New to all-inclusive resorts? These are the best ones for newbies.

Updated

I’ve stayed at dozens of all-inclusive resorts over the past few decades, but I’ll never forget the first one I visited with my kids. They couldn’t believe they were allowed to order anything they wanted from the menu. I couldn't believe just how easy it was to plan a family vacation when our accommodations, meals, drinks and activities were all included in one price.

Though not necessarily inexpensive, all-inclusive family resorts often represent an excellent value when you factor in all you get for the price. And for busy parents, the ease factor is priceless. But how do you choose the right all-inclusive resort for your first time? It comes down to price, amenities, location, and convenience. Based on my extensive experience as a parent and a travel journalist, these are my recommendations for the best all-inclusive resorts to visit if you're trying it for the first time.

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1. Migis Lodge

South Casco, Maine

Migis Lodge
Migis Lodge

First of all, yes, there are all-inclusive resorts right here in the U.S., and many of the best ones are specifically geared toward families. If you're new to all-inclusive resorts and aren't ready to commit to an international vacation with the kids, there are plenty of great options to consider that don't require a passport.

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At Migis Lodge, you can contemplate Maine’s unique natural beauty right on the shores of Sebago Lake. Freshwater diversions such as fishing, swimming, kayaking and sailing have been offered here for generations, with contemporary additions like waterskiing and wakeboarding added for good measure.

If you want to keep your feet planted on the ground, tennis, pickleball, disc golf, basketball and walks in the pine-scented woods await. Open seasonally from June to October, Migis Lodge offers guest rooms in both its main lodge and private cottages that range in size from studios to multi-bedroom units. Rates include activities, supervised children’s programming, lodging and three hearty meals a day. The weekly lobster bake is a New England tradition.

2. Great Camp Sagamore

Raquette Lake, New York

Great Camp Sagamore bowling.
Great Camp Sagamore bowling.

Another family-friendly all-inclusive resort in the United States, Great Camp Sagamore was once a lavish lakeside Gilded Age sanctuary in the Adirondack Mountains owned by the Vanderbilt family. Today it’s a National Historic Landmark owned by a nonprofit. As a guest, you can stay in a rustic private room or cabin as part of the Simply Sagamore program.

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Overnight stays include three meals a day at shared tables in the dining hall, guided tours of the grounds, bowling at the open-air alleys, campfires, canoeing in Sagamore Lake and hiking along unblemished trails.

3. C Lazy U Ranch

Granby, Colorado

C Lazy U Ranch family ride.
C Lazy U Ranch family ride.

For families who enjoy horseback riding, a dude ranch vacation is a fine introduction to the all-inclusive concept. A sprawling guest ranch that supports a patchwork of wildflowers as well as moose, black bears, elks and eagles, C Lazy U Ranch has welcomed families for generations.

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Year-round equestrian opportunities include a heated indoor riding arena in case the weather isn’t favorable. Experienced counselors supervise youngsters in the kids club throughout the day, and you can all join the wranglers on the feed wagon and watch the herd of horses eat their breakfast. You’ll build up an appetite in the mountain air, and three full meals, featuring an upscale dinner, are included in the rate.

4. Casa Maat

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Casa Maat
Casa Maat

Situated at the southern tip of Baja California, Los Cabos is home to dozens of all-inclusive resorts, but Casa Maat stands out as one of the region's very best. It’s a 45-room hotel within the much larger JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort & Spa. While Casa Maat guests have full use of the Marriott’s facilities, including a kids club and spa, staying here is a more intimate experience with all the perks of a big resort at your fingertips. Think of it as an excellent way to dabble in the all-inclusive experience without feeling overwhelmed.

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Casa Maat doesn’t market itself an all-inclusive resort, but meals are included in the rate. Breakfast is a bountiful buffet, and a midday snack is served poolside. In the evening, cocktails and a light supper will satiate hunger pangs. For my family, it was enough food without the excess sometimes found at buffets. Casa Maat is beachfront, but swimming is prohibited in this part of Cabo because of strong currents. Never fear: A drop-dead gorgeous swimming pool is the centerpiece of the resort. You can also take a dip in one of the Marriott’s assortment of pools.

5. Tyler Place Family Resort

Highgate Springs, Vermont

Tyler Place
Tyler Place

Vermont may be best known for its covered bridges, fall foliage and maple syrup, but don't overlook the summer vacation months in the Green Mountain State. Tyler Place Family Resort is a seasonal all-inclusive resort that embraces families with genuine Yankee hospitality. Most families stay for a week, boosting the summer camp vibe.

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The resort is very popular with parents of infants and toddlers, thanks to its comprehensive program for tiny tots. The supervised children’s club, composed of 10 age-staggered groups for infants to teens, is the heart of the resort. The staff utilizes the acres of gardens, meadows, forests, and private shoreline as a playground. Kids ride bikes, hike in the wilderness and swim. Forget to pack the stroller? Never fear, the resort has a variety of loaner gear for anything you accidentally leave off your baby packing list.

6. Beaches Turks & Caicos

When it comes to Caribbean resorts, Beaches drives like a Rolls-Royce. The all-inclusive resort chain has perfected the concept with rates that include meals, drinks, activities, entertainment, airport transfers, and age-specific supervised children’s programming. My personal favorite among the brand's three locations is Beaches Turks & Caicos, which is situated on a pristine stretch of Grace Bay. Water sports are plentiful, and the Pirates Island Waterpark is an aquatic fantasy with a lazy river, surf simulator and swim-up soda bar.

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With more than 700 rooms, this is a large all-inclusive resort. However, the fact that it’s scattered across five unique "residential villages" makes it very easy to get your bearings. Children’s program is helmed by trained nannies, and a partnership with Sesame Street adds to the fun factor, with a weekly character parade and activities with Elmo, Ernie and Cookie Monster. As a bonus, an assortment of food trucks makes nonstop noshing a breeze.

7. Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Grand Velas Kids Club
Grand Velas Kids Club

Less than an hour from Cancun’s airport, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is nestled within a protected mangrove jungle on a gorgeous beach with three dreamy swimming pools. Kids are treated like royalty here, and the culinary offerings are a highlight for the whole family. Don’t even consider leaving without trying the chilaquiles for breakfast.

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The Baby Concierge can arrange for anything from tiny bathrobes to a baby massage. Supervised clubs for children offer cooking classes and hands-on dreamcatcher workshops. The teen club presents age-appropriate fun with bike tours, Fortnite tournaments and beach volleyball. While the kids are busy, you can pamper yourself at the top-notch spa.

8. Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort, Spa & Casino
Lopesan Costa Bávaro Resort, Spa & Casino

There are scores of all-inclusive resorts clustered along Bávaro Beach in Punta Cana, where the water is a Crayola shade of blue and the sand feels like sugar. Music blares, so no one will hear a thing if your toddler starts whining. Lopesan Costa Bávaro is a newer beachfront resort that’s a fit for first timers who want to experience the platonic ideal of an all-inclusive holiday.

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It’s a quick ride from Punta Cana’s airport, so you’ll be slathering on the sunscreen soon after clearing customs. This big resort is divided into three distinct sections, with multiple swimming pools plus a dandy of a waterpark. A kid’s club, teen lounge, bowling alley, arcade, ice cream parlor, candy shop and an escape room provide hours of entertainment.

9. Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort

Savusavu, Fiji

Jean Michel Cousteau Resort-Bula Club treehouse.
Jean Michel Cousteau Resort-Bula Club treehouse.

This one's a bit of a bucket list item, but if you want to take a very big swing on your first-ever all-inclusive resort, you can't do better than Fiji's Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort. The resort's "Bula Club" is the best kids club I've ever seen. It’s a paradise where younger guests are serenaded by musicians as they dine on fresh island cuisine after they’ve played in a treehouse, splashed in the pool, or snorkeled with a marine biologist. Children up to age 6 even have their very own nanny or manny.

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The resort immerses you in Fijian culture, from learning to weave baskets to watching a traditional kava ceremony to meeting children from the neighboring village. It’s the epitome of eco-friendly luxury, where guests stay in private cottages called bures. And the superb staff even does your laundry, driving home the point that at Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, all-inclusive truly means all-inclusive.

New to all-inclusive resorts? These are the best ones for newbies originally appeared on FamilyVacationist.com

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The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY. FamilyVacationist.com and TourScoop.com are owned and operated by Vacationist Media LLC. Using the FamilyVacationist travel recommendation methodology, we review and select family vacation ideas, family vacation spots, all-inclusive family resorts, and classic family vacations for all ages. TourScoop covers guided group tours and tour operators, tour operator reviews, tour itinerary reviews and travel gear recommendations.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: All-inclusive first-timers try resorts in US, Mexico, Fiji, and more

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