After choosing where you want to vacation, you have to determine what type of experience you're looking for and what it includes. An important thing to keep in mind is to always check the fine print to make sure you know what is really included and what isn't.
There are several important questions that you must ask yourself before choosing if you're taking a cruise or going to an All-Inclusive:
What are you getting out of your trip?
Do you want to spend your vacation exploring several destinations in one trip or just relaxing in one place? Do you want to lay by the pool all day and party at night, never stepping off the cruise ship? Cruises are great if you want to see all you can in one trip, but keep in mind you won't be able to spend too much time in one spot.
If a relaxing experience in land sounds more like you, then an all-inclusive resort will be a better option for you. There are all-inclusive resorts that provide so many amenities like water sports and activities that you would think there is no need to leave the resort, if that's your choice.
What's included in the price?
Cruises are great options and provide great value for your money, but you have to keep in mind that if you want "everything" included, it can add up to a pretty penny, depending on the cruise line and what you want included. Cruise lines usually promote their base cruise fare, which may seem a really reasonable price, but these usually don't include port taxes and fees. On top of that, you have to add drink packages, specialty dining, WiFi, excursions, tips and what not. All of these amenities we "just can't be without when traveling" will crank up the price a bit.
Don't get me wrong, even if you include all the goodies you like in your package, cruises can be a great value, but you have really think of what you really need and "can't be without" during a cruise, especially if you're traveling on a budget.
Also, remember to take into consideration that you have to fly to either your all-inclusive resort or cruise port, unless you live in Florida, where many of the country's main cruise ports are located (Miami, Tampa, Cape Canaveral & Ft. Lauderdale), which will save you money on airfare by just taking a drive to the port.
What type of Accommodations do you like?
If you like large rooms and you're cruising, consider budgeting for a balcony or suite stateroom. These are much larger than the interior and ocean view staterooms, plus they provide lots of lighting and, in the case of suites, they may come with exclusive perks and amenities.
Back in land, with all-inclusive resort rooms, you usually have a lot more space than a cruise cabin, but may not get a lot of the perks & amenities you get on a cruise. Always do your homework before booking.
Entertainment & Dining. How many options you want?
When it comes to entertainment and dining experiences, both cruises and all-inclusive resorts come head-to-head. In most cruises, you can find an extensive variety of specialty dining choices, but lots of them have a cover charge per person. Lets make it clear, this cover charge does not compare to what you would pay for dining in a regular specialty restaurant, it is totally doable.
As for dining options in all-inclusive resorts, depending on the resort, you could find from a few to several specialty dining venues, and most are included with your packaged price, but always check before booking.
Entertainment, both in cruises and all-inclusive resorts, offer a good variety of entertainment options such as Broadway-style shows, musicals, music performers, comedy shows and more. Don't forget the night club venues for adults and the one venue that never goes out of style, casinos.
In closing, after you've chosen between a cruise or an all-inclusive resort, you can narrow down your options by asking yourself these questions:
Do I want to fly to my destination? If it's a no, choose a cruise that departs from a U.S. port that you can drive to.
What kind of entertainment am I looking for? If you won't be traveling with kids and prefer adult-focused activities and venues, book an adults-only all-inclusive resort or cruise.
Do you like crowds or are you try to avoid them? If you want to avoid crows, a smaller cruise vessel or an intimate boutique resort would be perfect for you, and don't forget to try to book off season. This way you will avoid large crowds and save money at the same time.
Off season varies on the destination. If you're traveling to the Caribbean and Mexico, prices drop between June and November, hurricane season. As for Europe, late fall and early spring is a great time to get amazing deals in airfare and hotels in Europe.
No matter what your preference is, always remember to verify what's included in the price, so you don't find yourself with any unpleasant surprises during your amazing vacation.