Choosing accommodation shouldn’t only be based on the cheapest option, but what gets you value for your money. Picture: Pixabay
Choosing accommodation shouldn’t only be based on the cheapest option, but what gets you value for your money. Picture: Pixabay

All-inclusive holidays vs self-catering: Which gets you more bang for your buck?

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Jun 2, 2021

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Many factors go into creating the perfect holiday.

Choosing accommodation shouldn't only be based on the cheapest option, but what gets you value for your money.

With tight budgets and eagerness to escape from the hustle and bustle of it all, most travellers do not weigh their options before booking a trip.

This week, we compare all-inclusive versus self-catering accommodation in South Africa. This is what we found:


All-inclusive accommodation allows guests to enjoy a stay with meals, drinks and some activities included in the rate.

These all-inclusive packages are offered at most luxury resorts, safari lodges, some hotels and private villas. Rates vary from property to property.

For example, a fully-inclusive trip to a South Coast hotel in KwaZulu-Natal starts from R2 700 per room a night. The rate includes accommodation, meals and select beverages.

A fully-inclusive trip to a game reserve in Hoedspruit starts from R3 600 per person sharing a night. The rate includes accommodation, meals, select beverages and activities. Rates depend on the grading of the property, amenities and activities offered.

Sharmila Ragunanan, marketing manager for Dream Hotels & Resorts, said an all-inclusive package allowed people to plan and budget upfront for their holiday. “You can rest assured that all your drinks and meals are covered so that you don't have any surprises when checking out,” she said.

Helen Untiedt, the co-founder and curator of Perfect Hideaways, said fully inclusive packages were ideal for couples, small groups, solo travellers and those who wanted some much-needed R&R.

“Booking a fully-inclusive accommodation is a treat. It is the ideal time to book all-inclusive trips as many establishments are currently running specials. Travellers can enjoy high-end experiences at a fraction of the cost.

“Always make sure that you ask about the all-inclusive rate as place A may not offer what place B does,” she said.


Self-catering accommodation offers all mod cons of a hotel room but with kitchen and lounge facilities. Some units or villas at hotels or lodges do not offer food as part of the package, which results in cheaper rates.

Travellers need to be mindful that self-catering is accommodation only (and use of the property’s amenities), but travellers would have to factor in their own meals and activity costs.

According to Ragunanan, a significant advantage of self-catering is flexibility. “The choice is yours on where and when you want to enjoy your meals (and drinks). You can also plan and cater according to your family’s tastes and preferences. It provides a home away from home experience,” she said.

Untiedt said self-catering was perfect for large groups. She said rates were charged per accommodation unit, which worked out cheaper if everyone split the bill.

In terms of catering, she found that one of the most attractive features for holidaymakers was the kitchen.

“Cooking is an activity for most travellers. They want to prepare meals in a beautiful kitchen. Many travellers take turns to prepare meals, create bespoke menus to celebrate their destination, and even pair meals with local wines, gin and brandy.

“Preparing your own meals compared to eating out is a cheaper option,” she said.

Untiedt said travellers could hire a private chef if the group comprised 10 or more people. Some self-catering accommodation offers activities and the use of equipment. Self-catering accommodation varies in prices and depends on star grading and amenities offered.

On average, it could cost anything from under R2 000 to as high as R150 000 a night. Untiedt recommended travellers ask questions before booking self-catering accommodation.

“Ask the hosts for a list of items that come standard with the property and what you need to bring along with you when you check in. The last thing you want is to face additional costs,” she said.

The verdict

Director of Rental Revenue Sales Charnè Webb-Smith said self-catering was ideal for South African travellers as people travelled on their own terms.

She said unlike Mauritius and Seychelles, South Africa lacked many fully-inclusive establishments.

“With self-catering, travellers spend what they want. It offers plenty of space and privacy and is considered a safe travel option during the pandemic,” she said.

Untiedt said travellers should research their options to see what suits their preference and budget.

“Look out for reviews from previous guests before making your final decision. The cheapest accommodation doesn’t mean that the experience is terrible. The same applies to expensive options: you can never guarantee that it would be a pleasant experience,” she said.

Ragunanan said travellers should opt for self-catering if they prefer flexibility or have a budget. She said travellers should opt for all-inclusive if they want their meals and drinks included in the rate.

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