Planning a family vacation to an all-inclusive resort? Wondering if you should choose a large resort or a small one? This post will help you figure it out.
My family has visited a large all-inclusive resort and a small resort, both in Mexico. There are to pros and cons to a large all-inclusive resort and a small all-inclusive resort; both have positve and negatives. I’m going to break it down so it makes it easier for families to decide what works best for their individual family’s needs.
It can be tough to figure out which size resort to visit. I will outline some tips for you to consider when planning your vacation to make your choice easier.
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Restaurants & Buffet Pros and Cons of a Larger Resort versus a Smaller Resort
It’s a question of what you prefer for this one. Is variety more important for your family or is convenience more important?
Large resorts often have multiple restaurants so they offer more choices with different themed restaurants. The variety that comes from the multiple restaurants at a large resort is a huge pro for my family because variety is fun for us. One dinner might be Japanese food, the next day seafood, and the day after that Southwest food, and on and on. Kids and adults may get the opportunity to try new foods as well with a variety of themed restaurants at larger resorts. They often also have several different buffets for breakfast and lunch which is a pro of staying at a larger resort.
Smaller resorts offer fewer choices of restaurants, snack bars, and buffets, however, it is easier and quicker to grab a snack at a smaller resort than at a larger resort. I felt more comfortable lounging by the pool at the smaller resort while my older sons ran into the buffet to grab an ice cream cone because the buffet was just a few feet away–so I could see the building. At the larger resort, I wasn’t comfortable with this due to the increased distance the boys would have to travel alone. We always went with them for snacks at the larger resort. If you are looking for convenience with food, smaller resorts might fit your family better. Smaller resorts may also have faster room service in my experience.
Swimming Pool Pros and Cons at Larger Resorts versus Smaller Resorts
I think the pool situation of a resort is about variety versus convenience as well. It is all about what is most important to your family.
Large resorts often offer multiple swimming pools across the resort so obviously, they will have the pro of more swimming pools than smaller resorts. We have found the atmospheres at different pools at a large resort are more varied as well. The atmosphere at one pool might be lively, active, and fun with games, kid activities, and lots of kids while another might be serene, peaceful, and calm. We found this to be true at the smaller resort as well, but it was on a much smaller scale.
However, at the larger resorts, travel time to the pool in increased so it takes more time to go to and from the pool. This can be harder when traveling with younger children.
Pros and Cons of Traversing Around a Large Resort versus a Small Resort
A con of a larger resort is the time it takes to traverse the resort. Walking time is significantly increased to get around. Many large resorts offer trains or shuttles to get around the resort, but this adds in travel time in waiting for a shuttle to appear. If we forgot something at the room when heading to the beach or pool, it was a bigger deal to run back to the room for the forgotten item. At a smaller resort, it was easy to pop back to the room to get the forgotten item. We had to build in walking or shuttle travel time when considering when to head out from the room for meal times, snack times, and scheduled activities at the larger resort.
If someone isn’t feeling good in your family, walking across a larger resort back to the room is a con for larger resorts. My son wasn’t feeling well one afternoon and we missed the shuttle so we had to walk to our room. He was in meltdown mode and waiting for a shuttle was not an option. He had developed a rash from wet swim suit chafing as well so the walk back to the room was a long and painful one. This is a major con for larger resorts.
Another negative to a large resort size is the lobby can be far away from your room. There were times we needed to go to the main lobby at the large resort such as needing to replace my son’s wrist band when it fell off and when we wanted to talk to staff face to face. Being at the large resort made visiting the lobby less convenient because we had so much more distance to cover to simply reach it. We tried to pair it up with a meal at the buffet (which was near the lobby) when we needed to visit the lobby.
Beachfront Property Pros and Cons of a Larger Resort versus a Smaller Resort
The larger resort’s shoreline offered a varied beach experience in both scenery and ambiance. It changed as we visited different parts of the beach. The large resort we stayed at had a very long strip of beach shoreline that ran along the entire length of the resort property. This was great because it provided great variation in beach terrain without even leaving the resort (the beach was my favorite part!). One end of the beach strip was very rocky but beautiful and the other end was flat white sand beaches with palm trees, hammocks, and lounge chairs. I liked this because I felt like we visited a different place even though we never left resort property.
The smaller resort we stayed at had less lounge chairs on the beach than the larger resort so this made the larger resort more favorable to me. It was always harder to find a chair at the smaller resort. The small resort offered a much smaller white sandy beach shoreline only. There was no variation in terrain or scenery, but it was still very beautiful. It all depends on what you are looking for in determining which fits your family better. It’s simply a matter of opinion.
Pros and Cons of Excursions at Larger Resorts versus Smaller Resorts
When my family stayed at the larger resort, we didn’t even do any excursions. We were happy and busy for the whole week just staying right on property the whole time.
I felt more excursions were needed while staying at a smaller resort. This was because our kids got bored at the smaller resort when staying for a full week. They wanted different things to do so excursions were needed more at the smaller resort. In my experience, a family may spend less money staying at a smaller resort, but they may feel the need to do more excursions at a smaller resort so more money is added back into the full vacation price in this way. However, if your family is content to do the same things day in and day out and more travel for excursions adds unwanted complications, a smaller resort might be a better fit.
Pros for Both Small & Large Resorts: Separate Areas for Adults and Children
Both the large and small resorts we visited had an adult only pool so this is a pro for both. We did not visit the adult only pools however because we always had at least one child with us.
In our experience, both size resorts offered an adult only restaurant option as well.
Both the small resort and the large resort we stayed at offered check-in child care areas with lots of fun activities for kids. This is a pro for both sized resorts. The large and small resorts we visited both had about the same size child care areas, interestingly the larger resort did not have a larger child care area than the smaller resort. Research this if it is important to you because all resorts will be different for this area.
Resort Staff at A Small Resort versus a Large Resort
At a smaller resort, guests often get to know the staff better so it is a more personal experience. With more frequent interaction with staff at a smaller resort, we got to know them because they were a familiar smiling face often seen for breakfast and for lunch. Seeing the same staff faces for several days in a row can be a fun experience. At a larger resort, we often saw less of the same faces each day because we were always visiting different restaurants and buffets.
Activity Offerings at a Smaller Resort versus a Larger Resort
We found that the larger resort offered more activities than the smaller resort because they have a larger space and staff to do so. I liked that there were more activities, more game areas, and more game choices at the larger resort because it made us more content to simply stay on property at the larger resort. My boys were not bored at the larger resort whereas, at the smaller resort, they did get tired of the same pools and the same activity offerings. Granted my boys are older, they are all in school so this reflects our family’s preferences.
Both large and small resorts often offer on-stage live shows in the evening for entertaiment. Again, the larger resort we stayed at offered more choices in shows because they had more stages to utilize so the larger resorts. Both resorts offered live music on a schedule.
Pro for Lodging at a Larger Resort
The larger resort we stayed at also offered more choices for lodging than the smaller resort including standard rooms, traditional hotel multistory buildings, and suites in various styles. Some rooms were situated on waterways at the larger resort or in villa style type lodging; while the smaller resort only had a few styles for room choice and the setup was more like a traditional hotel. Both resorts however were easily able to accomodate a family of five such as ours.
My Personal Choice
Overall, I liked the larger resort the best because as we traveled around the resort, it felt like we were going somewhere, like on an excursion, but we were still on resort property. The many choices offered at a large resort make larger resorts more appealing to me personally because we have older children, but families with younger children may prefer smaller resorts to accommodate nap times and reduce the walking time of getting around the resort. Each family is different and values different things, so do your research and think about what your preferences are before choosing a large or small all-inclusive resort.
Visit my reviews of the large and small all-inclusive resorts my family has visited: