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I suppose my idea of travel relates to immersing oneself in the culture, meeting people, seeing the parts of that country that makes traveling so special.

I know this isn’t necessarily frugal, nor is it thrifty.. nor does it relate to personal finance.  As many of you know, I have a passion for travel (speaking of short term goals, my travel savings account has officially exceeded my emergency savings- how’s that for an emergency fund FAIL? 😉 ).. and I’m nosy.  So I was curious to know what your preference for travel style is.

I must admit, I have never gone to an all-inclusive resort before but the idea certainly intrigues me (on my bucket list before I die…is to go into one of those swim up bars and get my mai tai).

To me (and these are just my thoughts), I seem to think that going to a resort where you are served international food (e.g. Japanese food while in Mexico) doesn’t jive with my idea of travel.  That being said, I’ve never gone to an all-inclusive before and who knows, maybe I’ll love it so much because it takes the stress out of travel.  My mother, she enjoys eating (a lot) and she absolutely loves cruises (she’s been all over the world and the best trip she’s ever had is an Alaskan cruise where she got to eat that Baked Alaskan Pie) .  I have never gone on a cruise ship and I’m worried that I would feel claustrophobic, sea sick, and want to put my feet on land.  That and I would worry about the captain crashing the cruise ship into an island while trying to impress a waiter on his deck 🙁

I suppose my idea of travel relates to immersing oneself in the culture, meeting new people, seeing the parts of that country that makes traveling so special to me.  The other part of travel that I absolutely enjoy is buying perishable goods overseas (e.g. spices, tea etc.) to take home to my friends.

Here is a list of the PROS and CONS of Resorts vs Exploration with incorporation of cost (well, this is a PF blog after all)

In This Article:



  • You don’t have to worry about anything
  • Everything is paid for upfront (flight + accommodation + food)
  • Alcohol is included (that’s a big plus, right?)
  • Safe (except if you’re a Canadian in a Mexican resort and start some sort of fight in the club)
  • You have the option to explore
  • Less fighting with your significant other because there is nothing to do except to relax
  • I would think a resort would be relaxing
  • Time for reading, down time
  • Supports the tourism industry in that country big time
  • Did I mention less arguing with your significant other?


  • Difficult to make sure you have the “best price” because they seem to fluctuate all the time
  • You often need a 4+ start resort in order for it to be somewhat decent and without tarantulas, lizards, or large cockroaches in your hotel room
  • Less chance for cultural immersion
  • Less change to learn a new language because you won’t be using it
  • In a way, I find that it feels like “inauthentic” travel because one might not be seeing the “real” side of the country (e.g. poverty)

Exploration Style


  • Cultural immersion
  • Try new things
  • You might be able to save more money if you backpack around, bus around, and sleep in hostels
  • Higher chance to learn the language
  • It can be fun bargaining (but not too harshly because remember, that’s not fair to the people of the country you’re visiting!)
  • You get to pretend to be cool because you’re carrying around a Lonely Planet book (haha!)
  • Opportunity to see the real country, take beautiful photos etc.


  • It can be tiring and you might feel you need a vacation after the vacation!
  • Takes longer time because you need time to plan, travel to the destination you’re seeing etc.
  • Unexpected costs can add up (e.g. paying for a whole new scooter because you dented it slightly)
  • Higher risk to get swindled and taken advantage of because you are a foreigner (but that’s half the fun, right?)
  • Increased chance to disagree with your significant other because you want to go to the Anne Frank House and he wants to go to the Heneiken experience museum and there is a limited amount of time (*ahem* speaking from experience *cough cough*)

Readers, what is your traveling style, especially if you’ve tried both?  Do you enjoy relaxing in resorts or exploring new places on your own?  Which one have you found to be more friendly on the wallet?


Article comments


Fun post. My wife and I definitely love adventure.

The best vacation is a bit of both for us.

We’re planning a trip to Costa Rica in another 10 months – which should provide the best of both: R&R and some wild stuff 🙂

young says:

@MOA- Fun! Costa Rica sounds amazing- always wanted to go but haven’t gotten to central america yet. On the bucket list!

Shovellicious says:

I love travelling (that sounds better than “travel addict”, right?) but I have to admit, like you, I’ve never been to an all-inclusive resort before. I agree it’s easier and more comfi but… for me it’s about freedom. Two years ago we were travelling around Europe. We were driving from France further to the south with… no particular destination. We saw really great places but in the meantime we came across very small resort in Italy. We decided to spend there four days which extended to three more. It was amazing time for small money and I’m sure I’ll come back there one time.

young says:

@Shovellicious- That sounds like the perfect trip! True exploration- just coming across a small resort and deciding to stay. I would love to one day (when I reach financial independence) do something like that when I’m not pressed for time.

Exploreration by day… relaxation by night! Who says you have to choose? 🙂

I’ve done both and as you’ve pointed out, there are pros & cons to both types of travel. I feel like the resort thing is great when you’re feeling really tired & need some R&R to just hang out & enjoy the beach. What’s also nice is if you want, you can leave the resort & do day trips – the resort in Puerto Vallarta where I stayed had several options of full or half day trips. Yes, you have to pay extra, but it’s nice to do some exploring outside the resort & experience the city in a more authentic way.

young says:

@Pamela- Thanks for your great input!

Sarah says:

Ah!I love both.. I have been to all-inclusives now 5+ times and I have traveled/explored Australia, New Zealand and Thailand doing the whole backpacking thing. The type of vacation all depends on what kind of vacation I need. Last May when I was in Thailand for three weeks, I came back and it felt like I didn’t have a vacation.. I mean, I had an AMAZING time but it was a lot of “on the go” type stuff.. My husband and I both have stressful jobs, so sometimes when we just want to relax and do absolutely nothing, we go on an all inclusive. It’s funny though, we often get bored after the 2nd day of “sitting around”.. but we know that the whole relaxing thing is for our own good. 😛

So I guess to keep it simple, we love both types!

young says:

@Sarah- I know exactly what you mean and feel the same way!! It’s like a conundrum/dilemma/ first world problem lol. Reflecting back though, when you Go Go Go, you feel like you were able to fully experience what that destination had to offer. But immediately after the vacation, I feel exhausted.

It’s like another instant gratification (relaxation) vs. delayed gratification (experience and great memories) type thing.

sleepydad says:

We’ve had our share of hosteling through SE Asia and Europe back in the day. The best deal I got was a $4.50 USD per night in Chaing Mai in Thailand – What a deal!!! Sure it wasn’t that nice, but it was a deal. We’ve also backpacked through Australia and NZ, which were relatively nice.

We’re not really into “Tours” as we like to go exploring on our own. I think the adventure is finding our own way to different places and getting to know the cities.

We’ve done an all inclusive in Mexico and Cuba, but we did manage to go out of the resort on our own to do some exploring.

No more back packing for us now, although, when the kids get a bit older, we’ll go back to hosteling and showing them that you don’t have to stay in nice hotels to enjoy yourselves!

young says:

@sleepydad-Wow that’s cheap! Split between two people that’s $2 a night 🙂 I love hostelling myself- I wonder at what age is it considered a ‘faux pas’ to hostel it up? Most people I see who stay at hostels are younger.

sleepydad says:

I’ve seen people of all ages stay at hostels. I guess when I was younger and we saw seniors at the hostels, we felt it was a bit weird. But as time went on, I realized it was quite common and thought it was actually pretty cool to see seniors stay at hostels – why not!!!

They have so much travel experience, and its always great to meet and talk to other travellers. These days, when we stay in hotels, you just don’t really get a chance to meet others.

Lots of the hostels, at least the YHAs in Australia, also have private rooms in addition to the 5 bunk bed rooms, so its a great option. Otherwise, you get some other friends to go with you, you can often get an entire room for yourselves (we did this in New Zealand road trip as there was five of us traveling together).

Never too old for hostels!

young says:

@sleepydad- come to think of it, I LOVE talking to seniors when I travel. They are more laid back and less pretentious than the young and hip travelers.

Sarah says:

Travelling Thailand is so so cheap.. I loved the $1 street pad thai as well 🙂

young says:

@Sarah- I had some pad thai in Thailand and it became $3-4! Darned low USD!

Money Infant says:

$3-4? That’s like 90-120 baht! You must have gotten the foreigner price lol.

young says:

@MI- DANG!! hahaha I got gypped!

Country Girl says:

I’ve never done the resort type vacation, so I guess I’m a explorer. I enjoy being able to travel as I please, but I can see the appeal of an all inclusive resort, especially if you’re going with a big group.

young says:

@Country Girl- That probably would be the best way to enjoy a resort- to go with a big group. I think I might get bored it it was just my SO and me at a resort… but who knows!

We are 100% resort relaxers. In fact, if we travel with friends, and they happen to be exploring adventurers, our participation will wax and wane depending on our moods: we don’t change our travel style even when friends are around 🙂 None of the con’s to being a resort relaxer are really THAT bad 🙂

young says:

@Roshawn- Awe that’s why you and your SO are so great together- you both have similar travel styles. I recently went to Hawaii without doing ANY planning and just “went with the flow” (it was BF’s sister’s wedding) and I actually didn’t enjoy it as much, because I felt like I was wasting time (weird, I know!).

Ellen says:

Definitely pros and cons to both. Hubbie and I argued the least we ever have on an organized tour, and stayed in much nicer places than I’d have sprung for – but, we found ourselves frustrated and stifled with what we could and could not do.

young says:

@Ellen- BF and I took an organized tour to Europe (lol… Contiki!) and I found it too stimulating because I was busy noticing what other people were doing, who was hooking up, and who wasn’t etc.

I never been to an all inclusive resort. I don’t think I would like it. It’s too sterile for us. Why even go at all? We like to go our own way and experience local food and cultures. That could be relaxing too if you find the right hotel.
We took a 3 days cruise to Mexico with family once. It was kind of boring for me.

young says:

@retirebyforty- Do you think you would try it with your little one? You could dump little rb40 in the play area and just relax with Mrs. RB40 🙂 I love exploring local food too… that’s half the adventure 🙂

Jimnet says:

I am definitely an Adventurer! I don’t think i could handle being stuck in a resort all day.

Besides, the adventurer is WAY cheaper than an all-inclusive. I went to China for 3 weeks and spent less than $1800 (my flight included).

You get to see more and do more and really experience things in another country when you are wandering around by yourself.

young says:

@Jimnet- whattt! How did you do that? That’s cheap. Did you explore China yourself? The flight alone is usually $1100-$1200. Yeah, I agree. I guess if you break it down “week by week” the adventurer style wins. It might be appropriate to do the resort thing if you only have limited time.

Jimnet says:

Hostels and local branch hotels are CHEAP! Most hostels I stayed at were amazing – usually 25RMB per night (around $5CAN) and you got free wifi, common areas, kitchen space and storage. The local branch hotels (not best western or other western-type hotels) were only 100RMB (or less) per night (around $20CAN).

I mainly used metro to get around (no taxis for me) and planned my entire time in a town around the sights I wanted to see. In Beijing, for example, I was within walking distance to the Forbidden City and from there you can take public transportation to EVERY other sight in the city, the Great Wall included.

I also only ate local foods – either street food or local restaurants. Street food was about $1CAN for each meal and if I splurged to a local restaurant, my meal was around $5-10CAN. I also went to the local grocery store and would buy things like peanut butter and jam for sandwiches or cheap ramen. Fruit (and some veggies) were plentiful and easily found.

As well, when I went to other cities, I planned it out as cheap as possible. Taking overnight trains (usually cheaper and you can sleep on the train, no hotel needed) and would take second or economy class fare. It’s more fun (meeting more local people) and the train gets you to wherever you are going.

I didn’t shop much (I just don’t care to) and there were days when I didn’t “do” anything (much more budget friendly) — but I would walk around the city just taking in the atmosphere and people watching. Or I would really splurge and buy a coffee at Starbucks (at 40RMB per cup! ouch!)

If you plan smart and are willing to adventure (I can tell you about how I literally got lost in Beijing and wandering around for 3 hours… scary not being able to speak the language and getting lost in a foreign country!) but also how I have a completely different view of China because I was completely immersed in the culture.

It takes a certain type of person that is willing to adventure though. Some people really cannot do it. Try navigating a metro system entirely in Chinese with all signs in Chinese… and then not being able to speak or read anything!

young says:

@Jimnet- I’m always down for $1 meals! And $5 accommodation. Not sure what it is, but I revel in the cheapness of foreign travel! Sounds like a great and adventurous trip. Did you have fun lining up in China too? 😉

Money Infant says:

I enjoy both for different reasons and in different seasons. If I’m going for a short trip (10 days or less) I would likely opt for the more resort type experience. Usually these short trips are for relaxing and recharging and being pampered and taken care of is perfect for that goal. When the trips are longer than 10 days I would opt for more adventurous immersion type travel. Of course I did the ultimate in immersion by moving to Thailand last June so most recent trips have been more the relaxation type 🙂

young says:

@MoneyInfant- I read your story- it’s amazing! You have the entire SE asia in your backyard you lucky bum! I think going to Thailand to live in itself is an adventure 🙂

Money Infant says:

It’s been quite the adventure so far, but we haven’t gotten out of Thailand to play in the rest of the backyard yet. We have been to several places in Thailand and are going to Krabi in April, but longer trips will be waiting for my daughter to be a bit older…maybe 3 or so. I have been to Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam already and my wife’s parents live on the border with Myanmar so that would be a pretty easy trip to make as well.

young says:

@MI- Ahh sounds great! I looove SE asia so much 🙂

I prefer the resorts, especially when you have kids! It’s difficult to go on long treks with small children. On the resort there is so much to do for kids that I can finally get some quite reading time (the only time I get during the year). 😉

young says:

@Kanwal- The only time I get some reading time in is also during vacation (sad, isn’t it?) but I’ve been better.. I’ve been skipping watching the news in the morning for reading (and this is why I bought flowers for my garden despite a snow warning haha… I am absolutely clueless about what’s happening in the world).

I’ve done both, and I still prefer to explore. I like the adventure, the planning and the discovering. Hopefully, there isn’t too much disagreement with the SO on these trips! We are usually a little too easy going… :), and just end up eating.

young says:

@fabulouslyfrugirl- I like the planning too. I really think that it makes traveling fun. When I don’t have an upcoming trip to plan for, I feel a little dead inside.

Joe says:

Go to Thailand and explore. You’ll love it. Best summer ever.

I think Thailand is a great balance. I’d rather sleep in, lay on my couch, and drink than pay egregious sums to go to an all-inclusive. Without a balance, I’d go somewhere with incredible history and culture like Washington, D.C. or NYC.

The most interesting trips are to places with substance, rather than communist dictatorships like Cuba that use your tourist dollars to prop themselves up and to oppress their people.

Oh yeah, did I mention that in said dictatorships you have no rights, and are presumed guilty until proven innocent? If you think it can’t happen to you, ask that kid from Simcoe. The Canadian embassy will twiddle its thumbs while you rot.

young says:

@Joe- Ugh.. so no Cuba then? I find it terribly sad that the tourism industry is booming while the rest of Cuba suffers in poverty. I went to Thailand! It’s amazingly gorgeous! But not as cheap as I thought it would be. For a wedding recently 🙂 It was fun. I didn’t really enjoy the female exploitation (young girls coming up to my guy friends and offering them flowers for money- I know its cute, but they’re trying to use their charm to get something they want– the feminist in me gets a bit angry).

Money Infant says:

Thailand isn’t nearly as cheap as it once was, partially because the currency is so strong right now and partially because of inflation and also partially because it is evolving as a tourist destination. The Thais are pretty smart and they know what prices are in similar destinations. The tourism numbers for last year were something like 14 million arrivals, that’s more than Mexico!

Melissa says:

I’ve done both, and I prefer the explorer type. Though typically, I’ve done that, and then designated a day or two out of the week to just kind of relax and NOT be a big adventurer. I went to the UK a couple of summers ago, and decided one day that I was just going to spend it sitting in Hyde Park in London by a fountain and reading a book. Just as relaxing as sitting on a beach at a resort, but at least if I got bored of it, I had somewhere to go.

young says:

@Melissa- THAT is an AMAZING suggestion!!! Thank you! I like that idea and I think I’ll try it for my next trip. It strikes a balance.

My wife and I are resort type of vacationers. Not having to worry about ANYTHING sure lets us escape our normal lives of having to be responsible for EVERYTHING. Lying on a white sand beach enjoying the sun with the only decision I have to make is what kind of drink I want next really lets me relax.

The only bad thing is the cost but life is short. I’d rather go there when I still look good in a swimsuit rather than when I’m retired and have my black socks pulled up while wearing sandals!

We are headed to Sandals in the Bahamas in a few months and I can’t wait!

young says:

@Steve- LOL black socks pulled up while wearing sandals. Yeah, I need to try one of these trips. I’ve never tried a trip where I didn’t have to decision make. It sounds very relaxing indeed! The thing that draws me is the swim up bars lol.

eemusings says:

I’ve yet to really do much travelling 🙁 But unless I am specifically going somewhere to relax on the beach (say a rural NZ beach town, or perhaps a Pacific Island) then I’m all about the sightseeing and exploring.

young says:

@eemusings- Hey you live in NZ where it’s amazingly gorgeous!! You don’t need to travel if you ask me 😉 So much to see and do there, so much diversity within the island.

Aloysa says:

I definitely like to explore. I get bored easily at a resort. But I have to admit that sitting on some beach and doing nothing sometimes looks really appealing.

young says:

@Aloysa- Agree 🙂 Going to the beach to blog would be pretty awesome.

I think it really depends where you go. When you mention all inclusive, I mostly think of Mexico and the Carribean … In Europe, I would not pick an all inclusive and it might be nice to do a cruise on the Mediterranean. In Asia, I definitely want the immersion of the culture but then again, you also need to know how to get around.

In short, I think it really depends on the trip and what you are looking for as each is its own experience.

young says:

@PIE- Very true. I agree- I don’t think I would be ever gutsy enough to go to Mexico (esp mexico city) and travel on my own- I think I would be too worried.

Money Infant says:

Most of Mexico isn’t dangerous. You should try the Mexican Riviera sometime (Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Tuluum), it is stunning and still pretty affordable.

Michelle says:

We’ve never stayed in a hostel, but we do explore while on vacation. Best of both worlds.

young says:

@Michelle- Have you ever done an all inclusive? 🙂

I’m more of an explorer…it tends to keep my wallet a little fatter, I find. But I’m curious about those all-inclusive places, too. Wouldn’t mind checking one out…

young says:

@femmefrugality- I think they can be really “cheap” depending on when you book them. Some have really good deals. Let me know what you think when you check it out!

Vicky says:

I have done both and will continue to do both as they offer such unique experiences.

All-inclusive is great, especially if you don’t want to spend too much time planning all the little details. One of the things I always look for when choosing a resort is the variety of food available as well as the quality. I have been fortunate enough to have been on 3 all-inclusive vacations and I did not get tired of the food. I was hesitant on going on my first trip because I have always been the ‘go go go’ type so I thought I would get bored, but the relaxed pace of the trip was great!

A large number of the trips I have gone on are more exploring trips, and I love that as well. Certain places (NYC) just beg to be explored. I’m a pretty cost-conscious traveler, even though I have yet to stay in a hostel. That being said, with enough research, you can always find cheap eats, discount days at attractions, or even citypass discount type deals to help lower the cost.

young says:

@Vicky- Thanks for the great tips! Nice to know that a go go go person like yourself can also enjoy the relaxed pace of an all inclusive (I’m a go go go type person and I actually get irritated at my friends when they just seem to want to lounge at a breakfast place all day). I need to take a chill pill lol.

Cool, I’ll keep those tips in mind when I plan my next vacay ??o??
Everyone should go on a cruise at least once in their life. They might have to go on a diet right afterwards, but it’s so worth it.

young says:

@Liquid Independence- lol that reminds me- my mom went on a cruise recently and she sort of panicked because she said her stomach didn’t shrink back to normal like it usually does after a cruise. She’s lucky because her metabolism is surprisingly good for a boomer!

Chelsea says:

I’ve done both, and I would say all-inclusives are great for low-key group trips.. or for relaxing vacations. Truthfully though I like to explore a little more. Not to mention the food usually gets boring after day 2.

young says:

@Chelsea- I went on a group trip recently and it worked out okay- I think as long as everyone agrees that the group doesn’t have to stay together 24/7.