Institutional food. ­Cookie-cutter rooms. Middling service. These are just some of the accusations regularly leveled at all-inclusive resorts. If we’re honest, we harbor some of these preconceived notions too. Here’s why you should cast them aside, especially if you’re planning a trip with friends.

The game has changed.

“It was sold to me as ‘not your typical all-inclusive,’ ” a discerning veteran traveler said of a recent trip to Grand Velas on the Riviera Maya. Indeed, if people like her end up at an all-inclusive, it can only be because they’ve been successfully convinced that it’s not like the others. It turns out that many all-­inclusives have upped their game to a level that would satisfy the snobbiest traveler—just check out Club Med’s Sicily property, part of its Exclusive Collection, which looks like a White Lotus set.

Less friction = more fun.

Dividing bills is a chore, and that’s even without the friend who frets over how your surf-and-turf or fourth margarita might affect his bottom line. “It feels so freeing not to tabulate the bill,” says the discerning traveler, now a convert. “You can just order away.”

It’s a great equalizer.

Paying a fixed price up front can smooth the tension of planning a trip with people of varying means.

You can always upgrade.

Whether it’s booking one of the “butler elite” rooms at a Sandals—which comes with a valet you can text for service at any moment—or paying out of pocket at dinner to exchange the included house wine for a bottle of Opus One, nowadays there are plenty of ways to make it fancy.

This story appears in the Summer 2023 issue of Town & Country. SUBSCRIBE NOW

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