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Photos by Rebecca Potter

While we were hopelessly lost in a sketchy Montreal neighbourhood, my GPS started re-enacting scenes from The Exorcist. All of the programmable voices yelled directions at me at once while I pulled over my car full of terrified passengers. This was nowhere near a picture-perfect travel moment. It was better.

Whenever I take a road trip, something always goes wrong. That’s why road trips rock. Spending time at an all-inclusive hotel doesn’t compare. Sure, there’s free rum and Coke at every corner, but do you really need to stuff your face for your vacation to be successful?
Spending extended amounts of time in a car with someone is a unifying experience. That’s when deep conversations and careless laughs ensue. Friendships are tested and strengthened when you take a wrong turn and drive for 10 hours before you realize it. One day you will all be able to laugh about the horror of the creepy GPS. With any luck, you might even learn how to change a tire.

But not only that, you get to see and experience the area you’re driving through. Unlike resort hotels, you’re not shielded from the raw, inexcusable reality of that area. Instead of seeing a picture-perfect landscape recreated for you straight from some beautiful postcard, you learn about what’s going on in your own backyard. Whether it’s stunning or horrific, it’s very real.

All-inclusive resorts are really all the same. I’ve flown south before and I can’t distinguish the difference between Cuba, the Dominican, and Jamaica from inside the resort. To get a real experience of a country, you have to get out of the hotel and roam the streets — something not many tourists are willing to do. After all, the streets of Havana don’t have all-you-can-eat shrimp.

Life experience is invaluable and irreplaceable. Life is not a beach and it’s not an open buffet. Have fun while learning and growing instead of sleeping and drinking. See your country, see another country, rent a car and drive around, have an adventure. The best, most memorable moments aren’t picture-perfect.

—Jane Lytvynenko

I’ll take three Pina Coladas please, and a side of beach sports and tours of the ruins.

All-inclusives are perfect choices for quick getaways during the winter months. Hitting up a four-star resort in Cayo Coco, Cuba for less than $800 with unlimited food and drinks, two swimming pools, and easy beach access screams an incredible reading week vacation with your buddies.

Unlike a road trip that requires lots of time in a car trapped with the same people for hours on end, all-inclusives allow you the freedom to explore alone or with your friends. Maybe you want to go snorkelling in the south Atlantic but your pals would rather play volleyball on the beach. That’s OK — take your me time with the fishies.

When you book an all-inclusive vacation, generally everything is covered. That includes all your meals, towels, nightly activities, and a bunch of other stuff too. For you adventurers out there, resorts will more than likely offer you a bunch of different activities to explore the nature around the city or town you’re staying in. That means ATVing through forests, zip lining in the jungle, and swimming with sharks.

If learning about different cultures is your fancy, oftentimes resorts are situated near a local market. Contrary to popular belief, if you use street smarts and travel in a group it’s generally safe to stray from the borders of your hotel. You can chat with locals and pick up some handcrafted souvenirs while munching on local cuisine.

Unless you’re driving a short distance, the money you spend on gas, hotel-hopping, and food during a week-long road trip usually surpasses the cost of a week at an all-inclusive, making a resort the more pocket-friendly excursion for students on a budget. Money for a decent road trip doesn’t go very far, but for the same price or less, an all-inclusive vacation makes for a true getaway from Canadian culture and, most importantly, Canadian winters.

—Tori Dudys