Do set a vacation budget. — Before planning your trip, make sure you have a solid budget in place. The last thing you want is to get your relax on, then come home to a stressful pile full of bills you can’t cover. Search for hotels and flights within your budget, then think about any excursions you may wish to take. I’ve found most people do best when they keep a travel fund in an account they don’t normally touch. This helps them not spend it prematurely, plus it’s fun to watch it grow! Use this simple sinking funds technique to get started.
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Don’t forget to include tips. — Even though it’s an “all-inclusive resort,” most don’t include your tips. (Some hotels do and will let you know that tips are not allowed.) Like service industry workers back home, many resort employees depend on tips to supplement their incomes. Include the cost of tips in your travel budget, and just consider them part of your trip. Generally speaking, USD is preferred, so just bring a stack of ones with you for meals, drinks, and housekeeping. I find that bringing $100-$200 for a week is usually plenty.
Do consider value and price point. — I’ve stayed at all different types of all-inclusive resorts, from luxury resorts charging $1,200 a night to budget-friendly all-inclusive where you can stay a week for less than 2 grand. While luxury resorts typically have a little better food, service, and nicer rooms, it comes down to how much you value those items and the type of trip you’re taking. For instance, you may be willing to pay more for a romantic retreat than you would on. a trip with the kids. Consider the level of pampering you need, then compare that to the budget you can afford.
Don’t think “luxury” means “better” beach. — If you’re on a tight budget, consider staying at a cheaper resort. For me, traveling to the Caribbean isn’t about pampering; it’s about the sun and the beach! Standard resorts usually cost 2 to 4 times less than luxury resorts even when sharing the same stretch of beach! If you don’t spend much time in your room anyway, you can find great value and beautiful beaches for far less.
Planning for Arrival
Do read reviews. — One of the best ways to compare resorts is to read reviews from others who have stayed there. These reviews give you a good idea of a resort’s value and are chock full of information about what you can expect. When we’re deciding on a hotel, we’ll read as many reviews as we can find. We also spend hours reading reviews on Trip Advisor. Honestly, reviews almost always influence our choice of accommodations.
Don’t believe everything you read. — Although reviews are great, it’s important to remember that you should take each review with a grain of salt. Hotel reviewers are notorious for complaining about little things. I swear to God, I’ve read reviews where people complained about cracks in the sidewalk… for reals. So, if a resort gets mostly good reviews, it’s probably a safe bet that you’ll enjoy your stay — unless you hate sidewalk cracks. In that case, you probably won’t be happy anywhere.
To assess the restaurant situation. — Each all-inclusive resort handles its restaurants a bit differently. At most resorts, you’ll have a number of spots to choose from throughout the day. However, you may only be allowed to eat in some of them once. Most on-property dinner spots will require reservations, and some resorts allow you to eat at restaurants located at their sister properties. Still, other places have premium restaurants that are included for an upcharge. It’s good practice to know how the restaurants work before booking your stay.
Don’t assume “cheaper” means bad food. — While you can expect luxury all-inclusive to serve restaurant-quality food, don’t assume the food at standard resorts is sub-par. Many affordable all-inclusive resorts have food that is very good to excellent — especially at the dinner spots. Again, you can find plenty of information by reading reviews before you book.
Don’t forget to check the dress code. — Speaking of clothing, don’t forget to check the dress code. Many resorts require certain attire to be worn at dinner. For ladies, a few beachy dresses will usually suffice. Men may need long pants, a button-up shirt, and closed-toe shoes.