Self-catering or all-inclusive — which represents better value for money?

I’m sure that this is a question that gets asked often in many households as moms and dads discuss the annual question of whether or not they can afford a family holiday in the sun. Unfortunately, like so many other things in life, there is no definitive right or wrong answer. It simply depends! Self-catering certainly comes out tops in terms of it usually representing the cheapest headline price but of course you need to factor in all those meals or grocery bills that have to be paid for when you’re over there. On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re going to like the food as you can cook what you like (or not). And here’s where people often pick up the wrong end of the stick. Self-catering doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have to cater for yourself throughout the duration of your holiday because in my experience, very few people do that. Remember, it needs to be a holiday for mom as well otherwise it’s not really a holiday at all! Some people just prefer self-catering apartments because it means they can brew a pot of tea or coffee whenever they feel like it and it also means that you have a fridge so that you can store those snacky things to have with your favourite beverage. Most people that go self-catering rarely ‘cater’. It just means that they are not tied down to specific meal times and don’t have to eat the same food from the same kitchen for 7, 10 or 14 days in a row. Self-catering is more about flexibility and convenience than it is about anything else. One of the big downsides however of self-catering is that it is usually harder to make friends as self-caterers tend to do their own thing, plus you don’t have the convenience of those set dining times each day to strike up casual conversations with your fellow holidaymakers. The other downside to self-catering is that, unlike hotels, there is usually little or no entertainment provided within the complex so you are more or less obligated to go out and seek (and possibly pay for) your entertainment elsewhere.

All-inclusive sits on the other end of the holiday (and price) spectrum and there was a time when I would have avoided it like the plague as I would have categorized myself as more of a self-catering kind of guy for some of the reasons already stated above. In more recent years however as my wife and I have accompanied our daughter and our grandchildren to traditional holiday sunspots, I have become more and more favorably disposed to the many benefits that accrue from going all-inclusive and believe it or not, one of those reasons is price, or more specifically, value-for-money. My daughter has two sons — one aged 20 months and the older one is nine years of age. He is a veritable eating machine. In fact, I would go so far as to say that he is the human equivalent of a T-Rex whose voracious appetite must be constantly sated in order for him to function. He is also probably typical of most children of his age and thus a nightmare to his parents. Feeding such insatiable appetites with portion after portion of ice-cream, soft drinks, pizza slices, smoothies and god knows what else would bankrupt the most solvent of households — we’re probably talking €50 plus per child per day here — so it makes perfect sense to prepay one all-inclusive price that covers all such eventualities and allow cash-strapped parents to quantify in advance, what their annual week or two in the sun is going to cost. Of course, not all all-inclusive resorts are created equal so you always need to ensure that you’ve done your homework and have researched what is and what isn’t included in the price and also what other facilities can be availed of on the premises, so that you don’t have to keep on digging your hands into your pockets for the duration of your stay.


This is, of course, where a good travel agent becomes invaluable as it saves you, as a consumer, the hit and miss experience of making purchasing decisions based primarily on price rather than features, benefits and ultimately, value for money. It often helps though if you have a reference point that you can compare other properties against and one of the best, in my humble opinion is the Costa Adeje Gran hotel in Tenerife which is a 5-star property located about 10 minutes walk away from Fanabe beach on the Costa Adeje.  One can almost get tired just listing the range of facilities on-site which range from three outdoor swimming pools (one of which has a transparent bottom so that people in the vast lobby below can look up and evaluate your backstroke!), a couple of tennis courts, 18-hole crazy golf, archery, bicycle hire, games room, 10 or so pool tables, multiple bars, nightly entertainment acts, music plus a range of shops. In short, going all-inclusive is often more about working to a limited budget than it is about pampering yourself with money no object.

Who would have thought!



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