Caribbean, How to do it

Seven reasons to go all-inclusive in Antigua

It’s not often that I have to thank Belgian water polo players when I travel. But back in 1950, one particular athlete named Gerard Blitz founded Club Med and the concept of all-inclusive resorts was born.

View of the rooms at Verandah resort and spa all-inclusive in Antigua from one of the resort beaches.

Before my daughter came along, I never really appreciated the benefits of staying all-inclusive. I wanted to get out of the resort, eat locally and hated the thought of the same tired boring buffet being trotted out again and again. Since Minnie was born, I’ve discovered that for families (especially with younger children), all-inclusive can be the perfect mix of flexibility and practicality.

And after several stays at the luxurious Elite Island Resorts – most recently Verandah Resort & Spa – I’ve realised that not all all-inclusives are created equal. Here’s why I loved going all-inclusive in Antigua.

The budget
If you’re thinking a four-star all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean doesn’t sound like a budget option, that’s a fair assumption. But there are big benefits to having a single price upfront for the trip, without those unexpected extras for an ice cream here, an extra drink there.

antigua-elite-verandah-resort-drink

And with a lot of competition between tour operators, you can find some great deals and packages – such as Virgin Holidays – with hardly any extras once you arrive.

The ease
I love exploring, I love venturing off the beaten track, I love finding the undiscovered… I also love the chance to relax. And with a three-year-old, all-inclusives can take a lot of the effort out of travel with a pre-schooler. These days, I won’t be staying up until the small hours when I know a jetlagged small girl will wake me at 5am. So babysitting and a great restaurant on site is a bigger plus for me until she’s older.

The food
It goes without saying that you need to pick your all-inclusive carefully. Some will exclude most alcohol, fail to include activities or restrict you to an unappetising menu. At Verandah, I had a choice of restaurants every night (only one with a small surcharge, although I suspect my champagne consumption would balance that out) and the food on offer was constantly changing with local specialities, nice wine and endless cocktails.

The watersports
There’s nothing like a three-year-old to keep you on your toes. One day she doesn’t want to try anything new, the next it’s all about excitingly different experiences, the third she’s wildly enthusiastic… for five minutes. With non-motorised watersports included at Verandah, I could hop into a canoe from one of the resort beaches for 10 minutes if we fancied or go for a sail with an instructor without paying a penny more, just in case very short attention spans meant we needed to abandon it.

The facilities
There’s a lot to be said for having everything on your doorstep – a great kids’ club which Minnie asked to go to every day, several pools to choose from, a spa (even if treatments were extra). The room even had its own mini kitchenette and fridge so we had plenty of flexibility.

One of the pools at Verandah resort all-inclusive in AntiguaThe location
This is still key for me – even if I’m spending plenty of time chilling out around the resort pool, I couldn’t imagine spending a week without being able to explore the destination too. Unlike some island all-inclusives, it was easy to get around Antigua to visit the main attractions as well as a few on the doorstep. The wonderful Stingray City was around 10 minutes away by car, and within walking distance was Long Bay with its shallow waters for spotting fish and Devil’s Bridge blowhole.

The activities
But there’s plenty to do if you don’t want to leave. Quite apart from the watersports, bigger resorts like Verandah have all kinds of activities including mini golf, tennis, scheduled walks, live music at night, even cinema showings.

 

Disclosure: My stay at Verandah Resort & Spa was courtesy of Elite Island Resorts as part of the #eliteislandfamilies blogathon, my flights were courtesy of Virgin Holidays. All opinions and inability to stay up late painting the town red are my own.