1. Learn how to ski
My image of all-inclusive travel opportunities had always been limited to cruise ships and beachside resorts. So I was a bit shocked when I found out there are all-inclusives at famous ski resorts in the Alps, like the Club Med Val Thorens. And they make for a much more convenient trip — at Club Med’s 20 Alpine ski resorts, packages include ski passes, lift tickets, fine European cuisine, drinks, childcare, and even ski and snowboarding group lessons from local ski pros.
It’s kind of perfect: My wife has been skiing her entire life, and has always wanted to take me to the Alps. My confidence as a skier is just a little bit lower than hers, so when we go, I’ll put her on the lift and then have an experienced instructor teach me how to reach her level of expertise.
2. Join the circus
No, seriously — the new Club Med CREACTIVE by Cirque du Soleil pilot project at Club Med Punta Cana was established in partnership with the world-renowned circus troupe Cirque du Soleil and is “dedicated to the circus arts.” It’s not a show, but rather an actual “hands-on” experience, so you can try your hand at acrobatics, juggling, and high-wire walking; you can play on the trampoline; you can even paint masks and attend clown school. Many Club Med beach properties feature flying trapeze schools, but CREACTIVE takes it to a new level.
3. Sample the best in international cuisine
Before my wife and I went to an all-inclusive resort for our honeymoon, she admitted she wasn’t all that jazzed about the food we’d be having. “I’m just not a big fan of buffets.” I smiled and didn’t correct her. When we got there, she was blown away — yes, there was a buffet or two on the premises, but the food in them was stellar. That didn’t matter, though, because there were also a bunch of incredible restaurants that (we later learned, on sending our compliments to the kitchen) were headed up by internationally trained chefs.
You may think when you go all inclusive that the convenience and ease of the trip means you’re making sacrifices in some way, shape, or form. But that’s just not the case, especially not when it comes to food.
4. See some pretty awesome entertainment
On a trip you set up yourself, you’re in charge of your own entertainment. Not so when you go all-inclusive. Club Med is famous in particular for its wear-all-white White Parties, and for communal dances called Crazy Signs. The shows are spectacular, fun, and frequently involve audience participation. It’s not something you get on your own.
5. Ski…in summer…down a glacier
Maybe you’re a ski nut. But maybe the only time you can take off for a vacation is in the summer. You want to go to the Alps, but there’s just not that much skiing in July. You’re out of luck, right?
Wrong. At Club Med Tignes Val Claret on the western border of France, there’s an option to go skiing down the Grande Motte Glacier, at an elevation of 9,650 feet, or on the snow-covered slopes at Cervinia, on the Plateau Rosa on the Swiss side. It’s an experience that’s very unique, and which is very hard to come by otherwise in Europe (or anywhere else, for that matter).
6. Get serious about scuba diving
All-inclusives don’t have to equal lounging in the sun. Aside from the ski resorts I’ve already mentioned, there are golf resorts and, more to my interest, scuba resorts. Here, all levels of divers can get their underwater fix at, for example, Club Med Columbus Isle in the Bahamas. And if it’s been a while since you’ve gone diving — or if it’s your first time — no problem. There are (of course) scuba instructors on staff, available at additional cost.
7. Zen out
The zen school of Buddhist teaching puts an emphasis on direct experience of the world, and a relaxing of the mind in an attempt to achieve higher levels of awareness and serenity. This, naturally, is difficult to achieve in day-to-day life.
It becomes much less difficult to achieve if you’re experiencing something along the lines of the adult-exclusive Zen Oasis at Club Med Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Between the swimming pool, the hot tub, the wellness bar, the beach, the yoga, and, of course, the spa, it’s kind of impossible not to feel like you’ve reached that higher level.
8. Learn how to sail
If I were to tell you I’m headed off to sail the Greek islands, it wouldn’t be too absurd for you to assume I’m some yacht-owning billionaire. But this dream is surprisingly within reach of the average person, as long as you go to the right place. For example, at Club Med Gregolimano in Greece, you can take lessons on how to sail around the Aegean on a catamaran. It’s like being a billionaire, but without having to do all that work.
9. Bring your teenager — and not have them sulk
The great problem of traveling with teenagers is keeping them engaged for the duration of the trip. Pick the right all-inclusive, and this is no longer an issue. Club Med Cancun Yucatan, for instance, is the home of Passworld, a feature designed specifically for teens and tweens that gives them their social space and access to internet, video games, and tremendously cool stuff like video and sound mixing equipment. It’s the type of thing that could keep both your more social kids and your more bookish kids engaged throughout the length of your stay.
10. Experience a new culture
It’s easy to assume all-inclusive trips and resorts are basically cloistered bubbles that separate tourists from the surrounding area. This isn’t necessarily true, though. At the Club Med Dong’ao Island coastal resort in China, you can visit a nearby traditional fishing village, something you wouldn’t be able to see anywhere else. At the resorts in the Yucatan, you can tour ancient Maya ruins, and in Europe, you can easily add stopovers to cities like Paris and Rome on your way to or from the resort.
There’s no reason all-inclusive travel needs to segregate you from the “real” people inhabiting the places you’re visiting.
11. Perfect your swing
Fun fact: Club Med has 34 worldwide golf destinations, from the Dominican Republic to Indonesia. Golf lessons are typically part of the all-inclusive package at these locations, but you can also take it up a level — at Club Med Sandpiper Bay, you can arrange to have private pro coaching lessons at their golf academy as an extra. That’s on top of access to the on-site golf course, as well as over 20 local golf courses in the Florida area, all made available to guests.
12. Save money
What’s most surprising about all-inclusives is that comparable trips you plan on your own would almost always be more expensive. Between booking flights, accommodations, and side trips, between paying for meals and drinks and pampering, you’d spend significantly more doing the same trip outside of the all-inclusive. This, when coupled with the convenience of not having to make all of the plans yourself, and all the activities, cultural experiences, and dining options on offer, makes going all-inclusive a no-brainer.
Feature image of Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek in Martinique. Photo courtesy of Club Med