For busy parents, an all-inclusive vacation can be a stress-free break from the chaos at home. No cooking, no cleaning up, no zipping all over town to make swimming, dance, and T-Ball practice on the same day. And for those of us who face less than stellar winter weather, the warm tropical sun provides a much-needed escape from endless rain and snow-shovel duty! But booking the right all-inclusive involves more than clicking through a few photos, or perusing through questionable TripAdvisor reviews. Nor should you rely solely on the recommendation of friends! Why? Because you (and your family) might have different needs, tastes, preferences, and desires than your friends. Shouldn't your choice reflect what you want?
Of course, it should!
With more than twenty years of expertise in the travel industry, I've organized tens of thousands of all-inclusive vacations. During every consultation, my goal is to plan and facilitate a vacation the entire family will love. Of course, no vacation is truly perfect, but we can set the stage. So before you go ahead and book your all-inclusive trip online by yourself, have a look through these helpful all-inclusive vacation tips and let me know if you need any help.
No one likes to talk about money. Well, some folks do. But no one likes to think about limitations when it comes to their vacation. Unfortunately, all-inclusive vacation packages have increased exponentially, and the days of snagging a five-star deal for a family of four for under 5K are coming to a fast close. Mexico was one of the number one travel destinations in 2022, and that didn't make things any cheaper. Establishing how much you have to spend will help your favourite travel advisor determine which portfolio to look at for you. And remember, you don't have to pay for your entire vacation up front - You can pay a deposit and your final payment date isn't generally until 45 days prior to your trip departure.
Research the destination and location of the all-inclusive resort. Are you open to connecting flights or are you only willing to take a non-stop flight? How remote do you want your resort to be? Are you fussed about whether you're right on the beach? Do you want to be close to a town or city centre? Do you want to cut down on transfer times to attractions and excursions by staying nearby? Location can make or break your trip, so before you focus on a particular resort, find out if it's where it is!
3. You Don't Have to Book a Package!
Don't want to spend a full week in destination? Want to book your flights on points and book your resort separately? Want to divide your time between different resorts? You are not restricted to booking yourself in for a week, ten days, or two weeks. Yes, charter flights have limited schedules, meaning if you want a non-stop flight, your choices are few. But if you have the flexibility and you're willing to connect somewhere along the way, you can have a fully customized resort experience.
4. Dining Options
Any vegans in the group? Vegetarians? Are you gluten-free or celiac? Being able to access high-quality, nutritious, dietary-specific options is essential. This information can be difficult to find online. Most experienced travel professionals belong to specialized consortiums, and Facebook groups as well as have close relationships with resort managers and business development managers who can help with any dietary requirements.
5. Is There Enough to Do at Your Resort?
One of the reasons families love all-inclusives is because you don't deal with the tedium of trying to find things for the kids to do! No one wants to hear the words 'I'm bored' uttered on a holiday, and if you choose the right resort, you don't have to. Parents can look forward to elaborate water parks, supervised kids clubs, arcades, games rooms, play areas, and entertainment tailor-made for children and teens of all ages. And for those travelling without kiddos, there is a variety of adult-only options that offer ambiance for every type of kid-free traveller.
6. What Do the Reviews Say?
I always tell my clients to tread carefully with this point. It's easy to get lost down the TripAdvisor rabbit hole. And one bad review can be enough to throw you off. Pay close attention to what past guests are complaining about, and use common sense. Be mindful of catastrophic, overdramatic language. Some folks allow small things to 'ruin their entire vacations,' when a simple conversation with front desk staff could easily remedy a situation. Travel advisors are a great resource because it's not in their best interest to send you to a resort you won't like - we want your repeat business!
7. Safety & Security
This is another relative topic; what do you require to make you feel safe? I recently returned from a trip to the Dominican, a destination marred with warnings about safety and resort theft. Neither my travel companion nor myself faced a single situation in which we felt unsafe. We didn't have anything stolen (even after forgetting to lock our safe on several occasions!) In saying that, it is important to stay at a property that has well-maintained facilities, has emergency protocols in place, and a front desk that is willing and cooperative in case you do need to enlist their help.
8. Transfer Time from the Airport
With the explosion of resort construction and renovations, as well as a sharp increase in travellers to resort destinations, transfer times between the airport and resorts have also become lengthier. Last year, the highway between Cancun International and the Mayan Riviera underwent a major construction project, causing transfer havoc - Transfer times could be as long as four hours. And after a 6-7 hour flight, that's frustrating. One of the best ways to cut down on these long transfer times is to skip out on the 'milk-run-type' shared transfers and opt for private transfers. Yes, they cost more, but it means you get to hit the start button on your vacation much sooner!
9. Hidden Costs & Extras
One of the best aspects of booking an all-inclusive was just that, your vacation was all-inclusive! In saying that, tips have always been extra, but with the increase in operating costs, resorts are starting to make tourists pay more for their stays. So be prepared to shell out more in tips, more for your spa services, more for premium liquor, and in the case of some resorts, you could be paying to dine at specialty restaurants. Your favourite travel advisor can help you determine which resorts are including more in their package pricing so you're not dealing with sticker shock when you arrive.
10. Read the Fine Print!
What's the cancellation policy? Is your package changeable? If you're booking a group, what happens if someone cancels? Just an FYI, all-inclusive packages are some of the most restrictive vacation packages! I could give an entire seminar on the complications of changing a resort, a name, or a date, and I guarantee it would make you scratch your head! So first things first, be prepared to purchase insurance! Find out what type of coverage the supplier is offering ( I always offer this when I quote my guests), and of course, check with your credit card company to see what sort of protection you have there.
11. Accessibility & Inclusion
This really should be the first consideration when booking any trip, not just an
all-inclusive. Over half of my guests have mobility, accessibility, and neurodiversity needs - this is a norm destinations are finally starting to address. Zero-entry pools, elevators accessible rooms, dining areas, and beaches are all important, as well as programs for families with autism and neurodiversity. EVERYONE deserves to have an incredible vacation, and there are options out there - Let's find them for you!
I hope this list helps you feel more prepared when you sit down to put your next all-inclusive vacation together. The resort vacation landscape has changed dramatically since the pandemic and my goal is to help you navigate it successfully and get the vacation you want!
Ready to start shopping for your next trip? I'm here to help!