Head 2 Head: All Inclusive vs. Self Catering

Co-operative Travel Head 2 Head asks the difficult holiday questions – and this edition is an especially tough one.

Choosing the right board basis is one of the most important decisions you have to make before picking your holiday. Do you want your hotel to supply your food and drink, or would you prefer to prepare your own or eat in restaurants? Do you want to pay a lump sum for your food before you leave, or budget for snacks and meals while you are away?

In this “Head 2 Head,” we’re looking at All Inclusive holidays and Self Catering holidays, and aiming to uncover which option is the best for YOU.

Let’s find out…


For families

All Inclusive: This option will usually work out to be cost-effective, because there are no limits to how much children and adults can eat, and no extra charge for alcohol for the parents. Most hotels and resorts will also offer snacks between meals, giving kids the chance to gobble down holiday treats like chocolate, ice cream, slushies, and candy. Your children will also probably have the chance to go to a fun-packed kids’ club, as part of their All Inclusive package.

Self Catering: This option means that families are more likely to leave the resort and enjoy a little more local culture and cuisine. Some children are picky eaters while some parents like to prepare specific kinds of meals, so the kitchen provided by a Self Catering accommodation will suit families like this.

In summary: This will depend on what you are looking for in a holiday, but we’re awarding this first category to All Inclusive.




All Inclusive: Almost every beach destination that we offer has the option for this board basis. So, if you’re hungry for the Canaries or Balearics, Greece or Spain, Caribbean or Morocco, or practically anywhere else where the sand and sea are one of the main attractions, you’ll probably be able to choose an All Inclusive holiday.

Self Catering: You are less likely to have the choice of an All Inclusive stay if you are visiting a stunning city, or somewhere more specific like USA, Canada, or Brazil. So if you aren’t looking for a holiday spent on the beach, you’re more likely to go Self Catering.

In summary: This one goes to Self Catering, because you’re likely to find this option anywhere you’re interested in visiting.




All Inclusive: All your food will be cooked for you, all your washing-up scrubbed clean, and you may even have your laundry washed. Bliss!

Self Catering: You’ll have to fend for yourself, but on holiday that isn’t so bad – especially if you have the budget for eating at restaurants. You’ll also have the convenience of a kitchen in your room to cook for yourself, and the only timetable you’ll have to live by is your own.

In summary: You can’t beat the convenience of an All Inclusive holiday.




All Inclusive: If you are looking for a luxurious All Inclusive holiday, a break in the Caribbean will give you 24-hour pampering and attention! You’ll have an average of 6 different restaurants to choose from, numerous bars, and quite often far more than you can savour in a single holiday! However, many holidays on this board basis are more about fun, convenience, and ease than luxury.

Self Catering: There are sensational Self Catering options in villas across Florida, California, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. If you want to combine your luxurious accommodation with decadent food choices, somewhere like Santorini will also offer mouth-watering local cuisine.

In summary: This one goes to Self Catering, because if you are looking for luxury, why wouldn’t you want to pick a villa and eat in a different restaurant every night?




You won’t struggle to find either All Inclusive or Self Catering accommodation in most places, but it’s the room availability you need to be aware of. That’s why booking early is often best.

In summary: It’s a draw.



Food and drink

All Inclusive: Many resorts offer a wide range of food options, but as with anything, you’ll generally get what you pay for. There’s a real thrill to be had from knowing that your food is already covered in the price of the holiday, and most resorts will have a great choice of meals to enjoy.

Self Catering: You’ll have a wider choice of things to eat and drink on this option, as you can buy food in supermarkets (for cheap!) and have the full choice of nearby restaurants. If staying healthy is a concern too, cooking for yourself means that you can keep those calories in check while you’re away.

In summary: This is a tough one, and depends if you’re looking for convenience, how much you are looking to spend, and how much you enjoy preparing your own food. We’re giving this round to All Inclusive.




All Inclusive: Less flexible than the freedom of Self Catering, but quite often All Inclusive resorts will allow for different eating times, allowing you to order throughout the day and in some cases room service, too.

Self Catering: Allows you to have late meals no restrictions on timetables for your holiday, privacy to eat on your own or with your family.

In summary: Self Catering is the most flexible kind of holiday on the market!




All Inclusive: You’ll need to pay more money upfront, but this means for easier budgeting when you know that you won’t need to pay any extra. This is a great way to save money – especially for visitors with big appetites or who enjoy a party!

Self Catering: This board basis will have a lower initial cost, but you’ll have to factor in a budget for eating while you are out. These are great holidays if you are good at sticking to a budget, but not so good if you struggle to resist the occasional splurge.

In summary: All Inclusive is known for its great value, and you can find great deals and offers throughout the year.




All Inclusive: Kids club fun for kids, they get to meet new friends. But there are activities for everyone when it comes to all inclusive. But whether you go Self Catering or all inclusive, you will find you still have night time entertainment regardless. All Inclusive resorts however tend to have more facilities for example a gym, a spa, indoor pool, a la carte restaurants, etc.

Self Catering: Self Catering is likely to have fewer additional amenities than All Inclusive, as in many cases it can just be an apartment with a pool area depending on the size of the place.

In summary: All Inclusive resorts pride themselves on having everything a visitor could need on hand, so it wins this final round.

How they stack up


Our winner

As with every Head 2 Head, the results are close and never easy to read. However, our overall winner here is the All Inclusive board basis, for its value, and the convenience of having EVERYTHING available and covered in the holiday price.

Self Catering is excellent for families and holidaymakers looking for total flexibility while they are away, the ultimate choice of destinations, and the opportunity for sensational luxury in their accommodation.


Do you agree?
What do you think?
Let us know in the comments!


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