All-inclusive vacations have become extremely popular over the last decade. They offer a great level of luxury, rest, and relaxation at a really competitive price point. There are so many choices now throughout the Caribbean and the vacation model is starting to gain popularity throughout Europe now too.
The volume of choices and locations on offer can be quite daunting when you’re researching your next vacation, especially if you have never stayed in an all-inclusive resort before. Personal recommendations are always one of the best ways to go when choosing a resort and having experienced a large volume of resorts we have detailed the key questions to research before booking your next vacation.
What Questions to Ask?
What is the Meal Plan on offer?
The first step in relation to understanding the food offering is to make sure that it’s a full meal plan as part of the all-inclusive package. Some resorts do offer half board, which will include lunch during your stay. Some resorts don’t include room service in the all-inclusive package. So, before you travel understand exactly how many meals you are entitled to during your stay.
What is the ratio of restaurants to guests?
The ratio of services to guests is an important thing to look at for a number of elements when reviewing an all-inclusive resort. One of the parts of this is to review the number of restaurants for guests. This is important as if there aren’t enough restaurants there will be queues or it will be difficult to get reservations throughout your stay. Ideally, you should be looking at a ratio of 50:1, so for every 50 guests, there should be one restaurant.
How does the food rank?
If there are websites like InspoVacay that have standalone reviews on resorts, be sure to check out the feedback on the quality of food there. If you couple this feedback with the ratings on the review sites like TripAdvisor and Google reviews you can get a good understanding of the quality of food on offer. Food is an integral part of any vacation and typically when you go to an all-inclusive resort, you rarely eat outside of it. As you are paying to eat at the resort as part of your package. So, making sure the food is up to your standards is vital.
Is it a family or an adults-only resort?
There are typically different demographics that all-inclusive resorts target. Making sure that the type of resort is orientated towards the experience that you want is important. Typically they are broken down by family or adults-only resorts. Family resorts will be open to all age groups and there will typically be a number of features that cater to families.
These will be things like extensive kids clubs, kids menus throughout the restaurants. Childminding services for infants and elements that will generally make your vacation run smoother if you’re traveling as a family.
That’s not to say that these resorts are only for families. A lot of resorts will have both adults-only and family areas. Resorts like the Finest Playa Mujeres are great examples of a resort that creates a level of separation depending on the type of vacation you want. They achieve this level of separation with things like Kids pools and arcades, adults-only restaurants, and having rooms where most families are put and a separate area of rooms for adults.
For adult resorts, there are also different experiences on offer. For example, some resorts are targeted more towards a party atmosphere or aimed towards seniors, so making sure that the resort meets your needs is essential.
Is Tipping expected at the resort?
Tipping is something that we bake into the cost of the vacation for every trip we take, but in some resorts especially if you’re traveling to Europe. Tipping is not expected. For all resorts in the Caribbean, it is customary to tip, so you should plan accordingly.
In general, we tip in USD if we are going to a resort in the Caribbean. The staff is normally more than happy to take tips in any currency. As a rule of thumb, we tip $1 for every drink that we order. Be those alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, whatever it is we tip $1.
For meals, we typically tip between $5 – $10 per meal. The amount will depend on the quality of the service as well as the time of the meal. For instance, we typically tip on the lower end for breakfast and the higher end for dinner.
Are there Top shelf liquor options and what’s the wine situation?
Some resorts only carry local liquor brands. While they will carry all types of liquor, you just won’t likely be as familiar with the drinks on offer. If this is a priority for you, then make sure that the resort you’re looking at carries international and top-shelf brands. This will typically be called out on the resort’s website on the food and drink page.
Even if a resort carries international brands, all resorts are not created equal. Some resorts carry premium options like Johnny Walker Black, Hendriks Gin, and Absolute Vodka to name a few. A number of resorts elevate the drinks offering even more by carrying the likes of Grey Goose Vodka, Patron, and Hennesey. These premium drinks will typically be only available if the resort has a premium club offering that comes at an additional cost.
What amenities and entertainment is available at the resort?
Having things to do at the resort throughout your stay is integral. You will most likely be spending the majority of your time within its complex. So, the more activities to keep you entertained the better.
Although we at InspoVacay would more than happily spend the day by the pool with a pina colada. It is nice to have the option to use the amenities and go to some of the entertainment. The typical lineup of entertainment will be musical and dance shows, cooking and dancing classes, water aerobics, and tequila tasting to name a few. There are also usually a number of amenities to make use of. Usually, there will be tennis and basketball courts, table tennis tables, arcades, pools, jacuzzis, and gyms to name a few.
What exactly is included in the package?
Most all-inclusive resorts have a baseline level of features included in the overall package. Food, drinks, entertainment, and use of amenities are usually included in most packages. The part that needs to be researched is the level of these elements that are included in the package.
Some resorts have a heavy amount of surcharges for experience and things throughout the resort. Elements like airport transfers are sometimes included. It’s these hidden fees that you need to research. For example, some resorts will add in a surcharge for certain restaurants and activities, so just confirm what’s included before booking so that you can budget appropriately.
Make sure to ask questions when you check-in?
Once you have decided on a resort, book the vacation and arrive at the resort. It’s important that you arm yourself with all the information possible to make sure you are making the most of your vacation.
For instance, knowing if there are bookings needed for the restaurants is important. Are there restaurants closed on certain days? Is there a schedule for the activities throughout the week? These are all questions that are good to know before starting your week.
Does the resort have a dress code in place?
A Lot of resorts do have dress codes in place for certain areas. These are typically found in restaurants. It’s important to know before you travel what the expectation is for attire if you plan on eating in all of the restaurants.
Typically the dressiest it is going to get is slacks and a shirt for the men and a dress or trousers and a blouse for the women. Resorts do usually enforce the dress code if they have one in place, so plan ahead and don’t get refused from restaurants during your stay. Below is an example of how one resort we visited defines each type of dress code.
This is pretty much that you can wear anything except tank tops for the guys and the women must wear a bathing suit wrap or cover-up. Most of the lunch places and the buffet had a casual dress code and we found that this wasn’t really being enforced, so for restaurants that are labeled casual, you can pretty much wear what you want.
The difference here for the men is that long pants are required. You can wear t-shirts or shirts, but again no tank tops. For the women mostly anything goes.
This was fairly straightforward in their definition of formal. For the menu, it was long pants, collared shirts. They said dress shoes in their descriptions, but I wore sneakers every time and had no issues. For the women, it’s recommended that you wear either blouses, skirts, slacks or dresses, but again it’s pretty flexible.
Our Top Ranked All-Inclusives
- Finest Playa Mujeres
The Finest Playa Mujeres is our overall most complete resort based on our experiences. This 5-star family resort has it all on offer. Located around 20 minutes North of the town of Cancun and 35 minutes from Cancun international airport it’s a very convenient location. The service, food, and experience are all top class and the price range is very competitive for the level of vacation you’re getting.
- Ikos Andalusia
This is a bit of a spanner in the works as most of our readers are based in the US, but the Ikos Andalusia is worth the journey. Located in Spain, this is definitely the best all-inclusive resort in Europe. With the best food and drinks offering, we have experienced at an all-inclusive. The Ikos chain of resorts does the basic features really well.
- Beloved Playa Mujeres
Located in the same complex as the Finest Playa Mujeres. The Beloved is a boutique 5-star resort that has a great personal touch. With just 100 odd rooms it’s a refined experience. The resort has a boho-chic type aesthetic which really adds to the luxury feel of the resort. This is an adults-only resort and is a great choice for a refined location.