You are calling around to all the different Tour Operator 800 numbers and looking on the different web sights trying to figure out where to go for Spring Break. You know where you are flying from and you know which hotel is your popular choice, but there is this "all-inclusive" option. The agent has told you that the trip includes 7 breakfasts and 7 dinners dine around package, some free covers and drinks, but the trip is still not "All Inclusive". This option usually comes at a significant price increase.
So what is the difference? The difference is very significant. In the case of a TRUE "all-inclusive" package, all of your meals, drinks, non-motorized water sports and other activities are included in your trip package (only at the hotel/resort).
It is worth asking if ALL drinks are included (they usually are). Also ask if there are any limitations to the all inclusive package. Hotels know that some students, especially staying four and five to a room, are fully capable of "throwing back a few". The advantage of this package is a great help in "budgeting" your vacation. You do pay a premium price for purchasing an all-inclusive package and will be staying at some of the nicer hotels and resorts. The downside is that if you don’t like the hotel's food or the crowd at the hotel you are kind of stuck. Everything included in an all-inclusive package must be consumed on the property where you are staying. So in-order to really get your dollars worth, you will want to have your meals, happy hours, excursions, etc… at that particular property. One last note about all inclusive packages offered during spring break. Some of the lower end hotels in the international destinations are offering all inclusive options, but beware. Often the food is given in low end buffet styles (bad tacos & refried beans) and the drinks are only available at certain times. So what you think you are going to get and what you actually get are two very different things.
Added value to a travel package is like purchasing a "meal plan" or a "party package" to go with your basic travel package (air fare, transfers & hotel). Some tour operators add free meal plans or even small versions of the VIP party packages offered. These items are offered to get travelers to book their trips early or to draw you to a specific company. This can sometimes be worthwhile and can save you some money in the long run. In these types of meal plans you can expect daily breakfast and dinner at different restaurants on a selection list.
These meal plans are referred to as "dine around packages" in which you eat at different restaurants at different times during your stay.
The restaurant usually charges the tour operator only for the meals consumed. Just like "all inclusive" packages there are no refunds (to trip participants) for unused meals. This applies to you whether you pay for the meal package or you get it free.
Note: Tips and beverages are often not included in the meal package and the menus at the listed restaurants are limited. So you aren’t going to have steak and lobster each night.
Another downside to these types of meal plans is that you have to provide your own transportation to and from the restaurants. This can be a negative if your hotel is far away from the restaurants. Also there are Tour Operators that will try to pass off a slice of pizza one night and a hot dog another night as "Meals Included" or as a "Meal Plan". This is expectable to some travelers, just beware.
What is a "Party Package"
The party packages that are available include club admissions, free drinks and premium items like t-shirts or souvenir mugs. As with some meal plans, party packages follow a schedule. Each day and night you will have a different bar/club featured as the place to party for that day or night. Some less "inclusive party packages" (may be the kind included with your trip). These party packages that come with your trip have a set schedule for you to follow and also have limitations. The free night club admissions are before certain times. The free drink specials are very limited and also time restricted.
The unfortunate downside to the party packages is that they can cramp your style. These plans lock you into certain clubs for the night. So if you are the club hopping type you might choose to steer clear of party packages. Also be ready to wait in line. Even though some clubs are huge there can be large lines of partygoers waiting to get in. Even the express privileges you get with some party packages mean you wait in a smaller line. When you finally get to the free drink area it is often crammed and also has long lines. A key to quicker service is to whip out the pesos or dollars to tip the bartenders. Often with out a tip upfront many bartenders will ignore you.