6 Things You Need To Know About All-Inclusive Resorts

By: Lindsay MacNevin

The all-inclusive resort, where throngs of tourists convene to enjoy all the food, drink and sunshine they can handle. As wonderful as it sounds, there are a few things you should know before rushing to book that really cheap vacation package. To help you understand all-inclusive resorts, here are 6 things you should know about them.


6. All-Inclusive Doesn’t Always Include Everything

Back in the day when Club Med first introduced all-inclusive, they truly meant that everything was included, but as more resorts and even cruise ships got on board it became less “all” inclusive. Nowadays a lot of resorts charge extra for many amenities including top-shelf liquors, airport transfers, motorized water activities, and spa treatments. It seems that the more premium the perk, the more likely you will pay extra for it. Things such as off-site excursions can run up a large tab and don’t be surprised when you are asked to pay for things you once assumed were included. The good news, most everywhere includes all food and drinks, accommodations and normal amenities meaning you can still pay one price, as long as you stay within those parameters.


5. The Room Game

You are flipping through the bright colorful travel magazine or browsing pictures of the rooms on the website of the resort you are about to visit. Guess what, that pretty ocean facing room with the canopy bed and beautiful linens are probably not what you are going to receive when you get to the resort. Standard rooms are often not shown in books or on the websites unless you click many links to reach that one particular picture. Another fact that often gets left out to travelers is if the resort is under construction. This can happen one of two ways, first, you have booked and paid for your trip far enough in advance that the resort didn’t know that construction was planned. And let’s be honest they aren’t sending out emails to all future guests letting them know that. Or you booked online and simply didn’t notice the small print that was located somewhere on the website. Either way, it’s always good to check out the online boards, review sites, etc. when booking an all-inclusive.

room with a view

4. Welcome to Seclusion

Most all-inclusive resorts are surrounded by, well, other all-inclusive resorts. Investors have snatched up the expensive beachfront properties that no locals were able to afford, invested millions of dollars into building resorts and have surrounded themselves with other huge resorts. You are not going to find any sort of local culture to experience here. You won’t find local shops or restaurants in the area. What you will find is a mega-resort which provides all the restaurants, experiences and shopping you could want, that is if you are not interested in learning about or supporting the local economy. Some resorts even tell guests that it is dangerous to leave the resort, prompting them to stay put and spend more money at the resort. Just so you know, you probably aren’t helping the local economy by going to one of these resorts.

DC_Aperture / Shutterstock.com
DC_Aperture / Shutterstock.com

3. There are No Refunds

There are some things you just can’t control in life, and one of those things includes the weather, which can be a big factor when it comes to all-inclusive resorts, considering there are so many located in the Caribbean where they see hurricanes from May to October. Unfortunately for guests that have the misfortune of bad weather when they are at the resort, there isn’t much the resort can do for them. Even when a resort includes a “hurricane guarantee”, the fine print states something along the lines that the hurricane-force winds must hit the resort building. And even then if that does happen, the costs of fights are not refunded. To avoid this, it is recommended you purchase travel insurance, but consumers must be aware of what they buy and what it will cover.

bad weather


2. Don’t expect any Michelin-Star Restaurants

Although you are welcome to eat as much as you want at these all-inclusive resorts, as most of them offer some sort of food around the clock, you may not want to. Typically, cheaper all-inclusive resorts don’t offer the best food and the saying “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be truer. Expect to dine at a lot of buffets, unless of course, you make reservations in the restaurants as soon as you step foot onto the resort. Even then, don’t expect meals that are going to blow you away. It is important to note that there are all-inclusive resorts out there that offer fantastic restaurants, some you pay more for, and if food is really important to you when taking a vacation, we suggest reading the reviews.

fine dining

1. Tipping does go a Long Way

It literally pays to tip your bartender, your housekeeper, your server and everyone else you come in contact with who works at the resort. Unless of course, you are at a resort that doesn’t allow employees to accept tips. In all other cases though, if you want excellent, personalized service, make sure you show up with some extra cash. There are a couple of different ways to approach tipping, the first is to leave a big tip on the first day with the idea that they will take care of you the entire time. The other way is to tip as you go, a little more inconvenient when all you have on is a bathing suit but sometimes more effective. If tipping doesn’t interest you, don’t get upset when the guy sitting down the bar from you is getting fantastic service and you’re getting none. And don’t say we didn’t warn you.

pool bar