What to Ask Before Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort

Beach chairs in MexicoThe all-inclusive resort.

From the beaches of the Dominican Republic to the mountains of Utah, there are so-called all-inclusive resorts in just about every part of the world though they’re particularly popular in the Caribbean and on beachfront property. For some people, the idea of staying somewhere that requires no effort is appealing while other people shudder at the thought of staying in one place for longer than a day.

Regardless of what type of traveler you are, if you’re new at the all-inclusive resort scene but are thinking about staying at one, there are a few things you should ask before booking your stay.

How all-inclusive is this joint anyway? All-inclusive doesn’t necessarily mean all-inclusive. In fact, in most cases, there are at least a few things that are not added into the package price. At the most basic level, all-inclusive resorts include a room and at least a small assortment of dining options to choose from. In some cases, alcoholic drinks and access to fitness rooms, additional restaurants and water sport equipment may be included. However, in almost all instances, spa treatments and off-site excursions are not included.

Do I have to tip? That depends. Some all-inclusive properties include gratuity in the vacation packages while others do not. For those that include gratuity, it is okay to leave an extra something for staff members who go above and beyond what is expected.

Bathrobe in hotelShould I just opt for the best package because it has the most stuff? Many resorts offer a few different packages of inclusiveness, and in order to get the most bang for your buck, you’re best off just choosing the package that’s best for you. There’s no reason to opt for the most inclusive package just because it’s there. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of all the services, then go with a package that really makes the most sense for your vacation needs.

What about kids? If you’ve got them, look for a family friendly resort. If you prefer to enjoy your vacation without munchkins, choose an adults-only property. Activities and atmosphere definitely differ between the two types of all-inclusive resorts.

Do I really have my pick of alcohol? At some all-inclusive resorts, all alcoholic beverages are included in the price. However, some state that only domestic alcohol is part of the package. If you’re a connoisseur of particular brands, check into the alcohol policy before booking.

Should I package it up with a bow? Vacation packages complete with accommodations and airfare are tempting, but do the math before you put a credit card down. It may actually be cheaper to book your flight and hotel separately from each other. This is especially true if you have a few spare frequent flyer miles sitting around.

How do I leave once I’m there? Many people who stay at all-inclusive resorts honestly have no interest in leaving the grounds, but even the most leisurely travelers may want a day away. Most all-inclusive properties have concierge desks with information on local tours, and, at the very least, you can probably call a cab. Many of these properties are a bit redundant in structure on the shores of tropical islands that are also developing nations, so be prepared for a harsh immersion into reality when you leave the safety and comfort of your resort.

Can I spend more time off the property than on? Absolutely, but if you are truly interested in staying and playing locally, check the prices at area hotels and consider bypassing the all-inclusive option.

7 Responses to “What to Ask Before Staying at an All-Inclusive Resort”

  1. Candice

    I’ve done the all-inclusive twice, in Mexico, and loooved it. I think everyone needs a good REAL vacation sometimes…nothing to do but mellow out on the beach. Agh.

    • JoAnna

      My husband and I are going on our first all-inclusive vacation together this winter, and I’m looking forward to total and complete relaxation.

  2. Abby

    I’ve never stayed at an all-inclusive. I tried once, and it was a disaster. Some pre-research would have helped! Wish I had this post then. ;-0

    • JoAnna

      So sorry to hear it was a disaster! Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some skeezy all-inclusives out there. I also check the Trip Advisor ratings to see what I’m getting into before booking so there are no surprises.

  3. James Anderson

    It’s great that you’ve mentioned that one should choose a family-friendly resort if one intends to stay at an all-inclusive resort with the kids. My wife and I want to have some time off since it’s their vacation from school as well, and we are planning to do it in a resort. I’ll mention this to my wife so that we can choose a resort that allows kids or have amenities for children.

    • Shelly

      You could consider Sunny Hill Resort in the Catskills (https://www.sunnyhill.com/). They are one of the best family-friendly all-inclusive resorts I am aware of. They have everything from fishing, a 5-mile obstacle course, military vehicles that the kids can ride in, Friday night fireworks and lake parties, pools and splash pads, day trips to excursions, 2 full golf courses, and a spa. It’s amazing and great for kids, parents, couples, and grandparents alike!

  4. Derek McDoogle

    I like how you mentioned that at some all-inclusive resorts, all alcoholic beverages are included in the price. My friends and I are planning to go on a trip and we would like to stay in the resort. I will definitely ask them to help me look for a place where we all feel good.


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