Pay in the UK and Relax on Holiday; W Travel: Nigel Williams Finds History and Luxury at an All-Inclusive Price in Halkidiki

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Byline: Nigel Williams

THERE''S no such thing as a free lunch or drink - but it rather felt that way when the waiter, tray laden with drinks, made his way along the beach to our sunlounger in the heat of a Greek afternoon.

No need to fumble for euros or find our room number. It was all paid for, in advance, at home in sterling.

All-inclusives may be old hat in exclusive Caribbean resorts, but now package holidaymakers in Greece can enjoy a similar service to keep a firm grip on holiday costs.

We joined the growing number taking all-inclusive holidays (reportedly up 32% in the past five years) for a week at the Oceania Club and Spa, in Halkidiki.

With our 12-year-old son needing constant refuelling, it seemed so much easier to say "yes" to the requests for iced drinks, ice cream and snacks from the pool or beach bar. With nominal prices of 2.50 euros for a soft drink, or 3 euros for a beer or glass of wine, these extras soon add up for a budgetconscious traveller.

The deal provides unlimited drinks, plus three buffet meals a day at the main restaurant and the chance to eat once a week at one of three a la carte restaurants. We found a tasty selection of grilled meat, fish, Greek salads and fresh fruit washed down with local beer and wine.

For sheer local atmosphere, the taverna overlooking the sea was the best place to tuck into meze appetisers, moussaka and other Greek specialities.

The Oceania Club, set on a pine-clad hillside overlooking the Aegean, is perfect for families, with so many activities to stretch energetic children.

There''s a kids'' club, mini disco, playground, cinema and children''s pool. Enthusiastic staff organise water polo games, table tennis and quizzes, and families get together in the evening for fast-paced shows such as Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You.

All rooms in the hotel, rated five star by First Choice, come with sea view and balcony or terrace, and are decorated simply and tastefully in blue and white pastel shades, while popular junior suites can sleep up to four.

Our deluxe suite came with extra space and access to a private lagoon-style pool and bar. Service is excellent, with 280 staff looking after 800 guests in high season.

Most people chilled out by the pool despite the chance of tennis, squash, volleyball, water polo and an air-conditioned gym.

A private beach, across a quiet road, is one of the hotel''s best features. It is fringed with palms and the sea is clear and shallow. Our son hardly needed to put on his snorkelling mask to see fish darting by his feet as he walked out on a sandbagged path to the water''s edge. …