An all-inclusive resort is meant to provide a stress-free vacation for you; instead of constant flashing dollar signs in your head with every swipe of your credit card, everything is “free”. But any well-traveled expert would know that there are always the tiniest unsaid terms and conditions that lead to incurred charges. That certainly puts a damper on your holiday. Here are some hidden truths that you should know before booking an all-inclusive resort.
All-inclusive does not mean FOC for Everything
Your dream vacation might be lounging on the deck by an enormous infinity pool and sipping a margarita. Or spending the afternoon snorkeling and exploring the underwater world, followed up with a massage to relieve your aching muscles. Watch those dreams shatter when you find out the additional charges you would have to pay for each service. Read the fine print! Don’t be surprised if you do not have free access to all amenities of the resort. Depending on the package you bought, you probably have to pay extra for spa treatments or water-sport activities you’ve been hoping to try out.
For all hard drinkers, don’t be too disappointed that it’s not exactly the free-flowing alcohol buffet that you expected. The “heavy hitters” of alcoholic beverages such as whiskey, vodka or gin are likely not free-for-all. Even then, unlimited drinks such as cocktails or beers tend to be watered down. Though it might not be as satisfying, it’s probably the best idea to prevent a drunken mess. Just a fair warning, be prepared to avoid bumping into tipsy college students on a binge drinking spree. To all college students on spring break, here’s a toast to youth and good luck with that incessant hangover.
You're still going to have to Tip
Tipping practices differ across resorts and countries. However, tipping has seemingly become a norm; you tip for good service, or simply out of politeness. In North America for example, tipping is ingrained in their culture and it can be 15 to 20% of what the all-inclusive meal would actually cost. However, some all-inclusive hotels include gratuities in that lump sum paid up front for your stay. In fact, some resorts do not allow employees to accept tips to ensure all guests are treated equally.
For resorts that expect tipping? Arm yourself with cash and small change before you head to the resort. Good looks and mad flirting skills might catch the attention of the hunky bartender. But there’s no wiggling out of this for the average person like you and me. The standard excuse, “I don’t have cash on me” followed by a helpless shrug will get you nowhere. The tips dictate whether or not you get a constant flow of drinks and food.
On a more serious note, some resorts might be paying their employees a minimum wage. Living on the edge of poverty, many resort staff live off tips. A little goes a long way. Be rewarded with excellent service and attentiveness when you show a little bit of kindness by tipping a few extra dollars. Not everyone is a millionaire, but certainly, you can spare a little cash for the employees who work around the clock to make a comfortable stay for you.
You’re Divided by Social Status even on a Holiday
As if being stratified by class in our daily lives isn’t enough, we are reminded of that fact even on a vacation. Color-coded wristbands are given to all guests, marking the privileged VIP guests vs the ‘ordinary commoners’. While it’s a bit of an exaggeration, it sucks when you want to enter a private bar or lounge, only to be told: “You’re not on the list, it’s for VIP only”. Exclusive much? Pretty much, you get what you paid for. So if you’re hoping for a more luxurious vacation, fish out the big bucks to pamper yourself.
A small traveler’s tip for you: Don’t lose your wristband! That wristband gives you access to all facilities of the resort, from restaurants to bars and the fitness center. You’re required to return the wristbands at check-out and if you’ve lost it, prepare to pay a fine, a considerable sum of up to $100.
Perhaps the most aggravating and annoying thing might be the horrible tan line that wristband leaves on your wrist; a constant reminder and the only souvenir from your stay at the resort.
Fight for reservations at the restaurants
Remember the numerous dining options that were available in your package deal? For an opportunity to enjoy the fine-dining experience at all-inclusive restaurants, you have to make reservations as there is limited space.
If luck is not on your side and you are unfortunate enough to not get a reservation, you’ll be relegated to the buffet-style dining area, served with the same limited cuisines every day. No one is looking forward to that boring and unappetizing meal.
On the off-chance that you were early enough and you managed to get a table in one of the fine-dining restaurants, be prepared to swipe your credit card. The gourmet in you might long for an exquisite filet mignon or a fresh juicy lobster. But those decadent cuisines are bound to incur additional charges. Settle for house wines instead of an expensive bottle of Chardonnay if you don’t want to burn a hole in your wallet.
Competition is Fierce
After extensive surfing on Groupon, you’ve chanced upon that amazing exclusive one-time only deal. You might have thought luck was on your side, God was watching over you, the universe had your back; your prayers had been answered. You bought the package deal thinking it would make an amazing family vacation. But the average joe is likely to have bought the same discounted package deal as you. This all-inclusive resort is about to be overrun with cheapskates and self-entitled visitors looking to take advantage of all the free amenities.
With everyone fighting for a lounge chair, pool floats and piña coladas, you’re wondering if it’s even possible to get a tea sandwich. Look out for the hordes of unruly screaming children playing at the pool ruining any chance of a relaxing afternoon.
Well, there’s no such thing as a free lunch in the world. Still, go on ahead and book a stay in an all-inclusive resort. Just enjoy a few days of seemingly free food and drinks and conveniently forget the huge lump sum that was deducted from your bank account. It’s all worth it.