Does your 'all-inclusive' holiday have hidden costs?

Make sure that everything is included in your all-inclusive holiday.
Make sure that everything is included in your all-inclusive holiday.

The prospect of an all-inclusive holiday where everything is laid on – and “free” – when you arrive at your destination, is for many, the ultimate in relaxation.

Not having to cook or lift a finger to pour a glass of wine or juice, being able to let the kids loose on the lunch buffet without worrying about the bill… it sounds perfect.

And when times are tough and budgets tight, the idea that everything is paid for in advance before you even pack, can be very reassuring.

But are all-inclusive holidays really all they’re cracked up to be?

Could the old-fashioned self-catering, DIY version, be cheaper in the long run?

In the interests of ironing out these thorny issues for consumers, we ran a Which? snapshot test of 10 of the most popular peak-season, week-long, package holiday destinations, to discover if all-inclusives are worth the extra cash upfront, or if being more flexible could save money.

It would, of course, be great to say we found a definitive answer, but like most things with travel, it all depends on where you choose to go.

For instance all-inclusive resorts in the Algarve, Portugal, range in price per person from £1,220 to £1,306 for the week – while a DIY version came in at £1,007 – a potential saving of £299.

Similarly, a holiday on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria could, if it was all-inclusive, cost between £731 and £802 per person for the week, while a DIY holiday is just £642.

And in tropical Mauritius, when all-inclusives range from £1,872 to £2,025 and a DIY job comes in at £1,571 it’s a no brainer – and it’s a similar story in Cancun, Mexico.

On the other hand all-inclusives win the day in Mallorca and Barbados – trying to do it yourself can cost between £300 and £700 more per week.

Much closer to call are holidays in Crete or on the Costa Del Sol where, all-inclusive prices ranged from £803 to £1,267, while a self-catering holiday came in at £910.

The proof is in the pudding – just don’t eat too many if you choose to go all-inclusive.

HOW TO ENSURE ALL-INCLUSIVE HOLIDAYS END UP BEING JUST THAT

* Avoid buffet-only hotels – you’ll end up eating elsewhere to avoid the monotony – costing you more in the long run.

* Drink allowances vary and watch out for any extra charges on international brands.

* While watersports tend to be included they can be restricted to an hour a day, so check the small print.

* You’ll almost always have to pay for excursions, massages, spa treatments and golf (even if you’re staying in a golf and spa hotel).

* Check out our full all-inclusive v DIY holidays in the latest issue of Which? Travel magazine.