All-Inclusive Resorts vs. Cruising: Which Is More Frugal?

Since I frequently travel with my kids and prefer to keep things easy, I really love cruising and all-inclusive resorts. Both options make it easy to budget and pay for your trip without a ton of surprises, and both can be booked in one of my favorite regions of the world — the Caribbean.

But which is more frugal: All-inclusive resorts or cruising? Since you can book some pricey all-inclusive resorts and luxury cruises, it’s safe to say that both options can really be as expensive as you want them to be.

Pros and Cons: All-Inclusive Resorts

There are a few reasons I love all-inclusive resorts as a frugal vacation option for families. For starters, there are many ways you can book all-inclusive resorts with points, whether that means cashing in hotel loyalty points, redeeming flexible travel credit, or booking an all-inclusive property through a portal. With enough rewards racked up, you could even book an all-inclusive resort for free.

Other advantages of all-inclusive resorts include the fact that all your drinks — including alcohol — are accounted for in your nightly rate. Plus, you don’t generally need to figure out day trips or excursions if you’re happy with the resort beach and entertainment.

On the downside, however, most all-inclusive resorts are outside the U.S., meaning you’ll have to pay for international airfare with cash or miles. All-inclusive resorts are also notorious for offering bland buffet food, although you generally get better food options when you stay away from the cheapest AI options.

Pros and Cons: Cruising

Cruising is another frugal family option, although how much you’ll save depends on the cruise you book and whether you have any rewards to redeem. Like all-inclusive resorts, there are a ton of ways to cover all or part of your cruise with rewards, including flexible travel credit from a card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard.

Some cruise lines like MSC Cruises also let kids ages 11 and under cruise free on select itineraries, which can lead to huge savings for families. I know that, last spring break, my family booked a balcony cabin during peak time for $2,500 for the week — partly because we only had to pay taxes and fees for our two children.

Another benefit of cruising is that, if you live near a cruise port, you can usually skip the cost of airfare and drive.

On the flip side, cruises can come with a lot of hidden expenses. For example, you may wind up shelling out big bucks for cruise excursions if you like to have planned activities at each port. Cruises also tend to exclude alcohol from your package, which can mean you’ll wind up with a huge cruise bill if you drink a lot.

The Bottom Line

Both cruises and all-inclusive resorts can be a frugal option if you choose wisely and use rewards to stretch your travel budget as far as you can go. Make sure to consider all your options before you book your next family trip, including which type of vacation suits your family’s travel style the best.

Personally, I book cruises and all-inclusive resorts regularly, so I don’t feel the need to choose.

Which do you think is more frugal? Why?

[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

Source: frugal travel guy

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