Taking a Cruise or Going to an All-Inclusive Resort: Which is Better for a Family with Teens?

Regardless of how you choose to vacation as a family, I'll always be the person on the sidelines cheering you on to take that trip. Family vacations are so important in building long-lasting shared experiences with memories that will last a lifetime. Traveling as a family is so important in building those healthy family bonds and while traveling with teens brings its own set of hurdles to overcome {sports and school schedules are complicated!}, it's worth it to push through to plan that trip and take that time for your family. That said since time is limited, I know you want to make the best choice for travel for your family, which is why I'm taking a look at a cruise or all-inclusive vacation for your family. Which is better? I'll lay out some pros and cons and will let you decide!


Taking a Cruise or Going to an All-Inclusive Resort: Which is Better for a Family with Teens?


I'm comparing cruising and all-inclusive resorts since they are vacations that are so similar. Both are getaways that would allow everything to be planned and taken care of ahead of time so that your family could sit back and relax and enjoy the trip.

Pros and Cons of Cruising with Teens


Cruises are a popular vacation option for those who want to visit several different locations without the hassle of unpacking and planning out the logistics of travel multiple times. Cruising can give your family a little taste of a lot of different areas exposing your family to different cultures and experiences all on one trip.

Cruise ships have a lot of options for families from special teen programs to onboard ziplines, ice skating, rock walls, surf simulators, and more! They are also a great option for multi-generational trips since there really is something for everyone from entertainment to activities. 

The downside of cruising with teens is really our number one tip to making a vacation with teens enjoyable for everyone and that is space. Staterooms on a cruise ship are generally small. There's very little room to spread out and unless you spring for one of the upgraded suites {it will cost you!}, there really isn't a lot of personal space on a ship. Sure, you have plenty of room to explore with common areas on a boat, but teens like their rooms, be it their room at home or their room on vacation, and this for me is the biggest downside to cruising.

You'll find my number one tip for travel with teens here!

The second con to cruising with teens is that while a cruise seems all-inclusive, it is not. You will pay extra for drinks {alcoholic and non-alchoholic}, meals in specialty restaurants, gratuities, and special onboard activities. If you want to plan shore excursions so that you can really enjoy the ports of call, you will be paying extra for those as well. The biggest extra you'll pay for is connectivity. I'm all for setting aside your phone and taking a break from social media, but teens really do need to feel that connection to the outside world, especially when surrounded by their family for a week! Internet packages are an additional charge and the service can be spotty at best.

Don't miss this post for more! Is a cruise to Alaska a good trip for teens?

Pros and Cons of an All-Inclusive Resort with Teens


An all-inclusive resort can be easier on budget planning since there are few end-of-trip surprises. You'll have the opportunity to really explore one area and resorts often include cultural experiences as part of their entertainment. Like a cruise, you'll find plenty of entertainment and activities at the resort. There are LOTS of all-inclusive resort options, so make sure you select the one that fits your family and their desires the best.

For example, my kids would never use a kids club on vacation {on a cruise ship or at a resort}, but there are family's whose kids love this option. With that in mind, select an all-inclusive resort that has a good reputation for kids and teens programming like Beaches or Club Med. Also, there are various activities that are often included in the cost of an all-inclusive resort like kayak, sailboat, and paddleboard rental {non-motorized watersports} that you will find yourself paying extra for as an excursion on a cruise. 

FYI Beaches Resort has several motorized activities as well as SCUBA and snorkeling trips that are included in their resort fee.

Some more thoughts: Why you should consider an all-inclusive resort for your family.

Rooms are often larger than a stateroom on a cruise ship and resorts are often more spread out so teens can safely explore. You'll also find that there are far more things actually included with an all-inclusive resort than you will on a cruise. For example gratuities, drinks {even top-shelf alcohol and specialty coffee}, and various dining options. 

As a family, we find an all-inclusive resort to be a more relaxing option. There's less to the hour planning, and lots more, do whatever you want. However, this can also be a downside because there are family's who would prefer to see more than just a small part of an island. 

Another con to an all-inclusive resort is that you are at the mercy of the weather. Cruise ships can move and change course, but you are stuck at an all-inclusive resort and might just find yourself in the path of a storm that could potentially ruin your vacation. 

What to know before booking an all-inclusive resort

Comparing the Cost of a Cruise and an All-Inclusive


Traveling with teens can be expensive. On a cruise and at an all-inclusive resort, you often start paying the adult fare before your kids actually even hit puberty! If you have a family of five like we do, accommodations can sometimes be tricky. Teens are considered adults and there are often limits to the number of adults allowed in a room. This is true of both cruise and all-inclusive resorts. 

You'll either be forced into booking a large suite or multiple rooms based on your family's situation. Keep in mind, you can often book different room categories to save money but still take advantage of certain perks like a swim-up room pool at an all-inclusive resort or a balcony in a stateroom. 

Everything you need to know before you book a cruise

If you really are budget-concious and trying to plan based on price, make sure you take into account the real cost and add in any extras you might encounter. And be realistic about it! Many all-inclusive resorts are outside of the United States and can often be expensive to fly to, whereas many cruises leave from the US and depart from large hubs that often run specials. 

Dumb things people ask about all-inclusive resorts. Don't be dumb.

So Which is Better for a Family with Teens, a Cruise or an All-Inclusive Resort?


I can't make that decision for you, but I have given you a few things to think about! Keep in mind the pros and cons and do your own research as you start digging into your vacation options. Don't forget to ask the teens for their input. I have found that teens who help in the planning of a trip are often more fun to travel with. 

Here are some more tips on how to make family travel fun for teens!


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