I am an all-inclusive convert – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it

Yes, there may be a cry of ‘No Pepsi!’ at breakfast, and raucous entertainment but these resorts more than serve their purpose

October 21, 2023 6:00 am(Updated 6:02 am)

No more than nine years old, a young boy stepped in front of me at the salad bar and scanned the bowls of fresh hummus, feta salad and pickled jalapenos, his plate piled with chocolate profiteroles – and chips.

After five days at an all-inclusive resort in Crete, it was a sight I was now used to, along with shouts of “NO PEPSI!” at breakfast. We’d roamed around the buffet, goading my children to load up on omelettes, mangoes and yoghurt, but I’d resigned myself to the fact that my daughters, aged six and four, were going to be eating deep-fried doughnuts with Nutella, syrup and pancakes. At least they’d burn it off at Kids’ Club – where they were someone else’s problem.

Six years ago, this type of holiday was my idea of hell. Racing for sunbeds, couples’ dance competitions, and watered-down mojitos were far from appealing – until I had children and learnt that city breaks in boutique hotels were no longer relaxing, nor fun. It just meant paying a lot of money to be exhausted somewhere else, usually in the dark, eating room service by torchlight and trying not to wake a sleeping baby who no one else wanted around.

Fodele Beach is an all-inclusive resort on the north coast of Crete (Photo: Supplied)
Fodele Beach is an all-inclusive resort on the north coast of Crete (Photo: supplied)

So off to Tenerife it was, to a resort with three pools, a bar housed in a Disney-style castle and a thunderous light show at night, not to mention a fabulous buffet. For anyone trying to wean a baby – or get food down a toddler ­- there is no better place. Don’t like the risotto? Try some roast pork. Or Bolognese. Or sweet potato curry. Fried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, roasted tomatoes?

It wasn’t unusual to find four or five plates of food on each table (and under them), but at least everyone was fed and happy, and guests were too busy managing their own children’s terrible behaviour to care about anyone else’s.

Now my kids are older and enjoy more adventurous travel, but with flights eye-wateringly expensive, and everyone tightening their belts, I calculated this summer that it made more sense to opt for an all-inclusive where you can determine the entire cost up front, with significant savings to be made when compared with a like-for-like DIY holiday. Earlier this year a report by Abta, the Travel Association, found that 29 per cent of British holidaymakers were planning to take an all-inclusive this year to help them manage their finances. The percentage rose to 57 per cent for young families.

Wanting nothing more than guaranteed sunshine and a kids’ club that would admit four-year-olds (many don’t), I took a chance on the Fodele Beach and Water Park in Crete, a luxury resort that sits on a cliffside overlooking a golden curve of private beach around 15 miles west of Heraklion.

With six swimming pools and a little train that travels back and forth between the water park, the resort looked ideal owing to the fact that the à-la-carte restaurants were included, along with alcohol, which is where guests often get caught out, racking up costs on poolside cocktails.

Fodele Beach and Waterpark has several flumes and pools (Photo: Supplied)
Fodele Beach and Waterpark has several flumes and pools (Photo: supplied)

It’s advisable to either book a year in advance, or leave it until the last minute when agents’ drop rates to fill rooms, but straddling our nine-day break across the end of August and beginning of September meant that the room rate dropped by almost a third for the final four days. Overnight it was suddenly quiet, with no queues at mealtimes, plenty of loungers and an empty water park for my husband to enjoy on his own.

Over the course of our holiday, the only extra costs were a €30 private cabana on the beach which included two cocktails and a platter of fruit, a handful of Twix ice creams, and €60 for a 20-minute jet ski ride while the kids did pottery, had fun face painting and hunted for treasures on the beach.

During the nightly mini-disco, we spoke to other parents grateful for the entertainment, the myriad puddings, the different pools, the child-height buffet area, and the chance to read books, snooze and relax … if just for a few hours.

For us all, it’s a phase, but one that I’ve now grown to love, so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it: here’s to the all-inclusive.