Fantasy Vacation for Less

Dear Mary,

My husband and I have been saving for the past year to take a long-overdue romantic getaway, and we’ve narrowed our dream destination down to Aruba. Since staying there can be pricey, our travel agent suggested we consider one of those “all-inclusive” resorts. She said we’ll save money on drinks and meals, and won’t have to worry about having cash or credit cards on hand since everything will be paid in advance. But I’ve heard that you actually lose money with these “deals” because they pad the price of everything in order to make a profit. Now we don’t know what to think. Bonnie, New Jersey


Some rights reserved by David Stanley

Dear Bonnie,

I don’t know that ‘padding the price’ would be the best way to put it, but for sure in an all-inclusive plan you’ll pay for lots of things you’ll probably never use. You can be sure they’ve built in generous gratuities, many meals and a big bar allowance. 

Personally, I like to decide how much to tip or which meals I want to pay for. I have a suggestion. Now that you have a price for an all-inclusive vacation, get a second opinion from another travel agent. Have the agent put together an “al a carte” version of the same vacation. Do some digging yourself at the major airlines’ websites. Many now offer very affordable vacation packages that include airfare and hotel accommodations at resorts throughout the world. Check out Costco, AAA or other travel-related websites. Once you see your options you’ll be able to make a more reasoned decision.

Dear Mary,

My husband and I are very close with our next door neighbors. Our children play together all the time and we frequently spend holidays together. About a month ago, they asked us if we’d be interested in going in together and buying a new, state-of-the art lawn mower. Neither one of us could afford it on our own, so they figured why not split the cost and share the rewards? My husband is all excited, but I’m a little nervous. What happens if we have a falling out with them, or one of us decides to move? Is this a good idea? Debi, Texas

Dear Debi,

I think it’s a great idea! And you will avoid all kinds of misunderstandings and problems down the road if you have a written agreement from the start. Who pays for repairs and maintenance? Talk through what each couple defines as normal use. Where will the mower be stored? Who buys the gas? What are your “buy out” terms should one family move or want out of the deal?

It also wouldn’t hurt to come up with a plan if another neighbor asks to borrow the mower from time to time, too. Believe me, it will be much easier to talk about these things now rather than later.

Question: What websites or travel organizations do you use to plan trips and book your travel? Tell us here.

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8 replies
  1. Debbie Sue says:

    I travel a lot and it really depends on the type of vacation you want to have. I know how to fly cheaply and stay cheaply but you have to budget light meals and avoid fancy restaurants. Is that the trip you want? I just came back from a cruise that included airfare. It was from Istanbul to Athens, 7 days. It was $1749 for an inside cabin. I worked with a travel agent who got us upgrade to a veranda suite and they paid the gratuities. We had prime rib, lobster, prawns, and four separate specialty restaurants. We had white table clothes, pristine service and great housekeeping. We had all non alcoholic beverages included and 24 hr. room service. The cost of a flight alone would have been around $1400-$1500. There is no way we could have eaten like that or had that level of service, including shows and free art classes (I love art). It sounds like this is a really special trip and do you want to be worrying about the cost of each meal? The one bit of advice I’d give you is if you are looking at an all inclusive read the reviews in Trip Advisor. They will let you know whether it is worth the money. Not all inclusives are equal in quality. Please go and enjoy!

  2. Joanne says:

    I Agree with Priscilla!!! I think Mary made a big boo boo here!!! I can not believe that Mary really thinks this is a good idea. I don’t care if you have a 20 page contract!!!!!!!!!! Shareing a lawn mower with a neighbor BIG, HUGE, MISTAKE!!!

  3. dawn says:

    We think all-inclusive vacations are the best! For our 50th wedding anniversary we took our children and grandchildren (ages 3-17) to an “a-i” in the Caribbean for 7 days. We were treated superbly, ate at buffet or wonderful resort restaurants, hokey but fun evening entertainment, pools, drinks…It was wonderful. We would not hesitate recommending this “a-i” to anyone.

  4. EMjay says:

    About that vacation. If you end up arranging the travel, the flights and the hotel yourself, print up each page on which the “final” price is posted. On one such popular hotel site, I printed up the agreement with the total cost listed BEFORE I went to the next online page to pay. When I finally did go on to the pay page, I found that another fee had been added to the “final” line which was listed on the previous “page” I printed up. The famous hotel bargain site listed it as a “service” fee. It wasn’t much, but it was the principal of the thing. I ended up losing the “service” fee even though I immediately canceled and called the Help number (which, by the way, truly was in India). I reasoned with the supervisor and the manager of the site to refund that “service” fee. Nothing doing. I ended up calling the hotel directly, got a reasonable bargain, and when we had our stay there, I spoke to the hotel reservations manager about this. I still have all the proof in the form of the printed pages just to remind me never to use the famous hotels site in spite of a famous actor advertising it to the tune of “dot com.”

  5. lamping06 says:

    I haven’t traveled a lot but this past year had a chance to go abroad. Orbitz ended up saving me over $300. For days I checked different travel websites like Orbitz, comparing flights and prices. Orbitz actually popped up a box that said, “Would you like to see the prices for different days of travel?” Changing my itinerary by one day saved big bucks. I never considered it until that moment and actually it worked out far better all the way around.

  6. Andrea C says:

    Happy Thursday!!!
    I haven’t used an outside travel agent for this type of travel, however, I just wanted to express GOOD CHOICE for an vacaton! Twelve years ago, I took my 1st cruise & one of the destinations was Aruba!!! It was simply beautifull! The ship stayed there a full day. Since I was on a cruise, my amenties were all-inclusive because of the ship, but I want to travel back to that island again to stay for 7-10 days. The island wasn’t as tropical as I thought it would be but the deep blue colored water was spectacular & beaches were breath-taking! Much success with your planning!

  7. Priscilla says:

    I hate to be Debbie Downer, but I feel that going in with the neighbor to buy the lawn mower would be kind of like loaning money to a relative. That has never worked out in my favor and I have learned to steer clear of such deals. I’d sooner buy a cheaper mower that I could afford than to take a chance on ruining the friendship.

  8. PH says:

    Regarding the vacation…I don’t disagree with Mary’s advice about figuring out how much a vacation would cost both all-inclusive and “ala carte”, but I think you need to keep in mind that businesses exist to make a profit, not to welcome you to their great destination just to show you how wonderful it is. And people work to earn a living, often mostly from tips in service industries, not to serve you because it’s just something they like doing. Even at all-inclusive resorts (or on cruises), especially those in the buget- or mid-range, you will find you get more attentive service if you tip the service personnel. It might upset you, but I think it’s just a fact of life. Afterall, wouldn’t you work a bit harder for the person who tips you when comparing to the person who doesn’t?
    You’ll get even better service if you acknowledge the people serving you as human beings rather than as something more akin to servants 🙂 My husband and I have traveled to many international destinations, including several in the Caribbean, and we are often amused at how much better we are treated by the service personnel than other Americans just on this point alone.


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