All-Inclusive Mistakes I Made, So You Won't Have To
I have said it before, and I will repeat it, all-inclusives aren't my jam. I love the convenience and freedom of knowing how much I will pay upfront. But I am a redhead, so laying at the beach or pool all day is never going to be something I can do, even with SPF 100+. (Yes, they make SPF 100+). I am an all-inclusive expert, however. I have been to tons, and I thoroughly go over every inch of each resort so that I can honestly review them. Over the years, I have made every mistake you can make at an all-inclusive. I am sharing those mistakes here, so you don't make the same mistakes.
Not Upgrading Your Resort
There is a vast difference between a 4-star and 5-star resort. Most people assume they will be similar in quality, but they are not. I stayed at a 4-star Iberostar in Cancun during a girls' trip, and I wasn't a fan. The food was bland, and the wait times were long. The beach and pools were small, crowded, and not well-maintained. In addition, my air conditioner didn't work, and I had to complain four times before they sent someone to repair it. Who needs a/c in Cancun in July anyway?
Not Upgrading Your Room
Unlike most hotels, you will spend most of your time at the resort when you book an all-inclusive. So upgrading the room will vastly improve your trip. Upgraded rooms offer better locations, extra amenities, and more romance. For our trip to Mexico, I upgraded to a Presidential Suite. It was money well spent! We were traveling with the boys, and I wanted to have tons of room so we wouldn't be on top of each other all week.
Not Making Reservations
If your resort allows you to make reservations for dining, do so ASAP. We didn't get into the restaurant until 10:15 pm on the first night of our vacation. Technically, it closed at 10 pm. Popular restaurants will fill quickly. If you can't make reservations, go early (5-6 pm) or late (after 8 pm). The majority of guests go to dinner between 6:30 and 7:30 pm. So avoid those times whenever possible.
Alcohol causes dehydration exacerbated by the warm Caribbean sun. It is easy to over-imbibe at an all-inclusive. The alcohol flows freely, and you aren't paying for individual drinks. To avoid spending your trip hunched over the toilet, chase every alcoholic beverage with 8 ounces of water.
Avoiding the Buffet
I always avoid the buffet, but my kids convinced me to at least give it a try. And boy, were they right! We went for breakfast three or four times and once for lunch, which was great. It offered fresh omelets, stations with mimosas, a smoothie bar, a candy bar for kids (adults were allowed to use it too; I tested that myself), and a variety of tasty food. Give the buffet a try; you might be surprised like I was.
When I arrived in Mexico, I realized I didn't have my toothbrush. I left it out of my carry-on, intending to drop it in after brushing my teeth. But I forgot, so I had to buy a toothbrush at the gift shop at the resort, which cost $10. From now on, I plan to buy a travel toothbrush that I can pack with everything else, so I don't have to depend on my brain working at 4 am.
Not Bringing Enough Swimsuits and Coverups
Do you enjoy putting on damp clothes? I don't! Pack at least two swimsuits and coverups so there is a dry set for the next day.
Not Having Ready Access to Your Travel Docs
I had pre-paid for our checked bags, but the airline tried to charge me again (at a higher rate). I whipped out my phone, pulled up my travel docs on the app, and proved I had already paid. Little things go wrong on every trip; preparation and handy travel docs have saved me more than once.
Not Being Prepared for COVID Restrictions
Most destinations have removed their COVID restrictions, but individual businesses can set their own rules. Our airline had not lifted its mask mandate. Several people tried to argue with the flight crew to no avail. They ended up purchasing masks at the airport. It's better to throw a few masks in your bag and not need them than to need them and not have them. Also, take proof of vaccination.
Not Trying All The Restaurants
I love a variety of cuisines, but my boys would be OK with cheeseburgers and pizza at every meal. I made them go with us to every specialty restaurant at our resort, and they loved them all. Their favorite restaurants were the Indian and the Japanese places. You're on vacation; try new things. If you hate it, you never have to try it again.
Not Going Up to Club/Butler Level
Not every all-inclusive resort has a club or butler level, but if there is ever a time to treat yourself, vacation is. Club and Butler rooms have so many extra amenities that the upgrade pays for itself. Private beach dining, couples massages, private pools & beaches, etc. can be yours with a club room. We didn't get the club level for our trip to Mexico. As I unpacked my suitcase (like a peasant, hahaha), I kicked myself for being so short-sighted. I adore pampering, and vacation is the only time I get to indulge my inner princess.
Most resorts include gratuities in the price, but I take a little extra $50 in small bills to tip servers and maids. The service I receive is much more attentive than people who don't tip. Want proof? After I left a $5 tip at the swim-up bar, the bartender started making my drink when he saw me heading his way. The staff works hard to ensure your trip is perfect; show them you appreciate their efforts.
Not Getting the Most Out of Your Package
People celebrating a big occasion (honeymoon, anniversary, birthday, etc.) often get extra amenities thrown in. Use them! The honeymooners next door were telling me that they hadn't thought to set up their private beach dining until the day before they were supposed to go home. When they went to the concierge to plan it, all the spots were full. Trust me on this point: you have paid for those complimentary amenities (usually by upgrading your room or staying longer). Get them scheduled on the day you arrive.
Understand what you purchased. All-inclusives are tricky, and it is easy to make mistakes. You can avoid significant errors but knowing what you bought. I hope this blog will help you navigate your journey, so you can avoid the mistakes I have made in the past.