All-Inclusive Tips You Need to Know Before You Go
Updated: Jun 22, 2020
My number one honeymoon resort request is for all-inclusive resorts. These resorts are fantastic and growing in popularity, and they are popping up in new and exciting destinations, like Italy and Spain. All-inclusive resorts offer great value and the freedom of knowing what you will pay upfront. But all-inclusive resorts can be confusing. I have developed a list of tips to help you navigate planning a trip to and staying at one. These are not for a particular resort. If you have questions about a specific hotel, let me know, and we can go over details for it specifically. Here are all-inclusive tips you need to know before you go.
Watch for fees
Every all-inclusive resort is different. And they do not offer the same amenities—some charge for things like international beverages, a la carte dining, and snorkeling. Make sure you understand everything that is and is not part of your package. If the resort doesn't include premium alcohol, and you get a bottle of wine, you will pay for it at check-out.
Beach quality varies
A major draw at most all-inclusive resorts is the beach. Imagine you arrive and find a small, crowded beach with more seaweed than sand, yuck! Or how about getting to Cabo only to learn that the beach isn't swimmable at all. Do your research to find a resort with a beach that suits your needs or hire me, and I will direct you to the perfect retreat for you.
Preferred Rooms offer higher level of service.
Rooms at all-inclusive resorts are not all the same. Butler, club, and standard levels are common categories. Butler offers the highest level of service, and they will have the best locations. Club rooms are the middle tier, and standard rooms are the lowest tier. Pick the type of suite that fits you the best. I usually choose a club or a butler because I'm a princess and need to feel special.
Get the paperwork
Have a paper or digital copy of your confirmation with you for check-in. It is proof of exactly what you booked. You will quickly resolve any issues when you have evidence.
Extras and activities can get expensive You might think that you have pre-paid for everything, but few resorts are truly all-inclusive. You will pay extra for excursions, golf, SCUBA, wave runners, spa treatments, private dinners. Extras can add up quickly, and the charge won't show up until check-out. Don't get caught unaware.
Cultural immersion is usually not possible
All-inclusive resorts lie in some of the most exotic and iconic islands and cities. They want to keep you at the resort, and they want you to get your money's worth. Resorts pack their schedules with a myriad of activities designed to keep you on property. The only problem is you won't experience the destination on the property. Do you want to get to know the island or its people? Leave the resort.
Reservations may be needed
Some resorts require dinner reservations at the sit-down restaurants, and they fill quickly. If your resort requires or encourages reservations, make them early. The lines are long, and the best restaurants fill up first.
Food quality varies
If you are a food lover, you need to pick a luxury all-inclusive! In general, the food at most all-inclusive resorts is not great. Think lots of buffets with pizza and chicken nuggets. Luxury 5-star resort will have more fresh offerings with a variety of cuisines.
Know the wifi policies
Don't assume wifi will be available or included in your price. Make sure you check before you book any resort. Also, don't expect the quality will be up to American standards. Resorts on tiny islands in the middle of the ocean often have spotty wifi!
Gratuities may or may not be included
At most all-inclusive resorts, the price includes tips; the excellent resorts anyway! You do have to tip butlers, hairdressers, caddies, and spa staff. Even though tips are usually covered, I give small amounts to waitstaff, drivers, maids, and porters. The team at resorts work so hard, and they make so little! A few extra dollars is significant for them, and they will reward you with spectacular service. I suggest bringing $75-100 in small bills exclusively for tipping.
Wristbands are usually madatory
Guard them with Your Life! Not all resorts use them, but the ones that do are very serious about protecting them. Wristbands are your access pass. The staff does not know you, so if you lose your band, a stranger will be enjoying your trip. Many resorts charge a hefty fee to replace it. You can be charged upwards of $75 for every day you have left of your vacation. Say you lose your wristband on day 2 of a 7-day trip; you will owe $450. Also, some resorts charge a fee if you do not turn it in at check out.
Beware of sectioning
Many resorts use wristbands to section the haves from the have nots. Usually, the bands are color-coded. You will find that restaurants, bars, pools, and even parts of the beach are off-limits if you have the wrong color bracelet. Sectioning is standard in resorts that offer VIP Clubs.
Dress codes can be strict
Almost every all-inclusive have dress codes. Day time tends to be pretty casual. In the evenings, you will find that they are more strict with the attire. Most dinner restaurants require you to dress up a little more. Swimsuits, flip flops, and cover-ups are not allowed at a la carte restaurant at night.
You most likely not need to pack shampoo, conditioner, and hairdryers because most resorts offer these in the rooms. You may not need it, but pack tampons, sunscreen, Tylenol, etc. You will not find these in your suite. They will be available for purchase at the gift shop, but the prices will be high. I paid $30 for 10 Tylenol in Mexico. Don't pack towels. The resorts will have plenty, and they take up a ton of room in your suitcase.
Airlines charge enormous fees for bags weighing over 50LBs and 62 inches (these are general guidelines, check with your airline for specifics)
Your transfer from the airport to the resort and back should be part of your package.
DO NOT get into any vehicle from a company not mentioned in your travel documents. Time Shares are notorious for offering "free transfers" that all end at their property
Call for Return Transfers: most transfer companies require you to call them at least 24 hours before departure. They will let you know the time and location that they will pick you up at the resort. Be there waiting at the appropriate time. The drivers have lots of clients, and they won't wait long.
Celebration travel might be rewarded
If you are newlyweds, an anniversary couple, or celebrating a birthday, let the resort know. Many resorts offer complimentary celebration packages, but you will have to show proof to receive the extra amenities.
All-inclusive resorts are a fantastic idea, but they come in all shapes and sizes. Picking the right one for you can be a challenge. Here are my all-inclusive tips you need to know before you go. Have I missed anything? Want to learn more about all-inclusive resorts? Check out Romantic Caribbean Resorts with Overwater Bungalows, Best Luxury All-Inclusive Resorts in the World (Part 1) and (Part 2)
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