One of the critical things that you will have to plan on your next family vacation is where to stay. Often the question comes down to budget and location, but there is another critical decision that you should keep in mind: whether to stay at a resort or a hotel.
When comparing resorts vs. hotels, both have their upsides and downfalls, and it’s essential to understand the big picture before making a decision. This guide gives you a solid overview of both options so you can plan lodging for your next family vacation to a tee.
- What You Can Expect From a Resort
- What You Can Expect From a Hotel
- Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right One for You
- Key Takeaways
What You Can Expect From a Resort
Resorts are generally luxurious places where you’re totally pampered from beginning to end. Expect amenities, activities, food and drinks, and plenty of entertainment options. Unlike hotels, resorts are true destinations. The draw of a resort is more than room and board; it’s all the fun stuff that you get to do when you’re there!
Many resorts have on-site spa facilities and shopping. There are both daytime and nighttime activities, too. As such, you rarely have to leave to make the most out of your vacation.
Since resorts have everything that you could want right on-site, they tend to be located in more rural or off-the-beaten-path areas. Therefore, unless you have private transportation, it could be challenging to explore the surrounding area.
All-inclusive resorts include meals, drinks, tips, activities, and any additional services right in your initial bill. They are a good option for families because you won’t have to worry about going over budget.
Like traditional resorts, all-inclusive resorts have a dazzling array of activities right on-site. The only difference is that with an all-inclusive option, these activities are totally free. Some all-inclusive resorts even have small water parks or theme rides on resort premises.
All-inclusive resorts free you from the hassle of having to carry cash around with you. There are no unforeseen bills or any chance that you’ll lose your wallet. You can have an excellent time worry-free!
What You Can Expect From a Hotel
Hotels offer less in terms of amenities than resorts but generally have more ideal locations. Most resorts are in remote areas, whereas hotels will put you right in the middle of the action. Hotels are great options for people who want a nice place to sleep and recharge but plan on spending most of their time exploring the city.
Many hotels have some amenities, like gyms, spas, or even free meals, although this varies from hotel to hotel. Some cater to families, and others to solo or business travelers. Before selecting your hotel of choice, do your research. Make sure that it’s conducive to your needs.
Hotels also are a little less private, and you’re more likely to hear your neighbors. This factor might be another concern if you’re traveling with small children.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right One for You
Ultimately, whether you go with resorts vs. hotels comes down to personal preference. Think about the things that are important to you and your family before making your decision. These factors will help you determine whether a resort or hotel will work for your next family vacation.
How Much Do You and Your Family Plan on Exploring?
Are you going to a new place to explore, or are you looking for white-glove luxury treatment? If you and your family plan to spend a lot of time outside of your accommodation, hotels are the way to go. Although many hotels offer on-site amenities like gyms and complimentary breakfast, there’s no full-on entertainment like you get at a resort.
Most hotels even have pamphlets right in their lobbies advertising what you can do around the area. So the expectation is certainly that you will venture out. On the other hand, some families love resorts because they don’t want to explore the city.
Some resorts offer excursion packages, especially if you’re in a tropical location. You might be able to leave the resort to go snorkeling or zip-lining under the care of your guide, but for the most part, you’ll be fully entertained right at the resort.
Ultimately, resorts are the destination, whereas hotels are a good place to lay your head before embarking on a full day of fun the following morning.
Do You Want On-Site Entertainment?
Resorts tend to have first-class entertainment. From cocktail parties to talent shows, you’ll find anything and everything that you’re looking for at a resort. Make sure that the one you choose is family-friendly. Some resorts are adult-only or have very few activities for the kids. If you do your research in advance, you can find one that caters to all of your family members’ needs.
Hotels have very little, or any, on-site entertainment. You might have access to movies in your room, and there may be a game room for the kids, but there probably won’t be much beyond that. You’ll have to go outside of the hotel to find entertainment. Hotel staff will usually be able to let you know where good options are and provide you with a map to find them.
The other thing to keep in mind is that there will likely be a charge if you use hotel entertainment amenities. Most movies are tacked onto your bill, and hotel game rooms require tokens or coins. At resorts, the entertainment is part of the package deal.
Both high-end hotels and resorts generally have pools, so if your idea of a good time is lounging poolside with the family, both options are ideal.
How Much Do You Want to Be Covered?
At hotels, your toiletries, internet, and generally breakfast are all covered. Some higher-end hotels may also cover airport shuttles and give discounts on tickets. Depending on the type of resort you opt for, everything is covered. Some resorts cover meals and require that you pay for snacks and drinks, whereas others cover absolutely everything.
With all-inclusive resorts, you will pay more upfront, but you won’t have any surprise charges later on. You also don’t need to carry your wallet around; a huge perk for a lot of people. All-inclusive resorts also sometimes include excursions or other activities.
Some families with small children like all-inclusive resorts because they know that no matter what happens, their vacation is only going to be a set amount. If you have older, more independent children, you might want to opt for a hotel.
Is Your Accommodation Your Destination?
This is the ultimate question for anyone trying to choose between a resort and a hotel. If your accommodation is your destination, choose a resort. You will have everything that you need right there. If you want a nice place to sleep, and that’s it, you’ll want to go with a hotel.
Most resorts have themes and a particular demographic that they cater to. People book resorts specifically to enjoy what they have to offer. Waterparks, teen hangout areas, and specialty-themed breakfasts are not uncommon at many resorts. There are even premiere resorts with pirate or adventure themes.
Whatever you’re looking for, you’re bound to find some kind of resort that caters to your exact needs. You won’t get that kind of unique experience from a hotel.
While most resorts have fantastic dining options right on-site, if you’re looking to experience the true food culture of a specific location you should opt for a hotel. Most hotels can tell you where to go to find authentic, local food at good prices.
Most resorts offer everything from five-star dining to buffets, but some people feel like they’re not getting the authentic flavor of the place when they’re dining at the resort. If you’re a true foodie, your better bet is a hotel.
Also, many hotels have dining options on-site, so you always have a comfortable and convenient place to go if you need to. The only difference is that it’s not the only place.
Resorts tend to be more expensive than hotels, especially if you’re going for the all-inclusive experience. You can usually find hotels in all different price points, depending on the location or amenities, making them more ideal for budget travellers.
The only caveat is that you will pay more for meals and entertainment at hotels, so expenses might creep up on you. If you’re careful with your expenses, you can certainly shave off a few hundred dollars at least by going the hotel route.
Ultimately, when comparing resorts vs. hotels, both have a lot of great things to offer families. There are certainly pros and cons to each one, and it all comes down to your personal taste and what you want from your vacation experience.
Identify what’s important to you and your family and whether or not you want to explore the area that you’re heading to, or if your accommodation is your destination. Think about factors like cost and what sort of experience you want to have before making your decision.
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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