All-Inclusive vs Self-Catering

All-Inclusive vs Self-Catering

When booking a holiday in the travel agents or online and the question of board basis comes up, it can be a little difficult to answer. What do you pick between all-inclusive vs self-catering? Both have their merits, but which is the best choice for you?

Here are a list of pros and cons for both self-catering and all-inclusive to help you make the best decision.

Self-Catering – The Pros

Freedom and Flexibility

A self-catered holiday will give you the freedom and flexibility to go where you want and when you want without being restricted by things such as meal times. Having this flexibility will also let you feed the kids when they need it, not when the food is available.

The freedom to do what you want
The freedom to do what you want

By having breakfast, lunch and dinner catered for you at your hotel you will find you wont want to stray too far away incase you can’t get back for the meals. Lets face it, you’ll want to get your moneys worth if you have paid for all-inclusive.

This means you might see a lot less of the place you have chosen to holiday in and you will be pulled more and more into your hotel or resort.

A self catering option will allow you to go off for days out with a backpack and a picnic and explore the area you are there to visit, making sure you enjoy and experience local culture and sights.

Lower initial cost

When booking a self-catering holiday the initial cost of the holiday will be substantially lower, which is a good thing.

However, try and work out how much money you will spend on food if you opt for the self-catered option and then put that cost on top of the price of your holiday. How far away are you from the all-inclusive prices?

Buy What You Want, When You Want

On a self-catered holiday you don’t have to worry about feeding your kids according to the all-inclusive meal schedule. You also don’t have to worry about them not liking the food, if your kids are particularly picky eaters, as you will buy what you know they will eat. Certainly one less headache.

Local Supermarkets – All-Inclusive vs Self-Catering

One of the most exciting things about a self-catered holiday is exploring the local supermarkets! You may scoff at the idea, but trust me, it’s amazing what you can find!

When in France, it’s the fish counter and breads, when in eastern Europe it’s the alcohol isle, when in Portugal it’s the biscuits, Turkey the tea, America the meat and music, Bulgaria the sweets and in the Ukraine the fact that everything is orange flavoured!

The fish counter in French supermarkets are quite the spectacle
The fish counter in French supermarkets are quite the spectacle

It’s a unique opportunity to become an incognito local! Big winner in the all-inclusive vs self-catering debate for us!

The supermarkets allow you to try new things and live like a local without paying through the nose. This also means if you tried something and didn’t like it you haven’t broken the bank doing it!

You can also learn what is value for money as you will quickly learn the real price of goods vs the tourist price, which will ultimately save you money.

Try New Things

When you choose a self-catered holiday it gives you the freedom to try new things in a new setting for example: visit local cafes, frequent local restaurants, enjoy local delicacies with more individual choice and try out weird and wonderful street food such as quail eggs in Lima, churros in Portugal or deep fried whole crab in China.  

That's right people! Deep fried crab in China.
That’s right people! Deep fried crab in China.

Bigger Apartments

If you opt to stay in a resort, but choose to go the self-catered route you will have your pick of apartments complete with kitchenette and separate bedrooms, rather than just a single room.

This is great news if you have kids! It gives you infinitely more space for little ones to run around and play and room for you all the spread out, which is always a massive plus!

Full Size Fridge

In a self-catered apartment you are more likely to get a full sized fridge, which you can put drinks and bottles in rather than a mini fridge.  

Eat Less 

When you are self-catered you will definitely eat less! All-inclusive packages make it very easy to over indulge as usually most of the food is on a buffet.

Gluten Free

If you have special diet requirements such as gluten free or you need to cater for weaning babies, it can be easier to do this yourself.

Self-Catering – The Cons

Getting to the Supermarket

If you do not have access to a car, getting to a supermarket and ferrying the food back can be a bit of a pain.

In this instance a visit to the supermarket can end up as a bit of a chore and not in keeping with the true spirit of a holiday.

Getting the bus to the supermarket could be problematic
Getting the bus to the supermarket could be problematic

More Expensive

A self-catered holiday could end up more expensive if you can get a really good deal at an all inclusive.


If you are on a self-catered holiday you will need to cook and clean up after yourselves.

Also, some apartments are only equipped with a hob and not an oven so this might be worth checking out before you book.

Cooking on a self-catered holiday
Cooking on a self-catered holiday

All inclusive – The Pros

Food Food Food!

On an all-inclusive holiday you don’t have to worry about food at all. Through out the day and in-between meals there are usual snacks and fruit available to stave away those niggling hunger pangs.

Also, drinks and ice-creams are usually included so if you have kids this will be all their holiday dreams come true at once.

Food, food and more food at an all-inclusive hotel
Food, food and more food at an all-inclusive hotel

No Extra Charges

On an all-inclusive holiday your trip is all paid for so you don’t have to worry about spending any money once you are there. This means you don’t need to worry about holiday money, currency exchange or bank charges.

No need to worry about spending money
No need to worry about spending money

Variety of Food

If you are on an all-inclusive holiday you can try lots of different dishes all day every day. Although you may find your choice is limited to what the hotel puts on and sometimes the menu can be dictated by the countries their guests are visiting from.

Indulge Yourself!

Indulge yourself and have a break from the cooking, cleaning and everything your ‘normal’ life throws at you. Also, enjoy the on-tap food, drinks and alcohol, which can be delivered to you at any time of the day.

Indulge yourself
Indulge yourself

All-inclusive – The Cons

You Get Trapped

You can get locked into your resort or hotel as you get trapped by the daily ritual of food times.

Trapped in your all-inclusive resort
Trapped in your all-inclusive resort

You Don’t Travel

Because of this entrapment, you don’t see the true culture of where you are staying.


On an all-inclusive holiday it’s so very easy to pile on the pounds. So much so, you will be able to accurately plot your weight gain as you look back through your holiday photos.

Higher Initial Cost

Some all-inclusive holidays can be exorbitantly more expensive. What is it exactly you re paying for? Is it worth the price hike?

Resort Location

Some of the fabulous all-inclusive holidays on offer can be set in very remote areas of a country or in parts where there is not much else to offer. They can also be in areas where it is deemed unsafe to travel on your own. If being stuck in one place doesn’t fill you with much holiday cheer, check your resorts geographical location before you book.

Secluded Resorts
Secluded Resorts

Disappointing Prizes

Some all-inclusive resorts offer up competitions and games with prizes for the winners. Some resorts offer spa treatments and days out, which are great prizes! Others offer bottles of drink…. at an all-inclusive resort, in my book, not so good.

Too Much Alcohol

At all-inclusive holidays you can end up drinking way too much alcohol in the day, when you don’t normally touch the stuff. At times it can almost feel staff are pressuring you into drinking! Sounds weird, but by day 10 your belly and your blood sugar levels have probably had enough!

Too much alcohol on all-inclusive holidays
Too much alcohol on all-inclusive holidays

Best Type of All-Inclusive?

The best all-inclusive resorts are those that offer à la carte restaurants and not lots of buffets affairs.

This way you can temper your desire to over indulge and you can enjoy what is on offer without over doing it.  

The Compromise!

Ultimately, we at Well Travelled Munchkins feel there is a compromise between self-catering and all-inclusive – and that is half-board!


We think that the half-board choice is really the best of both worlds, although the half-board option is often less available than the self-catered and all-inclusive option.

Half-board means that you received breakfast and dinner at the hotel, but no lunch.

When travelling with kids this is a great option. An easy pre-prepared breakfast is a great way to start the day and if you’re sneaky you can pack a little sandwich to take with you on your day out exploring.

If you are travelling with little ones with early or set bed times you will probably find you will gravitate back to the hotel at a reasonable time anyway, so the routine of dinner and bed stays intact.

Half-Board Plus!

The ultimate sweet spot might even be half-board plus! This is where you receive free alcoholic drinks with dinner!


The ultimate pro over anything to do with all-inclusive vs self-catering is that you are on holiday!!

So whatever you decide to do – all-inclusive vs self-catering – enjoy it!

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Pin it for later!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Such a great review and comparison! There are definitely pros and cons to both, you brought up some points I had never considered before. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a great comparison!! We have never done all-inclusive because didn’t want to be tied down but it also has its pros!!!

  3. I totally agree with the alcohol comment haha! Great post! Its been so long since I have been to all inclusive!

  4. Love this comparison. We very rarely go down the all inclusive route, we like to get out an explore and self catering is just so much easier with kids! We did do a great one in Mauritius on honeymoon though, the good ones can be sooooooo good!

  5. Such a great comparison to think about when travel planning!

  6. Great post! We always stick to self-catering, but I’m sure we will go with all-inclusive at some point. We enjoy the flexibility of self-catering, but I know there are pros and cons to both!

  7. This is a great summery. We tend to go self-catering because of dietary restrictions and to help keep costs down. Also, we do love a local supermarket!

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