school of thought that if you weren't a big consumer of alcohol, all-inclusives weren't much of a bargain for you, but these days, that's just not true. Non-alcoholic beverages - including the chocolate-banana smoothies my daughter drinks like water - can be quite pricey. Not having to keep a running tab on what my family is ordering by the pool raises my relaxation quotient considerably! My pocketbook is pleased, too.

While not every great vacation destination has this kind of property - Hawaii being the most glaring example in my book - consider an all-inclusive if it does. When you think about everything that's included, you'll be glad you did.

And just in case you're looking for a great deal on an all-inclusive property: here come the specials!

Cancun/Riviera Maya
All-inclusive resorts on sale!

Some of the most beautiful properties in this gorgeous resort area are on sale!

The packages below include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights accommodation as noted, airport transfers and tips. Midweek travel offers the best rates, but weekend-to-weekend packages are available, too. Valid for travel October, November and into December.

Occidental Grand Xcaret
Grand Concierge Deluxe Room
$1019.00 per person, double occupancy
Gorgeous resort, adjacent to the spectacular Xcaret nature park!

RIU Playacar
Standard Room
$979.00 per person, double occupancy
Pretty and comfortable property in the terrific Playacar Resort, right by Playa del Carmen!

Gran Porto Real
Junior Suite
$1109.00 per person, double occupancy
Right in the heart of Playa del Carmen - but you'd never know it! This pretty property sits right on the beach and is walking distance to popular Playa del Carmen attractions.

Italy's Great Cities Plus London
March 11 - March 22, 2011
From $2599.00 per person, double occupancy!

12 Spaces left!!

Also - I have a lady in her 30s who is looking for a traveling companion, as well as a lady in her 60s. If you have been thinking about the trip, but didn't have anyone in particular to travel with, give me a call for more information!

This fantastic package includes round trip air from Phoenix, a fully escorted tour of Italy, with a total of four nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice. Add in two nights in London as we make our way back home and you have four amazing cities in one fantastic trip!

Lots of wonderful sightseeing is included: the fabulous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, Romeo & Juliet’s Verona, a private transfer boat in Venice and Chianti country. You'll also have a full day in London to do as you please! Air taxes are additional - currently running $185.00 per person.

Check out the itinerary below:

Day 1 Board your overnight British Airways transatlantic flights

Day 2 Arrival in Rome, Italy
Relax in your comfortable hotel after your evening arrival in this lovely city.

Day 3 At leisure in Rome
Time to start exploring the Eternal City with your entire day free! At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special Welcome Dinner with wine in one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (BB,D)

Day 4 Rome
Sightseeing starts with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (arranged next morning if closed today), world famous for Michelangelo’s ceiling paintings and The Last Judgment. Continue to monumental St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Cross the Tiber and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then there is plenty of time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 5 Rome / Pisa / Florence
Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 6 Florence
Guided sightseeing includes the magnificent Cathedral, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistery's heavy bronze "Gate of Paradise," and sculpture-studded Signoria Square. To top it off, admire Michelangelo’s celebrated David in the Academy of the Fine Arts. The afternoon is free for independent sightseeing and browsing through the shops in Piazza Santa Croce. (BB)

Day 7 Florence/Verona/Venice
Journey north through the fertile Lombardian plains to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet’s Balcony and stroll around the picturesque market square before continuing to Venice in the afternoon. (BB)

Day 8 Venice
Start morning sightseeing in style as you glide by private boat along the Giudecca Canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark’s Square and the Byzantine Basilica, lavish Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (BB)

Day 9 Venice / Rome
A kaleidoscope of Italian landscapes parades past the coach windows on the way through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills which are the home of the popular Chianti wines. Tonight in Rome, an optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your leisurely Italian vacation. (BB)

Day 10 Depart Rome/Arrive London
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to London. Transfer from Heathrow to our Chelsea-area hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy this amazing city! (BB)

Day 11 At leisure in London
A full day to enjoy London! Stroll around London's beautiful parks or take the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels! You might consider one of London's famous double-decker bus "Hop On, Hop Off" tours, which lets you explore London at your own pace. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace - your list of places to explore is endless!

Day 12 Depart London
Our nonstop flight departs Heathrow Airport this afternoon for our early evening arrival in Phoenix.

These dates are over Spring Break for many school districts, so make it a family affair! The weather in Italy will be very mild and the crowds should be low since it's not a peak travel season.

Wonderful Waikiki!
Air, Hotel, Transfer package!

Great deals for Waikiki this Fall!

The packages include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights accommodation as noted and airport transfers. Midweek travel offers the best rates, but weekend packages are available, too. The rates are valid for travel October, November and into December.

Aston Waikiki Beachcomber
Ocean View Room with daily breakfast
$869.00 per person, double occupancy
Right across the street from a great stretch of beach!

Ohana East
Standard Room
$669.00 per person, double occupancy
Just a block and a half from the beach, this comfortable property is also close to terrific shopping and restaurants!

Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber
Standard Room
$739.00 per person, double occupancy
Across the street from beach access, this popular hotel is close to the famous Royal Hawaiian Center and the International Marketplace!

By air, land or sea, we're planning your next great vacation at TravelationOnline! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 and 623, call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at rosanne@travelationonline.com. I look forward to hearing from you!