An all-inclusive resort vacation seems like an easy trip to book, but there are many mistakes that can be made when booking, packing for, and staying at an all-inclusive resort. Here are a few tips to help you avoid some costly mistakes.
Don't assume everything is included. “All-inclusive” might lead you to believe everything is included, but this is rarely the case. You may incur extra charges at a resort for such things as select restaurants, tours, activities, spa services, Wi-Fi, premium alcohol, and room service. Even if all of these are included, you’ll likely incur extra charges for airport transfers and resort fees.
Before booking an all-inclusive vacation, do your research to see what’s included and what’s not. Some resorts are more all-inclusive than others, so be sure to account for that when comparing prices.
Be careful when choosing the resort. In general, there are three things you need to consider: guest demographics, resort location, and resort theme. Location is simple to research, and most properties are usually clear regarding their theme. But demographics can be difficult and are usually best determined by reading reviews and looking at photos from past guests. The other guests at the resort can have an impact on your experience, so do your research. If you're looking for a quiet, relaxing experience, don't choose a resort known for bachelorette parties or large family gatherings.
Make sure you're traveling at the right time of year. If you travel in the middle of hurricane season, you may find lower rates, but are you prepared for a week of rain? Does your resort have a hurricane plan that will refund your vacation if you must evacuate? You may want to avoid the rainy season or humid season unless you’re purposefully traveling during the offseason to get lower prices. Also, check the dates of local and national holidays. Many resorts offer day passes to local residents on those days, so they can get very crowded.
Consider all of your booking options. Did you know there are many ways to book the same resort? You can book through a travel advisor, book direct using award nights, use points and bood through a credit card portal, or book with an online supplier. Each of these methods could result in a different rate, so it's wise to check them all.
Don't assume that booking an all-inclusive resort works the same as booking a hotel. Most all-inclusive resorts charge more for each additional guest, including kids, even when you’re sharing the same room.
Learn about resort procedures early in your stay. There’s usually an activities schedule posted somewhere at the resort. Many resorts require restaurant reservations. Some resorts let you sign up for reservations in advance or at check-in, but many require you to reserve each morning for that evening. If this is the case for your resort, you’ll want to figure out where to make reservations, which restaurants (if any) have a surcharge, and what time you can begin to make reservations each morning. You’ll also want to find out the operating hours of restaurants, pools, bars and activities.
Make sure you pack the right clothing. Most resorts have restaurants with different levels of formality. There are usually a few options for dinner, ranging from a casual beach spot to a buffet to formal dining. If you plan to dine more formally, you’ll want to research ahead of time what type of dress is required. The “formal” restaurants may simply require closed-toe shoes, long pants and shirts with sleeves, but some resorts will require significantly more formal attire. If you plan to leave the resort, you’ll want to pay attention to local cultural norms. And of course, consider the temperature and humidity when you’re packing.
Don't eat or drink too much. When food and drink are included and unlimited, it can be easy to overdo it. This is especially true for the buffet restaurants, where it's hard to limit your choices. If you plan to drink during your stay, beer and wine may be your best bets.These drinks have a known and consistent alcohol percentage, so you can easily track how much you are drinking. Mixed drinks, on the other hand, may get light or heavy pours depending on the bartender.
Don't fail to bring and use sunscreen. You will most likely find it at your resort, but it may be overpriced and not the kind you prefer. Shade may be difficult to find at some resorts and I have seen many people get painfully burned and have their vacation ruined.
Don't fall for sales pitches. Many all-inclusive resorts have staff whose sole purpose is to sell timeshares, excursions, spa services, and upgraded experiences. They are more aggressive at some resorts than at others, but be wary that the friendly staff trying to chat with you by the pool may very well be trying to sell you something.
Take advantage of included activities and amenities. All-inclusive resorts tend to include a lot of activities and amenities you’d normally pay extra for at a normal resort. For example, room service may be complimentary, golf rounds may be included, and some all-inclusive resorts even include excursions. At the same time, most all-inclusive resorts also include some premium options available for additional cost, so it’s best to determine what’s included early in your stay so you can enjoy the resort to its fullest.
Consider venturing off the resort. In the right situations, it’s usually worth leaving to explore a nearby town, take a hike, walk around the neighborhood, or have lunch at a beach cafe. Use common sense and stay in the tourist areas.
Don't forget to budget for tips. There are a few resorts that discourage tips, but that's not true for the majority of them. Tipping is controversial, especially at all-inclusive resorts where tips may already be included. You can certainly choose not to tip and shouldn’t feel obligated to tip if the all-inclusive includes tips or if tipping isn’t part of the local culture. However, even if tips are included, you may want to budget some cash to acknowledge a favorite server, bartender, housekeeper or concierge. You can leave U.S. dollars at most all-inclusive resorts, but it may be better to pick up some local currency when you land.
There are many resort chains and destinations that feature all-inclusive resorts. We would love to help you learn about your choices and help you avoid the above mistakes!