Today, we want to make the idea of all-inclusive resort booking less elusive. The reality is, not all all-inclusive resorts are created equal. Having a great first experience can really shape the way you think about this option when booking travel. Here are some tips to be sure you’re finding a great fit for your all-inclusive resort trip. Penyak Travel experts have been to a plethora of all-inclusive resorts, so this is truly a know before you go treasure trove of tips!
WHEN to Book Your All-Inclusive Resort Getaway
Time of year for booking plays a major role in budget, which plays a giant role in planning your getaway. This initial question really narrows the focus of where you can look and when to start your search: How much are you willing to spend?
Price and Timing
As a general rule, destinations like the Caribbean can really vary in price month to month. For all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, the least expensive time to travel is September – December, excluding holidays. This is “rainy” season and hurricane season in some areas. Weather is very unpredictable though. A trip during the typical “rainy” season may be nearly devoid of showers, while a trip during the “nice” season may be fraught with storms.
The most expensive time comparatively for booking resorts are the Christmas and New Years Eve holidays. Airline tickets are generally also double during this time. January through April is also expensive generally. Your money will go further if you travel in the fall.
Climate and Weather
Time of year can also impact the climate of your trip. Most tropical destinations are warm to hot year around, but some areas do get very cool in the winter. (Unheated pools can be pretty chilly in the winter, too!) The Bahamas can really be chilly, as an example in winter months, including Exuma. Cabo in the winter can be a little chilly, so pack some pants and a light sweater, just in case! Thankfully, most of the pools are heated, so you’ll find respite in the water even in the winter.
WHO Will Be Traveling to the All-Inclusive with You?
There are resorts for families and those for adults only. There are some which stipulate a teenage minimum (usually 16 years) as well. Janet will tell you, if you aren’t bringing children to your all-inclusive resort vacation, then do not book a family resort.
Adults Only All-Inclusive Resorts
There is a huge difference in your vacation and your experience if you are going to travel as a couple and book in a kid-friendly resort. Even if there is an adults-only area, or you’ve booked a preferred club level, you may have access to a private area. BUT, if it’s just adults going, book an adults only experience. Here, you MAY find bachelor parties and wild nightlife.
Couples Only All-Inclusive Resorts
Jamaica has this type of resort. Whether you book one or two people, it’s the same price. There is no option for extra people. They feature King-sized beds, meant for two. This is a more intimate experience and not usually as much of a party scene. This is a great option for anniversary trips.
WHAT Kind of Atmosphere Do You Want from the All-Inclusive Resort?
You can be wild and crazy or find a little slice of paradise, quiet as can be. Breathless Resorts — like those in Punta Cana, Jamaica, and Mexico are great spots for a party atmosphere. For more laid back accommodations, there are many options.
Some Sandals Resorts are very peaceful, for instance. Many resorts in Antigua are also made to relax and unwind in a very chill setting. Some of their resorts are pretty quiet with minimal entertainment. Some Sandals properties have a more lively atmosphere — like Sandals Ochi in Jamaica. This is a all-inclusive resort chain which generally delivers a good mix of upbeat vibes and respite from crowds and music.
Breathless guests in Montego Bay, Jamaica, had some privileges to go to the Secrets property to have the best of both worlds. It really depends on if you are Preferred Club Level at Secrets to be able to cross the other way to Breathless.
All-Inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean VS. Elsewhere
All-inclusive resorts are situated in clusters, with three places dominating the Caribbean islands. They are: Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), Cancun, Mexico (Riviera Maya), and Jamaica.
Sometimes, Janet hears, “I don’t want to go to a Sandals. I also do not want to go to the big three destinations where all-inclusive resorts are found.” Your variety for booking dwindles to Antigua. Really, you won’t find all of the amenities and atmosphere, experience, and food options without really searching (and paying) for those things elsewhere.
WHAT to you want to do while at the Resort?
What do you want to do activity wise? Will you leave the resort? Are you going to be active or mostly chill on the beach? This will determine a great fit for you. The availability of excursions and activities
Excursions and Activities Galore
St. Lucia and Jamaica are places with resorts flush with activities. St. Lucia is an epic destination with tons of activities to partake in off-property, so figure that in when deciding what all-inclusive resort is right for you.
You don’t want to pay for resort fees which cover activities you really won’t be using. Not every destination has the same activities.
All-Inclusive Resort Watering Holes: Beach or Pool?
An oft overlooked part of booking which the Caribbean Queen shows her expertise in dissecting for the best guest experience is whether you’ll spend most of your time at the beach or the pool. This is not an obvious consideration for many, but it can really affect your satisfaction with the site you choose (or sully that experience if you didn’t consider this factor!)
Swim-Up Bars or Sandbars?
If the beach is super important and you’ll be a beach bum, you might not want to go to Sandals Ochi or St. Lucia. The beaches can be smaller at these destinations. Conversely, if you’d love to lounge at the swim-up bar, Sandals Montego Bay has the smallest swim-up bar (though it’s the original) of all of their resorts, but it has a great beach. We’d recommend experiences which suit the style of relaxation you want to have to maximize your interests.
Mexico is killing it with swim-up bars AND beach experiences! Atelier has a lovely swim-up bar and Secrets Moxchè is also a top contender for the pools/swim-up bar experience. In Cabo san Lucas, for example, the ocean is lovely but not very swimmable in most areas.
Resort Experience and Compromise
If you’re only willing to look at a particular location – like Punta Cana, then you’re obviously limited to what resorts and respective amenities you can find in that resort community in the Dominican Republic. You might then have to make sacrifices in the services, amenities, and activities offered at those locations.
If you’re willing to sacrifice length of stay, for quality, you can stay a shorter time but pay a bit more at a more upscale property.
Here’s an example – you’re looking at only St. Lucia and adults only, and you’ve narrowed it to Sandals. Sandals Grand St. Lucian versus Sandals Regency La Toc are your options. You want a super nice beach, but you also want a soaking tub on the patio or balcony. (This by the way is a very common request!) You can’t afford the over water bungalow at the Grand St. Lucian. You will have to sacrifice either the nice beach or the tub in this situation. If this is the worst sacrifice you must make for your trip, you’re still in a great place to have a lovely vacation!
Ease of Travel and Logistics
If you’re on the East coast, most places are pretty easy, especially in the Caribbean to get you there. West Coast travelers will require more attention to detail of layovers, times, connections and general planning sometimes.
Group Travel Without Stress
When traveling as a group, it’s imperative that you find a travel agency (like Penyak Travel) to help coordinate all the schedules and budgets you have at play. Events like a destination wedding are particularly hard to juggle without expert help.
Getting There and Getting All the Way There
Upon landing, do you want to travel another hour or more from the airport? Do you get carsick? Many destinations have winding, rough, mountainous travel to get to the beautiful resort site. Be sure you’re booking the best flights to suit your travel needs for airport transfers.
Watch out for basic economy flights and making booking errors! We have a great podcast on this basic fare and no change policies, so educate yourself and be very careful about what you’re booking. You generally get what you pay for with airfare. It’s only about $30-60 more to book economy up from basic tickets.
We Can Help Choose the Right All-Inclusive Resort!
So, you’ve learned time of year, how far your money will go seasonally or geographically, logistics of getting there and getting around, amenities, and so many other small details matter to your overall all-inclusive resort experience. We are here if your head is starting to swim with all the considerations! That is literally our job. And we loving doing it. So give us a call, or click here to request a quote from us, as always, we are a zero fee travel agency. The time to start enjoying your all-inclusive resort vacations starts with planning the fun. Let us do the lifting so you can truly enjoy this investment in relaxation!
CHECK OUT OUR PODACST EPISODE ON THIS TOPIC: