A Canadian couple whose blog I follow posted an article talking about their recent stay in the Mayan Riviera and posed this question; are all-inclusive trips still “travelling” or are they just vacations (check out their post here).  As I was writing my response in their comments, I realized that my comment was as long as their article… so I’m posting it here instead. 🙂

If you don’t follow the travel community very closely, you may have missed that there is a continual (and tiring) debate that rages about being a traveler versus being a tourist (being a traveler is obviously the more desirable) and I’ve “known” Cam and Nicole long enough to get that this wasn’t the heart of what they were asking… but “oh great” was my knee jerk reaction (another commenter made the same assessment).  We humans love to rank and file things, and frankly this conversation isn’t unique to the travel world.  In the tech community its Unix guys versus the Windows guys.  In the hot-rodding world it’s the guys that build their own cars versus the ones that pay someone to do it for them. In the parenting world it’s the people that spank versus the ones that don’t.  In the spirit of good conversation though, I’ll offer my opinion.

For me, travel is all about the experience, and so I think that All-inclusive is most definitely traveling… it is just a different way of doing it.

When I think of all-inclusive travel I think of it as sort of travel with training wheels.  That’s how my wife and I got our start at seeing the world (in the Mayan Riviera to be exact) and ultimately what opened our eyes to other cultures… albeit at a high comfort level and arguably in a bit of a vacuum.  BUT, we did learn that we could function in places where we didn’t know the language and we saw how exciting it was to see and do new things.  I know a good number of people who stop there because they’re perfectly happy seeing the sites and then kicking it on the beach… and frankly, who doesn’t love just chilling out on the beach, sipping on a pina colada and watching the tide come and go every once in a while?  I wouldn’t personally call those people any less travelers than I am, but their experience is without a doubt different then say someone backpacking alone through SE Asia (which I haven’t done… yet).  I have personally come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter WHERE you go when you do all-inclusive travel, because once you’re inside the walls of the resort, the experience is very similar (granted service levels vary greatly… but you know what I mean), but to me it is travel none-the-less.

All that said though, all-inclusive travel is very low on my list these days.  I wouldn’t trade those experiences and memories for anything… but if I’m planning a trip, I want to get way outside my normal comfort zone and see things and experience cultures much deeper then you can ever hope to at a resort.  It is hard for me to feel like I’ve really “met the locals”, when the only ones I came in contact with were the ones trying to sell me something… and subsequently blocking my sun. 😛 I very much get that going to places like Kathmandu isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I’m good with that… they’re still travelers in my book though.

That’s my thought, what’s yours?