It was then that the big sun and sand tour operators started marketing low-cost packages to the Caribbean as a way of appealing to families who wanted to fix the price of their holidays upfront. Lukewarm buffets led to outbreaks of food poisoning and unlimited alcoholic drink to outbreaks of unedifying debauchery.
In fact, the concept of an all-inclusive holiday has a venerable history. Full-board, where all meals are included (although not usually drinks) was being offered by hotels in the 19th century; it was integral to the idea of ski, chalet and house party holidays developed by Erna Low in the Thirties and Forties; and has been common for decades in old-fashioned seaside hotels in northern France. It was the package holidays of the Sixties and Seventies where B&B and half board became the norm.
But wherever you start in the long history of such things, after the Nineties the popularity and variety of all-inclusive trips have burgeoned. For Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, it’s central to its flagship Sensatori brand launched a decade ago, which offers 10 five-star hotels with all meals, drinks and entertainment in the price. Richard Sofer, Tui’s commercial director, says that this is the fundamental appeal of the concept, and that it will be opening another Tui Sensatori resort in Rhodes this summer that will have seven “gourmet” restaurants including one Italian, one “American-inspired” and a contemporary Greek restaurant.
According to the Telegraph’s luxury travel editor, John O’Ceallaigh, choices of that kind are vital to success at the top end of the market. “Guests who are paying a premium for their holidays don’t want to be limited to a single restaurant, or to a basic selection of wines and spirits. Many top-end hotels and operators now offer remarkable variety to their clients on an all-inclusive basis. Recently, for example, I was impressed by Shinta Mani Angkor Bensley Collection in Cambodia which – for guests on its all-inclusive rate – will cover the cost of one meal at any other restaurant in the region.”
Including your meat and drink in the holiday price is not unique to beach resort packages. Many cruises, safaris, ski and adventure holidays are also effectively all-inclusive.
30 of the best all-inclusive holidays on offer this year
1. Jamaican joys
The Caribbean is ideal for an all-inclusive break, its mix of sunshine and relaxed vibe feeding the instinct to curl up on a lounger and remain there for a week. Jamaica has embraced the concept via the likes of Melia Braco Village, a five-star retreat on its north coast at Rio Bueno, where the all-inclusive rate covers meals at five restaurants, drinks and a pool with a swim-up bar. For those inclined to move a muscle, kayaks, windsurf equipment and paddleboards, and an adventure zone with ziplines and a rope course, are also featured.
A seven-night all-inclusive trip, flying from Manchester on Sept 9, is £1,935 a head, with Thomas Cook (01733 224330; thomascook.com).
2. St Lucian serenade
St Lucia offers all-inclusivity with an emphasis on well-being at the Body Holiday resort – a five-star spa enclave at the north tip of the island where the all-inclusive rate extends to one 50-minute massage per person per day (with guests able to choose from 12 different treatments across their stay) and access to a gorgeous beach.
A seven-night all-inclusive holiday, flying from Gatwick on Nov 18, costs from £2,300 a head via British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays).
3. Grenadian glory
Often eclipsed in profile by Barbados and Antigua, Grenada is still a jewel of an island that delivers particularly cool all-inclusive escapes at the Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa on the sands of the south coast at L’Anse Aux Epines. It revolves around a mere 30 suites, most with private plunge pools. Breakfast can be served on your own terrace and a Gary Rhodes restaurant awaits for dinner.
A seven-night all-inclusive break, flying from Gatwick on Nov 11 will cost from £6,357 per person through Virgin Holidays (0344 7393957; virginholidays.co.uk).
4. Gorgeous Grenadines
Not far from Grenada, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Palm Island offers Robinson Crusoe fantasy on a private outcrop of 135 acres and just 43 rooms, where you can stroll along winding trails to two gourmet restaurants. The all-inclusive rate covers afternoon tea as well as main meals, plus non-motorised watersports and tennis.
A seven-night escape in November, flying from Gatwick, costs from £2,579 per person (or £4,119 a head for a fortnight) through Tropical Sky (01342 886938; tropicalsky.co.uk).
5. Cancun can
It’s no surprise that Cancun – a resort city purpose-built for indolence on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula – revels in all-inclusivity. Le Blanc Spa Resort is adults-only and five-star, with four restaurants and six bars.
A seven-night all-inclusive holiday, flying from Heathrow on May 31, starts at £2,373 per person, via Teletext Holidays (0115 778 5417; teletextholidays.co.uk).
6. Maldivian mysteries
If ever a country were a perfect match for the idea of all-inclusive holidays, it is the Maldives – where being marooned on a desert island with nothing to do but be pampered is the very point of going. Turquoise Holidays offers sojourns at the Constance Moofushi resort, a 30-minute seaplane hop from Male in South Ari Atoll, where villas glitter beside or above azure shallows.
The all-inclusive rate features afternoon tea and dinner at Alizée, a restaurant on the sands – and costs from £2,900 a head for seven nights with flights, and transfers (01494 678400; turquoiseholidays.co.uk).
7. Mauritian magic
The five-star Maritim Resort & Spa sits on the north-west shore of Mauritius, on the edge of Turtle Bay Marine National Park – just a 20-minute drive from the intriguing capital, Port Louis. Even so, the temptation is likely to be to burrow into the hotel’s 62 acres of grounds – especially as its all-inclusive rate offers afternoon tea, yoga sessions, Pilates classes and use of a nine-hole golf course. The weather is affable throughout the year.
A seven-night all-inclusive holiday, flying from Manchester on June 16, costs from £1570 per person through Sovereign (01293 832463; sovereign.com).
8. Seychelles solitude
If you can’t wait even until June for a dose of all-inclusive sun, scurry off in May to the JA Enchanted Island Seychelles Resort. Perched on a tiny outcrop in Sainte Anne Marine National Park, just off the east coast of the main island Mahé, here is sanctuary in excelsis – just 10 villas, and à la carte cuisine at the Bounty Restaurant.
A seven-night all-inclusive getaway, flying from Heathrow with Qatar Airways on May 20, costs from £3,045 a head. Via Last Minute (0800 083 4000; lastminute.com).
The Far East
9. Thai temptation
Thailand also offers lost-in-paradise reverie – not least on Koh Samui, where those seeking unhurried escapism and little else can snooze at the Melati Beach Resort & Spa on Thongson Bay on the north coast. The all-inclusive package comes with dinners at à la carte restaurants The View (on the beach) and Kan Sak Thong (Thai dishes), and an open bar between 10am and 10pm. December is a fine month to visit, after the rains of October and November.
A seven-night all-inclusive break, flying from Heathrow on Dec 8, starts at £1,709 a head, via Destinology (01204 823591; destinology.co.uk).
10. Langkawi languor
A tropical joy which shimmers at the point where Malaysia meets Thailand, Langkawi lends itself to all-inclusive lying about. Perhaps at The Andaman, a five-star hideaway folded into the foliage of the island’s north coast. A date with its all-inclusive rate means evenings in restaurants serving sushi and Malaysian recipes, and enjoying the stunning sunsets over cocktails at the beach bar.
Seven-night all-inclusive breaks at The Andaman in November cost from £2,103 per person, with flights from Heathrow – via Kuoni (0800 0241473; kuoni.co.uk).
11. Cyprus calling
All-inclusive holidays do not have to be on another continent. Tui provides them with a dash of finesse in Cyprus, near west-coast Paphos, where the Aphrodite Hills by Atlantica resort bears the stamp of the firm’s high-end Sensatori brand. That means infinity pools, four restaurants and a shuttle bus the short distance to Zias Beach, where all-inclusive guests can expect snacks and drinks.
A seven-night all-inclusive escape, flying from Birmingham on June 6, starts at £1,171 per person Tui (0844 248 1697; tui.co.uk).
12. Algarve attraction
Portugal’s most southerly region has a reputation for cheaply cheerful lodging, but it dons a suit of superior cloth at the Sao Rafael Suites, near Albufeira. Here is a contemporary five-star hotel with three outdoor pools (one for children) and a spa, a 550yd (500m) walk from the beach.
A seven-night all-inclusive break, flying from Gatwick on Sept 9, costs from £1,372 per person, with transfers, through Inspired Luxury Escapes (020 3368 3317; inspiredluxuryescapes.com).
13. Halkidiki heaven
Part of the Ikos portfolio of stylish all-inclusive retreats, chic Ikos Olivia resort basks on the waterside in Halkidiki, a short hop from Thessaloniki. This is an oasis where four pools, five restaurants, three bars, a spa and tennis courts sit in 22 acres of lawns and olive trees. Meals at selected local restaurants are also part of the all-inclusive rate.
Seven-night stays in August start at £1,398 a head, with The Inspiring Travel Company (01244 432878; inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk). Flights are extra, but can also be booked via the operator.
14. Garda greatness
Ski specialist Inghams steers away from winter by offering all-inclusive breaks at the Parc Hotel, a four-star with indoor and outdoor pools and a wellness centre, at Peschiera del Garde on the Veneto side of Lake Garda. Such bookings take in all meals, house wine and beers, and activities such as cycling and tennis, and work well for families who like to stretch their legs.
A seven-night holiday for a family of four (children under 10), flying from Edinburgh to Verona on Aug 4, costs £3,632, including transfers (01483 345 784; inghams.co.uk).
15. Costa credentials
All-inclusivity does not only apply to fly-and-flop beach breaks. You can enjoy it on an adventurous holiday, too – as is shown by Natural World Safaris’ Ultimate Costa Rica Honeymoon. Designed for newly-weds who don’t wish to sit still, this 13-day trip throws itself at rainforest zip-lining and rafting on the Pacuare river. It offers accommodation at a series of lovely lodges, like the Lapa Rios private reserve on the Osa Peninsula.
The quoted price – from £4,495 a head – does not cover flights, but these can also be booked (01273 691642; naturalworldsafaris.com).
16. Airborne graces
Namibia may sound an unlikely all-inclusive destination, but that reckons without the Wings over Namibia escapade from Wexas Travel. This remarkable 10-day break soars by light aircraft and balloon between Windhoek and Etosha National Park via the Skeleton Coast, flying low for close-ups of a dramatic landscape.
The £6,440 starting price covers the full trip, including flights and all meals at deluxe accommodation such as Ongava Lodge in Etosha and the chic Olive Exclusive in the capital (020 7590 0611; wexas.com).
17. Handy Andes
Although at first glance they don’t fit the bill, cycling tours also flirt with all-inclusivity, generally providing their participants with full-board lodging to fuel them for their days in the saddle. This can be an appealing prospect when the destination is especially exotic. Step forward, then, Saddle Skedaddle and its Andes, Amazon and Machu Picchu break – a 16-day epic endeavour in Peru that takes its travellers up to the incomparable Inca citadel, but also down through rainforest treescapes.
From £3,675 a head including flights, bike hire and food, save for a couple of meals on non-riding days (0191 265 1110; skedaddle.co.uk).
18. Having it Largo
With its love of the extra charge, America is not a natural friend of the nothing-more-to-pay hotel. So the arrival of the high-end Bungalows at Key Largo, reputed to be the country’s first beachfront all-inclusive, is perhaps a surprise. Nonetheless, the Florida property, due to open this summer, will offer unlimited food and alcoholic drinks, plus free fitness classes, watersports and bike use.
A seven-night stay in October, flying from Glasgow to Miami and including car hire, starts at £2,995 per person via Bon Voyage (0800 3160194; bon-voyage.co.uk).
19. Saddling up
Luxury and adventure collide at The Ranch at Rock Creek – a Montana hideaway of just 29 rooms and suites where guests can try the cowboy lifestyle without getting too dirty. The price includes more than 20 activities, such as archery, fishing, clay shooting and mountain biking as well as horse-riding, plus haute cuisine and a soothing spa at day’s end.
A seven-night all-inclusive break costs from £6,010 per person via Elegant Resorts (01244 897221; elegantresorts.co.uk). This figure does not include international flights, but these can be added.
20. World’s end wonders
Even Alaska is not beyond the reach of an all-inclusive escapade. For those who want to go to the world’s end with no expense spared, Scott Dunn offers a 12-night Alaska in Ultimate Luxury jaunt, available between May and September. This realm of peaks and glaciers is traversed by time-saving private bush plane, allowing guests to slumber in glorious surroundings such as Tutka Bay Lodge on Kachemak Bay while also diving into Wrangell-St Elias National Park, where vast mountains tower above the ocean.
From £20,900 a head (020 8682 5030; scottdunn.com).
21. But of Corsica…
San Lucianu Beach Resort, an inviting property run by Mark Warner on the east coast of Corsica, some 25 miles south of Bastia, has been a welcoming family resort for 15 years. Its appeal is straightforward: lovely gardens, a soft beach and the offer of all-inclusive breaks where the price covers travel, meals, drinks, kids’ clubs, cycling, tennis, watersports and fitness classes.
A seven-night getaway for a family of four (children under 10), flying out of Heathrow on July 28, costs from £5,818 in total (0333 305 7163; markwarner.co.uk).
22. West is best
A parents-and-offspring holiday with extra yeehaw is provided by Explore’s Family into the Wild West jaunt. This 13-day escorted trip combines families into one party (maximum group size 13; minimum age seven), then shows them the essential sights in Utah, Arizona and Nevada, such as Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.
It is also effectively an all-inclusive as the price (adults from £2,399, children from £1,999) covers all but a handful of meals in Las Vegas. Next departure July 22 (01252 883619; explore.co.uk).
23. Let it snow
The festive season rather pins its colours to the North Pole and a chap in a red suit, so it will be vive la difference if you sign up for Christmas in Antarctica, a foray into the southern polar summer by Exodus Travels. Aimed at families, this 11-day dash into the void (minimum age 10) will begin at Ushuaia in Argentina on December 20 and have its participants on Antarctic ice on Christmas Day.
From £8,800 a head, including all food on the RCGS Resolute. Flights can be added to the cost (020 3553 0182; exodus.co.uk).
24. Swiss sensation
The enclosed world of the ski resort is ideal for all-inclusive indulgence, and Powder Byrne sells a Cruise the Mountain package that it describes as the “ultimate all-inclusive luxury ski break”. This is no idle boast – a seven-night break in the Swiss resort of Arosa (at the five-star Tschuggen Grand Hotel or the deluxe Valsana Hotel & Appartements) comes with flights, first-class train transfers, breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea in the hotel, lunch on the slopes, six-day ski pass, ski rental and private guiding. Comprehensive.
From £3,900 per person (020 8246 5300; powderbyrne.com).
25. Alpine escapades
Crystal Ski plays the everything-covered card at the Hotel Fahrenheit 7 – a four-star in the French Alps at Courchevel 1650 which opened for 2017-18. It offers ski-in, ski-out access to the slopes (near the Ariondaz lift), and culinary flair at its La Cheminee restaurant.
A seven-night all-inclusive stay in early 2019, flying from London City on Jan 5, costs from £2,152 per person, with six days’ ski, boot and helmet hire and Three Valleys lift pass for the same period (020 8712 0537; crystalski.co.uk).
26. Club classic
Club Med has made a shiny virtue of its all-inclusive ski holidays with a family flavour – and will do so again in December when its new baby, Les Arcs Panorama, breathes its first in the French Alpine resort of Les Arcs 1600. This fresh-faced four-star will boast indoor and outdoor pools, children’s clubs, three restaurants and a snowboarding school. Book now, and you can go for Christmas.
Seven nights all-inclusive for a family of four (kids under 10), flying from Bristol on December 23, with ski hire and helmets as part of the price, costs from £8,946 in total (020 3897 8687; clubmed.co.uk).
27. Both sides now
Safari holidays are effectively all-inclusive beach breaks with the surf and sand replaced by lions and giraffes. It is otherwise the same idea – a trip where you lift as few fingers as possible save to eat the delicious morsels put in front of you. Audley Travel even includes the sigh of the waves in its 17-day Luxury Kenya Safari and Beach break, which features everything plus the proverbial kitchen sink as it flits between Samburu National Reserve, the Maasai Mara and the cosy Waterlovers Hotel on the Indian Ocean shore at Diani Beach.
From £8,525 per person (01993 838510; audleytravel.com).
28. Sun Tanz
Cox & Kings follows a similar two-tone path in its Tanzania and Zanzibar in Style – a 13-day odyssey where lions and ocean roar in equal measure. The tour takes in one of Tanzania’s smallest and least fabled wildlife zones (Lake Manyara National Park), and one of its biggest and most celebrated (Serengeti National Park) then swaps both for easy living and four nights in a beach lodge on Zanzibar.
Available from £7,295 per person, including flights, transfers – and five-star accommodation, with all meals throughout (020 3797 8519; coxandkings.co.uk).
29. Monkey business
All-inclusivity also applies to the Blue Monkey Safari by Expert Africa, which avoids the site-hopping of other big-beast-focused breaks to linger in South Luangwa National Park in the east of Zambia at sophisticated Nkwali, a camp owned and run by specialist Robin Pope Safaris. Go in December and catch the start of the post-rain lushness of “Emerald Season”.
A seven-night December holiday costs from £3,390 per person, including flights, transfers, game drives, all meals and most drinks (020 3405 6666; expertafrica.com).
30. Victorian values
Cruises tend to be floating havens of grand all-inclusivity. Voyages with Cunard are priced to cover all dining, activities and entertainment. With this in mind, and if money is no object, you might as well opt for the sumptuous full breakfast of the 107-night round-the-world voyage that will see the Queen Victoria sail west on Jan 10 2019. She departs from, and returns to, Southampton.
From £14,569 a head for an inside berth, from £42,799 per person for the decadence of a Princess Suite (0344 338 8650; cunard.co.uk).