New to all-inclusive resorts? These are the best ones for newbies

I’ve stayed at dozens of all-inclusive resorts. These are the ones I'd recommend if you're going all-inclusive for the first time.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (Photo: Grand Velas)
Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (Photo: Grand Velas)

I’ve stayed at dozens of all-inclusive resorts over the past few decades, but I’ll never forget the first one I visited with my kids. They couldn’t believe they were allowed to order anything they wanted from the menu. I couldn’t believe just how easy it was to plan a family vacation when our accommodations, meals, drinks, and activities were all included in one price.

Though not necessarily inexpensive, all-inclusive family resorts often represent an excellent value when you factor in all you get for the price. And for busy parents, the ease factor is priceless. But how do you choose the right all-inclusive resort for your first time? It comes down to price, amenities, location, and convenience. Based on my extensive experience as a parent and a travel journalist, these are my recommendations for the best all-inclusive resorts to visit if you’re trying it for the first time.

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1. Migis Lodge

South Casco, Maine

Migis Lodge in South Casco, Maine (Photo: Migis Lodge)

First of all, yes, there are all-inclusive resorts right here in the U.S., and many of the best ones are specifically geared toward families. If you’re new to all-inclusive resorts and aren’t ready to commit to an international vacation with the kids, there are plenty of great options to consider that don’t require a passport.

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At Migis Lodge, you can contemplate Maine’s unique natural beauty right on the shores of Sebago Lake. Freshwater diversions such as fishing, swimming, kayaking, and sailing have been offered here for generations, with contemporary additions like waterskiing and wakeboarding added for good measure.

If you want to keep your feet planted on the ground, tennis, pickleball, disc golf, basketball, and walks in the pine-scented woods await. Open seasonally from June-October, Migis Lodge offers guest rooms in both its main lodge and private cottages that range in size from studios to multi-bedroom units. Rates include activities, supervised children’s programming, lodging, and three hearty meals per day. The weekly lobster bake is a New England tradition. 

2. Great Camp Sagamore

Raquette Lake, New York

Great Camp Sagamore (Photo: Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism)

Another family-friendly all-inclusive resort in the United States, Great Camp Sagamore was once a lavish lakeside Gilded Age sanctuary in the Adirondack Mountains owned by the Vanderbilt family. Today it’s a National Historic Landmark owned by a non-profit. As a guest, you can stay in a rustic private room or cabin as part of the Simply Sagamore program. 

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Overnight stays include three meals daily at shared tables in the dining hall, guided tours of the grounds, bowling at the open-air alleys, campfires, canoeing in Sagamore Lake, and hiking along unblemished trails. 

3. C Lazy U Ranch

Granby, Colorado

Horseback riding at C Lazy U Ranch (Photo: C Lazy U Ranch)
Horseback riding at C Lazy U Ranch (Photo: C Lazy U Ranch)

For families who enjoy horseback riding, a dude ranch vacation is a fine introduction to the all-inclusive concept. A sprawling guest ranch that supports a patchwork of wildflowers as well as moose, black bears, elks, and eagles, C Lazy U Ranch has welcomed families for generations.

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Year-round equestrian opportunities include a heated indoor riding arena in case the weather isn’t favorable. Experienced counselors supervise youngsters in the kid’s club throughout the day, and you can all join the wranglers on the feed wagon and watch the herd of horses eat their breakfast. You’ll build up an appetite in the mountain air, and three full meals, featuring an upscale dinner, are included in the rate.

4. Casa Maat

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Casa Maat pool and beach (Photo: Allison Tibaldi)

Situated at the southern tip of Baja California, Los Cabos is home to dozens of all-inclusive resorts, but Casa Maat stands out as one of the region’s very best. It’s a 45-room hotel located within the much larger JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa. While Casa Maat guests have full use of the Marriott’s facilities, including a kid’s club and spa, staying here is a more intimate experience with all the perks of a big resort at your fingertips. Think of it as an excellent way to dabble in the all-inclusive experience without feeling overwhelmed. 

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Casa Maat doesn’t market itself an all-inclusive resort, but meals are included in the rate. Breakfast is a bountiful buffet and a midday snack is served poolside. In the evening, cocktails and a light supper will satiate hunger pangs. For my family, it was enough food without the excess sometimes found at buffets. Casa Maat is beachfront, but swimming is prohibited in this part of Cabo due to strong currents. Never fear, a drop-dead gorgeous swimming pool is the centerpiece of the resort. You can also take a dip in one of the Marriott’s assortment of pools.

5. Tyler Place Family Resort

Highgate Springs, Vermont 

Water fun at Tyler Place Resort (Photo: Tyler Place Resort)
Water fun at Tyler Place Resort (Photo: Tyler Place Resort)

Vermont may be best known for its covered bridges, fall foliage, and maple syrup, but don’t overlook the summer vacation months in the Green Mountain State. Tyler Place Family Resort is a seasonal all-inclusive resort that embraces families with genuine Yankee hospitality. Most families stay for a week, boosting the summer camp vibe.

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The resort is very popular with parents of infants and toddlers, thanks to its comprehensive program for tiny tots. The supervised children’s club, composed of 10 age-staggered groups for infants to teens, is the heart of the resort. The staff utilizes the acres of gardens, meadows, forests, and private shoreline as a playground. Kids ride bikes, hike in the wilderness, and swim. Forget to pack the stroller? Never fear, the resort has a variety of loaner gear for anything you accidentally leave off your baby packing list.

6. Beaches Turks & Caicos

Beaches Turks and Caicos waterpark (Photo: Beaches Turks & Caicos)

When it comes to Caribbean resorts, Beaches drives like a Rolls-Royce. The all-inclusive resort chain has perfected the concept with rates that include meals, drinks, activities, entertainment, airport transfers, and age-specific supervised children’s programming. My personal favorite among the brand’s three locations is Beaches Turks & Caicos, which is situated on a pristine stretch of Grace Bay. Water sports are plentiful, and the Pirates Island Waterpark is an aquatic fantasy with a lazy river, surf simulator, and swim-up soda bar. 

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With more than 700 rooms, this is a large all-inclusive resort. However, the fact that it’s scattered across five unique “residential villages” makes it very easy to get your bearings. Children’s program is helmed by trained nannies, and a partnership with Sesame Street adds to the fun factor, with a weekly character parade and activities with Elmo, Ernie, and Cookie Monster. As an added bonus, an assortment of food trucks makes nonstop noshing a breeze.

7. Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Beach and pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, one of the best all-inclusive beach resorts
Beach and pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya (Photo: Grand Velas)

Less than an hour from Cancun’s airport, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is nestled within a protected mangrove jungle on a gorgeous beach with three dreamy swimming pools. Kids are treated like royalty here, and the culinary offerings are a highlight for the whole family. Don’t even consider leaving without trying the chilaquiles for breakfast. 

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The Baby Concierge can arrange for anything from tiny bathrobes to a baby massage. Supervised clubs for children offer cooking classes and hands-on dreamcatcher workshops. The teen club presents age-appropriate fun with bike tours, Fortnite tournaments, and beach volleyball. While the kids are busy, you can pamper yourself at the top-notch spa. 

8. Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Water park at Lopesan Costa Bavaro (Photo: Lopesan Costa Bavaro)
Water park at Lopesan Costa Bavaro (Photo: Lopesan Costa Bavaro)

There are scores of all-inclusive resorts clustered along Bávaro Beach in Punta Cana, where the water is a Crayola shade of blue and the sand feels like sugar. Music blares, so no one will hear a thing if your toddler starts whining. Lopesan Costa Bávaro is a newer beachfront resort that’s a fit for first timers who want to experience the platonic ideal of an all-inclusive holiday.

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It’s a quick ride from Punta Cana’s airport, so you’ll be slathering on the sunscreen soon after clearing customs. This big resort is divided into three distinct sections, with multiple swimming pools plus a dandy of a waterpark. A kid’s club, teen lounge, bowling alley, arcade, ice cream parlor, candy shop, and an escape room provide hours of entertainment. 

9. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Savusavu, Fiji

Bula Club treehouse at Jean Michel Cousteau Resort (Photo: Jean Michel Cousteau Resort)

This one’s a bit of a bucket list item, but if you want to take a very big swing on your first-ever all-inclusive resort, you can’t do better than Fiji’s Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort. The resort’s “Bula Club” is the best kids club I’ve ever seen. It’s a paradise where younger guests are serenaded by musicians as they dine on fresh island cuisine after they’ve played in a treehouse, splashed in the pool, or snorkeled with a marine biologist. Children up to age six even have their very own nanny or manny. 

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The resort immerses you in Fijian culture, from learning to weave baskets to watching a traditional kava ceremony to meeting children from the neighboring village. It’s the epitome of eco-friendly luxury, where guests stay in private cottages called bures. And the superb staff even does your laundry, driving home the point that at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, all-inclusive truly means all-inclusive.

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Allison Tibaldi
Allison Tibaldi has written for publications including CNN, Business Insider, FamilyVacationist, HGTV, USA TODAY, and Travel Weekly. As a former early childhood educator, she is interested in the way kids experience the world, and thinks that travel is the best education for young minds. Tibaldi is based in New York City.