Holidays shouldn’t be work, and all-inclusive resorts certainly take that to heart: all the stress and organization are whisked away, leaving you with a long stretch of free time to enjoy. On the other hand, these sorts of holidays can be a bit bland, and tend to be short-sighted when it comes to unique experiences. For the traveler who wants the best of both worlds, there are other affordable options that offer a bit more freedom, but won’t deprive you of the creature comforts you’ve come to expect. Before you book your next getaway, consider these six creative alternatives to the all-inclusive resort that could leave you with better memories and a smaller credit card bill.
Perhaps the biggest rival to resort vacations these days, Airbnb is a clever service that lets you stay in another person’s abode for a very reasonable price. You can rent one room in a home, a city center apartment, a whole country house – there’s suitable accommodation for every sort of traveler and every kind of budget. Since you deal directly with the owner, you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself and iron out any questions or concerns quickly. It’s a more personal experience than you’ll ever have at an inn or hotel, and your helpful hosts could become your new friends.
Staying in a hotel is a fairly reliable method of accommodation, but you get a lot more for your money when you rent an apartment, loft, or house for a stretch of time. You won’t get a daily wake-up call or an overpriced breakfast; you will have your own kitchen, lounging space, bedroom, and freedom to come and go as you wish without any interruption. Using your own kitchen can help you shave off a lot of expense, and the landlord is usually at your beck and call in case anything goes wrong. If casual rentals with no contract make you nervous, there are several companies who operate professional rental services on behalf of the owners, and will ensure that you get everything you pay for without a hassle.
If pitching a tent in the woods is a bit too rustic for you and your family, take it up a notch with the luxury version known as “glamping”. Glamorous camping is a glorious way to enjoy nature without committing to all the sacrifices ad demands of traditional camping, whether you rent an outfitted yurt, a tastefully designed tent, or a spruced-up treehouse. Think designer sheets, mounds of comfy pillows, full dining sets, and electricity – everything you would expect from an upscale hotel room, just transferred to the great outdoors. Since the trend is taking off, it’s fairly easy to find sites all over the nation (and beyond) with a quick online search.
It can be difficult to know where to begin when you touch down in a foreign country, and nearly impossible to include all the worthwhile sites without months of planning. Group tours have been growing in popularity for many good reasons, one of which is the “all-inclusive” experience in a way more exciting package. Expert guide companies will arrange your transport, trekking schedule, day trips, and city excursions, which takes all the stress out of planning, and frees you up to enjoy the journey. These tours are especially useful in countries with several excellent attractions spread out over a long distance, like Morocco, Australia, Peru, or South Africa.
Unlike the massive ocean cruises that have become moving cities with too many amenities, river cruises are smaller, intimate excursions into the heart of a new land. There’s an equal measure of exploration and comfort, with an array of comforts on the boat and several small ports to offer interesting new experiences. In some cases, a river cruise is more eye-opening, comfortable, and affordable than touring a new land by car or plane: the Volga river connect St Petersburg and Moscow much more efficiently, floating into the interior of Portugal will bring you places you would otherwise miss, and heading down the Rhone will keep you far away from the hazards of French highways. Plus, a river cruise involves as much or as little activity as you want.
It may seem antiquated, but cross-country train journeys can be an exhilarating and entirely unique way to explore a region. Many companies offer at least two different classes of cabins, so a multi-day trip on the rails can be surprisingly affordable: the Trans-Siberian express, for instance, can take you across 6000 miles over 19 days for less than $1000. If you want to splurge, hop onto one of the world’s historic luxury locomotives like the Royal Scotsman or the Orient Express for private cabins and ornate dining cars just like the upper classes enjoyed in centuries past. Some train trips include food and drinks along with accommodation, but you’ll also have opportunities to stop, taste, and explore the local cultures along the way.
At the end of it all, the best vacation for you will keep you comfortable and satisfy your expectations. If you don’t like surprises, be sure to take the time to understand all of the details involved in your tour, and consider reading a variety of reviews before you book anything. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is – read the fine print, and factor in extra costs that may not be mentioned, like connections to your departure point, drinks, and tips.