How to Pick Your All-Inclusive Honeymoon Resort
You might well think that booking a stay at an all-inclusive resort means that everything you paid in full, but you'd most likely be entirely wrong. No two all-inclusive resorts are the same. Packages will vary from resort to resort, sometimes packages vary in mind-boggling ways.
You don't want a massive bill at the end of your stay because you didn't understand what the resort you picked meant by "all-inclusive." I highly recommend working with an expert to help you wade through all of the available options. But if you want to do the research yourself, here are tips on how to pick your all-inclusive honeymoon resort.
Do your research!
Very few people do their due diligence when it comes to resorts, but it's essential. All hotels are required by law to precisely explain what the price includes. I suggest going through the packages line by line and noting differences between resorts you like. The less expensive alternatives do have to make a profit, and they sometimes do this by limiting their packages. One of the easiest places a resort can cut costs is on the food and drink quality.
Meals – Many resorts limit the number of sit-down meals you can have as part of your "all-inclusive" package. For instance, some hotels allow only three a la carte dinners for every seven days you stay. You can plan on having all of your other meals at the buffet and assume you will be dining on chicken strips.
Drinks – You want to watch for clauses such as: "Unlimited Domestic Beverages." Domestic is an essential word in this statement! For example, if you are honeymooning in Mexico, you could have as much Mexican soda and Mexican beer as you wish. But expect a bill if you ask for a Pepsi or a Bud Light. If you were aware of this policy going in, this wouldn't cause a huge problem. You don't want a surprise bill at check-out because you didn't read the fine print.
Room Service – Make sure you are aware of the policies regarding room service. Generally, the less expensive resorts will charge a fee for room service and often have minimal hours. And lookout for a "mini-bar restocking fee," which can be as much as $50 in some resorts.
Pay Attention to Room Categories
Everyone knows that if you pay more, the room is better. But did you know that suite choice can affect every part of your trip? Many all-inclusive resorts penalize people for picking the least expensive accommodations. Yes, the dreaded colored bracelets! They are color-coded so that staff can easily differentiate among the Have's and the Have Nots.
Many resorts have select beach areas, pools, and restaurants off-limits to most guests. If you pay for the upgraded suite, you get the private beach beds, avoid fighting over beach chairs, butler service, etc. The more inexpensive the room, the worse the location. Imagine having to walk 10 minutes just to lay eyes on the beach. Also, remember you could be near noisy kid's clubs and nightclubs.
Typical room categories
Garden View - no view and usually the least expensive and smallest rooms.
Partial Ocean View - not worth the extra expense, in my opinion, because resorts call any room with the tiniest sliver of blue visible partial ocean view. Save your money and do the garden view.
Ocean View - full non-obstructed ocean view, but you are not necessarily on the beach.
Ocean Front - full non-obstructed ocean view, but you are closer to the beach.
Swim Out - room opens directly into a pool.
Walk Out - the room is on the first floor and opens to the beach.
Private Pool - room has a private pool. Please note that plunge-pools are small.
Overwater Bungalow - private villa on stilts over the water.
To Club Level or Not
I often have clients ask me if they should upgrade to the club level at their chosen resort. And the answer depends on the resort. Like the all-inclusive packages themselves, club level amenities vary significantly from resort to resort. You want the most bang for your buck, so if the club amenities significantly improve your experience, then go for it. Often resorts will offer you an upgraded honeymoon package if you upgrade to a club or butler category room. These honeymoon packages can come with couple's massages, private beach dinners, pre-reserved Bali Beds, etc. These inclusions will improve your experience if and only if you use them! If you aren't interested in lying or dining on the beach, the extra complimentary amenities wouldn't be worth the increased price that comes with the upgraded room. If you are on the fence about an upgrade, price out the inclusions separately to see if you can save more money paying for a Club Room or not.
Reviews, Reviews & Reviews
Let me help you; I can make your life so much easier! Or if you choose to go it alone, keep in mind everything I discussed above and then read reviews of the resorts, you are considering! Read lots and lots of reviews. You really can't read too many.
Note on Reviews:
Reviews are not equal, either.
Take the reviews with a grain of salt. Some people are always happy, and others are miserable.
Resorts have paid for good reviews, and some hotels have tried to ruin the competition with bad reviews.
I prefer reviews written by travel professionals. When I review a hotel, I highlight the good and the bad. I have no ulterior motives. I want to help you pick the best spot for you, and you can't do that without a full picture of the options.
Look for trends in the reviews; if one person says that the food sucks, it's probably a one-off. But if you read 50 reviews and multiple people say the food is terrible, the restaurants are probably subpar.
A good photographer can make an okay resort look fantastic. So I use TripAdvisor exclusively for pictures from guests. The images are not photoshopped so that you can get a feel for the resort.
You have to use some judgment concerning some reviews, but if there's a constant theme to the reviews, you'd be wise to pay attention.
Don't get me wrong; I love all-inclusive resorts. However, all-inclusive resorts are not equal. And while you don't have to break the bank to get excellent value for your money, you aren't going to get a luxury honeymoon for a bargain-basement price. So, you need to make a list of your "Must-Haves," and then let me help you find the all-inclusive resort that meets your needs at the best possible price. I can help you pick your all-inclusive honeymoon resort. If you want to learn more about resorts, read my Avoid the Mistakes Every All-Inclusive Rookie Makes.