Things to consider when choosing an all-inclusive resort
The hardest part about booking your all-inclusive vacation is deciding which resort to choose. It’s all sunshine and beaches from there. With the help of an expert, you can rest assured that someone has taken the time to do the research for you. Here are some things to think about before taking the plunge with your credit card:
Food sometimes gets a bad rep at resorts – but that shouldn’t be the case. There’s nothing worse than unsanitary kitchens, lack-luster menus, a small selection of fresh foods, and watery drinks when everything else is paradise. For those concerned with food quality and selection, some chains like Iberostar Hotels and Resorts and Karisma Hotels and Resorts pride themselves on offering outstanding food.
Some things you may want to ask yourself is:
- Do I need to make reservations at the a la carte restaurants? Some hotels and restaurants require them and some don’t.
- Is there a limit to the number of a la carte restaurants I can visit in a week? Is there a specific time (or a best time) to reserve an a la carte restaurant because of limited space (for example, each morning or upon arrival for the entire week)?
- Is there a dress code? Men may need to bring long pants, a collared shirt, and closed-toe shoes for elegant dining.
- Any there any extra fees at the a la carte restaurants? Sometimes there will be a gourmet restaurant at an extra charge, or premium menu items such as lobster or steak that cost extra.
- Are there premium liquors and wines available for purchase?
- Are the mini bar items free?
- Is room service free?
Depending on your preferences, this can help you budget for extra spending money on the resort.
The level of service at a resort can make or break its reputation. The difference between a 3-star resort and 5-star resort is in large part, the difference between attentive, welcoming staff and disassociated staff. A service-oriented resort can compensate for other sub-par aspects of the property, whereas a resort with inferior service and cause a 5-star resort ground-wise to lose points.
Good service is prompt, attentive, efficient, and kind. Employees know guests by name, know their drink orders, accommodate special requests, and offer services like concierge and pool and beach butler service. It’s important to have a sufficient staff-to-guest ratio to ensure exceptional service. Bad service occurs when there are long line ups, negative attitudes, unaccommodating staff, overbooking rooms, slow service for drinks, and other wait times.
Some resorts go above and beyond to ensure your stay is 5-star: they offer a welcome drink upon arrival, cold towel, cucumbers for your eyes, complimentary magazines and sunscreen, a butler to prepare your bath, etc. Of course, the level of service is usually related to the price: you get what you pay for. Reading reviews is often a good way to get a feel for the service.
Remember that tipping is appreciated for services, though it shouldn’t be required for good service. Exchange currency at home, at the airport, or at the hotel into small bills for tipping bartenders, servers, housekeepers, etc. Know the culture or the resort’s tipping policy; be discreet. Many people in the industry depend on these tips for their income.
There’s nothing like wanting a relaxing holiday away from your kids and ending up surrounded by screaming kids at the waterpark or wanting to enjoy loads of activities and socializing only to find you booked an intimate, quiet property. Choosing the right atmosphere for you, whether that is adults only, family friendly, romantic, quiet, or lively, means doing a little bit of research.
At some popular, larger resorts, high season might mean having to snag a chair at the beach. Some resorts force you to listen to loud music all day long by the pool while others have separate areas to accommodate how you’re feeling so you can choose to lounge by the activities pool or by the quiet pool. Chatting with someone who’s been there, reading reviews, or skimming the resort website should give you an idea of the atmosphere.
The range of activities are related to the atmosphere. At a resort catered to families, you may find a waterpark, mini golf, playground, and games room. At a resort focused on romance, you may find activities like wine tasting, couple’s massages, and dance lessons.
Find out which watersports are included. Usually non-motorized water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding are available free of charge for an hour per day. Scuba diving is typically extra and requires training in the pool.
When you arrive, find out what the entertainment schedule is like in case there are multiple events a night and you want to choose your favourite.
Be specific if you want a resort with great golf, scuba, spas, fitness centers, nightlife, sightseeing, etc. If all you want to do is lay on the beach – or walk along it – you’ll want to make sure the beach is up to par – whether it be long, wide, clean, seaweed-free, no rocks, etc. This is where our trip matchmaker tool comes in – you can rank your preferences in order of importance.
Whether you’re still deciding on a country, city, or down to the resort level, thinking about where you’ll spend your luxurious week away is part of the fun. Your destination will affect things like the price point, travel distance, health concerns (like Zika), and weather (hurricane season is more prevalent is some islands than others).
Certain activities are more celebrated in certain places, for example, if you’re searching for superb golf or scuba. Or, you may want to book your trip around a local festival or concert.
Keep in mind that star ratings differ between destinations too. Since they are subjective and there is no central rating system, a 5 star in one destination may not be up to par in another. A 5-star in Cuba is not the same quality as a 5-star in Jamaica.
When choosing a resort, you may also want to think about how far it is from the airport. Do you dread 2 hour transfers with the kids after a long flight? Do you prefer to be close to a city center for excursions and cultural visits?
Remember, if you’re more flexible with your destination, you’re more likely to find a better deal.
Most services at a resort are included in your vacation package, but there may be some you’ll want some extra cash for – or at least know the price before you go.
For an enhanced experience, “club” rooms are often available and grant access to exclusive areas and special perks like premium rooms, exclusive pools and restaurants, etc.
Spa treatments are usually extra, but can you use the facilities like hydrotherapy pools and sauna for free?
Non-motorized sports are usually free, but are there limits in the fine print (i.e. an hour each day?)
Is wi-fi free? Is it only available in the lobby? Is it a destination with a secure connection?
Do you have to pay for a hotel safe, premium beverages, upscale menu items like lobster and steak, room service, etc.?
While all of these aspects of choosing a resort can seem daunting, luckily, tripcentral.ca has travel agents who have actually been to hundreds of resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico. They can provide personalized recommendations based on your budget and preferences – all you have to do is start daydreaming.