The indignity of ‘all you can eat’

The term “all-inclusive” makes me think of Homer Simpson at a buffet. There’s something gluttonous about it.

I don’t know about you, but we undergo an undignified transformation at the sight of a sign saying, “All You Can Eat”.

“Right kids! Stuff yourselves at breakfast, then pinch some fruit and that’ll get us through to dinner,” I whisper covertly, as hubby piles his plate with bacon, sausages and croissants.

Love it or loathe it, the all-inclusive holiday concept is here to stay. And, like Homer Simpson’s waistline, it’s expanding exponentially.

“We are more price sensitive these days,” explains forecaster Ian Yeoman from

“The [all-inclusive] market has increased fundamentally because of the global financial crisis. The trend, ‘end of adventure’, is about consumers searching and wanting to know everything about a holiday before they arrive: no hidden surprises,” he says.

One of those surprises can come in the cost.

I’ll never forget booking a holiday to the US when the exchange rate was favourable, only for it to plunge the next month.

With most all-inclusive stays, it’s budgeted, paid for and locked in, well in advance.

But, generally, are such holidays cheaper than pay-as-you-go?

It depends on the deal: Research is the key. First, you need to check what’s included in your package. Is it only local beers and house wine? Are water-based activities included, or do you pay $20 to hire a kayak? Does breakfast consist of a piece of a toast and cup of tea? And do they charge through the nose for Wi-Fi?

Then, consider how much your family consumes. If you have one child, or you’re not big eaters, it would be a waste to include three buffet meals a day. However, if you’re the head of a ravenous hoard, you could save a fortune.

Once you’ve done your sums, look at the overall experience. If you like adventure and want to explore a destination properly, you’ll spend meal times away from your hotel. In that case, you’re better off choosing accommodation, eateries and activities separately.

Overall, Club Med offers the best family resorts worldwide, while in the Pacific you can’t beat the deals at Fiji’s Denarau.

Prefer to shiver rather than sweat? Well, skiing (or snowboarding) are always more affordable as part of a package.

In Falls Creeks, by booking on, you can get five nights’ accommodation, plus lift tickets and ski hire, for a family of four at about $2800.

For roughly the same price, and a similar package, enjoy seven days on the slopes of Niseko, through

As well, the latest catchphrase is “dynamic packaging”. And no, it’s not a laundry detergent.

You build your own package of flights, hotel and hire car through online sites like Expedia.

This gives families a tailored experience while operating within a budget.

Again, it depends on the individual – and your degree of discipline.

And a word of warning: If alcohol is free, don’t go too hard from the moment you get there.

Despite a dazzling display of Dom Perignon and Drambuie at a high-end, all-inclusive resort, my brother-in-law chose to drink his bodyweight in beer on the first night, rendering him incapacitated for the rest of the holiday.

Sometimes, less is more.

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