What to Know Before Booking an All-Inclusive Resort Vacation

Who doesn't dream of escaping to warmer weather in the dark dreary days of winter? I love being surrounded by palm trees and blue green water with sand in my toes. I think life is always better with a beach bartender who happily delivers drinks to you as you lounge in a beach chair half way through your third book in that many days. To say that I am totally sold on the experience of an all-inclusive resort would be an understatement. I think there are a lot of reasons to book your next vacation at an all-inclusive resort {I even think they are great for family vacations}, but there are some things to consider before you book to make sure that your vacation is everything you want it to be.

Mexico, Cancun, Caribbean, excellence playa mujeres

What to Know Before Booking an All-Inclusive Resort Vacation

1. Pick Your Resort With Care

I have been to nearly a dozen all-inclusive resorts and not all of them are the same. There is a difference in the clientele that stay at a two star budget all-inclusive versus a five star resort. While the resorts may all include the things you are looking for, know that the people that surround you during your stay will make or break your experience.

If you are traveling with your kids at a resort that offers free-flowing alcohol all day long, they may be exposed to things at the resort that you wouldn't want them to be exposed to. The pool may end up filled with drunken adults and your nights might be disturbed by a never-ending party. 

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mexico, Caribbean, cancun

2. Know What's Included

The resorts we have stayed at have had {nearly} everything included. Some resorts will offer top-shelf alcohol at no additional charge {like Excellence Playa Mujeres}, and others will offer them for a fee. Spa treatments are typically an extra expense unless you purchase a package with your booking, but for the most part all of your food, drinks and non-motorized water sports are all included in your fee.

Off-site excursions will cost you, but when you have everything you need at the resort, why leave?

Entertainment is often included and it's often on a weekly rotation. So if you stay over the course of two Mondays for instance, you may see the Michael Jackson show twice! 

3. Pack Accordingly

Some resorts will offer complimentary pool floats {like Finest Resort}, while others will allow only  certain smaller floats in the shared pool {The Riu Palace Pacifico}.  
If you are traveling out of the country {where the majority of the all-inclusive resorts are}, you may want to bring some items for down time in the hotel room. There is limited access to English speaking television, so books and activities the kids can do to keep them occupied while you get ready for dinner, are important. 

4. Know the Dress Code

One of our favorite things to do as a family on an all-inclusive vacation is eat! We eat at home nearly every single night, so it's nice to get a little treat and eat in a sit down restaurant every evening. There are often dress codes at all-inclusive resorts, many don't apply to kids under the age of twelve, but it's important to know what the dress code is in the various restaurants on the resort property.

I've found that many resorts are more strict with men then they are the women. Flip flops, even the nicest pair you have, may not be allowed at dinner and you will be turned away.

5. Know the Restrictions on Age

Since I have older kids {19, 15, and 12}, most all-inclusive resorts charge an adult rate to any child over the age of 12.  Not only that, since we have a "large" family, finding a room that accommodates four adults and one child is nearly impossible.

When we have traveled, it's been necessary to book two separate rooms for our family. Not all of those rooms have been given to us in the same building let alone the same floor! Regardless of the requests we have made, this has been a struggle we have faced every time we have traveled with our family to an all-inclusive resort. Sadly, I have yet to find a resort that offers adjoining rooms. 

6. To Tip or Not to Tip

The resorts we have stayed at all have had tips included in the final resort fees that we paid. However, I have noticed that you will get better attention and faster service if you tip your favorite waiter from time to time. It's not expected but it's appreciated.

7. Know What You Want from your Vacation

Vacation means different things to different people. I like to sit at the beach all day relaxing, while others may want to take in all that the local area has to offer. If I'm traveling with just my husband, I like to book an adults-only all-inclusive resort versus one with kids. If you are looking for adventure and authentic experience, you probably won't find it at an all-inclusive resort, but if you are looking for a hassle-free relaxing vacation, an all-inclusive would be a great fit!

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8. Get Recommendations

Thankfully, the internet has become an amazing resource for travel information. There are message boards filled with people's experiences and recommendations and because of that, we have booked some amazing rooms and had some fabulous experiences. There is no thinking "next time...", instead, those recommendations can help you know all you need to know about your resort before you even check in.

In case you missed it, catch these posts for more information.

read this before you plan your next family vacation

Which Country Has the Best All-Inclusive Resorts?

Mexico is at the top of the list. There is a lot of variety to choose from, various price points and offerings and we love that we can get to Mexico fairly easily from the states. Other countries have all-inclusive resorts like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Costa Rica.

Can Travel Agents Get Better Deals on All-Inclusive Resorts?

In our experience, not necessarily. But I'm happy to be proven wrong! When we were researching for a multi-generational family trip, we had a travel agent look into options. We found the same deals available on the resort website and on Costco.com. You can book similar deals on your own without a travel agent.

Have you been to an all-inclusive resort? Any tips you would add?

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1 comment

Deb said...

I too would recommend all-inclusive resorts, and yes, they are all different. We stayed at the Riu line of resorts, which included a wristband enabling us to walk along the beach and stop at other Riu properties. This last time, we stayed at the Valentine Imperial Maya. Take the reviews with a grain of salt. There were several for this one that said the walk from the rooms to dining were long. Two things - they have carts that will pick transport you, so no walking was necessary; two, the walk wasn't really that far. We took the cart there, and walked back to our room after. We also paid extra for the beach cabana. Completely worth it. I love laying in the sun, but my husband enjoyed being in the shade. This enabled us to be next to each other comfortably. And do take a tour. Remember, these businesses and people are trying to make a living, and want you to have a good time so that you'll post good reviews and come back again, ensuring they have a job.

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