Why all-inclusive holidays don't always save you money
Are all-inclusive holidays all as cost-effective as they seem?
Holidaymakers booking all-inclusive holidays to beat the recession and cut their spending while abroad could actually save more money if they booked cheaper basic packages in the first place.
According to the 2013 UK Post Office All Inclusive Report, many holidaymakers would be better off if they chose a destination, booked a B&B package, then took meals in local restaurants and bought drinks in local bars.
The biggest potential savings by this approach would be on the Algarve coast of Portugal - where a couple could save £648 if they booked a B&B package, rather than an all-inclusive one. Another example is in Cyprus, in July, where booking on B&B terms, including meals and drinks, costs £144 less than an all-inclusive.
Despite these obvious savings, the Post Office report says more than 40% of UK adults have taken all-inclusive holidays abroad - and 42% of package holidays sold this year are likely to be all-inclusives.
The concept is in strong demand because the pound has been falling, and continues to weaken as a new Governor of the Bank of England appears happy to see sterling go lower against other currencies.
In fact, the demand for all-inclusive packages has risen so strongly in recent years that TUI Travel, the largest tour operator, has devoted one brand- First Choice entirely to all-inclusives holidays.
But the Post Office report says packages often appear to promise more than they actually deliver, particularly in European resorts - where the growth in all-inclusives has been most rapid during the past 18 months. A particular complaint is having to eat set meals in the same restaurant every night- while restaurants in the surrounding area, especially in Portugal and Spain, have been offering much better value this year.
The report explains: "Where restaurant prices have fallen dramatically this year, it may be cheaper to book a B&B package and eat out each day".
The Post Office says 3.5m all-inclusive travellers ended up paying an extra €121m to enjoy a wider meal choice on their last all-inclusive break - working out at an average €35 per meal.
Drinks are another area of potential disappointment. A growing number of travellers think bottles of wine and cocktails are included in the price they originally paid for the holiday, but 85% of the European hotels contacted did not offer international brands of alcohol free of charge, and 65% excluded bottles of wine.
Free use if the internet is yet another problem area: many all-inclusive bookers think that will be included, but often an extra charge is added. Around 60% of hotels in Europe (contacted by the survey) excluded free internet access from the original package, and 50% of long-haul hotels took the same view.
All these seemingly hidden controls mean package travellers spend extra money during their holiday, when, of course, the major attraction of an all-inclusive was to spend as little as possible once in resort.
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money says: "Our research showed European all-inclusive resorts consistently offered less than their long-haul counterparts, so holidaymakers need to be aware of what is included to avoid getting caught out.
"As most people continue to pay for extras on their all-inclusive holidays, it is important to carry enough foreign cash to cover meals, drinks and other charges which they are likely to incur."
As with most rules, however, there are some exceptions, and in this case the Costa del Sol, Corfu and Majorca do actually offer all-inclusive deals that are better value than any other option, with Majorca the cheapest of all.
WHY UPHEAVALS IN TURKEY AND EGYPT WILL AFFECT HOLIDAY DEALS THIS SUMMER
Summer holidaymakers could could find their destination choice is sharply reduced this year as a result of the major political disturbances and widespread protests in Turkey and Egypt.
Travel expert, Bob Atkinson, from travel website Travelsupermarket.com, says: "At the moment, troubles in both Turkey and Egypt are focussed on the major cities. Turkey has only seen a plunge in demand for short breaks in Istanbul, but the Egypt tourism industry as a whole has had a very tough time since the Arab Spring. People have become very wary about even the Red Sea beach resorts.
"My feeling is that Turkey could bounce back from its troubles more quickly as it didn't have serious issues at the start of the year, and it remains very much a family-driven market with good value all-inclusives.
"However scenes of rioting and disturbances appearing nightly on TV news bulletins will make many people decide to look elsewhere. To some extent, Turkey's loss could be Greece's gain. Greece already had a record-ever year for tourism last year. Spain is also set for a good air, and there is still good seat capacity among airlines for Spain."