Resort meal plans explained

The recipe for choosing the perfect resort is in the menu! Ever look up hotels and resorts and see terms like “all inclusive” and “European plan” and not quite know what they mean? All the different options can be confusing, but choosing the right meal plan for your vacation can be great for your budget and your experience! Read on for our breakdown on the most common types of meal plans and how to choose the plan that’s perfect for you.

Resort buffet with lots of different food stations
All Inclusive

This meal plan is one of the most popular – after all, one of the best parts of vacation is not having to worry about sorting out meals or doing the dishes! All inclusive meal plans are ideal for travellers who want everything to be included in their package like all meals, snacks and drinks; plus activities, entertainment and more, depending on your selected resort. All inclusive plans are ideal for travellers who want to stick to their budget, plan on staying at the resort the whole time and want to focus on having fun and relaxing.

Our resort pick: When you stay at the adults only Riu Republica in Punta Cana, everything is included in your package – and then some! In addition to all your meals, drinks and snacks, you’ll benefit from unlimited access to the only water park exclusively for adults in the Caribbean located right on site. Plus, when you book with Sunwing you can enjoy exclusive RIU-topia amenities like unlimited reservation-free dining, in-room liquor dispensers and free Wi-Fi.

Table for two set up overlooking the water at sunset
Almost All Inclusive

The main difference between an ‘all inclusive’ meal plan and an ‘almost all inclusive’ meal plan is the latter has certain restrictions on what, or when, you can eat and drink (depending on your chosen property). The most common restriction with ‘almost all inclusive’ meal plans is the availability of international or premium liquor brands. Domestic-branded beer, house wine and select cocktails are normally included while premium liquor comes at an extra cost. This meal plan is ideal for vacationers who don’t mind sticking to domestic brands and who are okay with some restrictions on their dining choices.

Our resort pick: Divi Flamingo Beach Resort and Casino in Bonaire offers an ‘inclusive meal’ plan (also known as an ‘almost all inclusive’ plan). This plan offers daily meals, snacks, domestic-beer, house wine and select international liquor brands; with premium drinks at an extra cost. In between dining at the resort’s on-site restaurants and sipping your favourite drink at the beach bar, you can discover Bonaire’s legendary dive sites with the five-star PADI dive centre.

Pancakes, strawberries and a cup of coffee on a wicker tray next to a girl on a sun lounger
Breakfast Plan

The breakfast plan lives up to its name – breakfast is included in your stay, every day! Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day and what better way to start your adventure than with a delicious complimentary meal? This plan is popular amongst travellers who plan on starting their morning off at the hotel before heading out to explore their destination for the rest of the day. Enjoy lunch and dinner at one of your destination’s local hotspots or head back to the hotel to dine at your resort’s on-site restaurant (at an extra cost).

Our resort pick: Start your morning with complimentary breakfast at Riu Plaza Miami Beach! Your stay at this beachfront Miami property includes a delicious breakfast at the on-site restaurant which you can enjoy on the terrace. After breakfast, head out to explore all that Miami has to offer – whether you want to soak up the sun on the beach or explore the nearby Art Deco district.

Al fresco restaurant overlooking the beach at sunset
European Plan

If you don’t plan on eating or drinking at your resort and want to try out your destination’s local dining establishments, the European Plan is for you! This meal plan is most commonly found on smaller islands and at more intimate properties. Your accommodations (and some activities or entertainment) are included in your stay, giving you the freedom to experience your destination’s culinary scene.

Our resort pick: Sample some of the freshest seafood and local fare in Isla Holbox when you stay at Mystique Blue Boutique Suites, which offers the European Plan. Stroll down the shores of this car-free island to the quaint downtown area with several charming dining establishments. The resort itself also offers unique and immersive culinary experiences, where you collaborate with the resort chef to determine your dishes based on a carefully-curated selection of ingredients (at an extra cost).

Outdoor restaurant overlooking the side of the cruise ship
Cruise Ship Dining

Thinking of heading out on the high seas for your next vacation and wondering what’s included in your cruise package? There are typically two types of dining on cruise ships: traditional and specialty. Traditional dining is included in your package and features a combination of both buffet and seated venues (and sometimes room service, depending on your selected ship); while specialty dining comes at an extra cost. Drinks typically cost extra with beverage packages available for purchase offering soft drinks, wine, beer and cocktails at select venues.

Our ship pick: When you set sail on board the brand-new Norwegian Encore, you can experience Norwegian’s unique Freestyle Dining concept – with no fixed dining times or pre-assigned seating. Choose from six traditional dining options including an elegant dining room, a café with panoramic ocean views and a lounge serving classic pub fare. You can also dine at one of 13 specialty restaurants at an extra cost or order in to your stateroom with 24-hour room service ($).

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