The Caribbean's high season -- which runs December through April -- is only eight weeks away, so it's not too early to start planning that warm-weather getaway. If you're thinking of going all-inclusive, know that not all-incs are created equal. Before you book you'll need to carefully compare inclusions and be alert for pricey add-ons, so review this list of potential moneysuckers to find out whether you really can leave your wallet at home. Then check out three hotels that offer perks that put the "all" in all-inclusive.
1. Airport Transfers
In Jamaica, all-incs typically provide shuttle transport to and from the nearest airport as part of your hotel rate. But in the Dominican Republic you'll likely pay extra for airport transfers, which, depending on how far away your hotel is, can cost upward of $30 each way.
2. Room Service
Not every all-inc offers room service, of course, but there are variations among those that do. While some offer gratis room service 'round-the-clock, others provide it only during limited hours and/or bill room service charges separately. At other resorts, room service food is free but you'll pay a delivery charge. Know before you nosh.
Guzzlers, beware: Not every all-inclusive is an all-you-can-drink resort. At some, you'll be billed for any alcohol you consume. At others, house brands are comped, but premium spirits brands are extra. And some hotels only comp wine with dinner. So if you're a big drinker, choose your hotel wisely.
4. Gourmet Restaurants/ Premium Menu Items
In a perfect world all-inclusive guests would be able to eat anything, anywhere and not have to pay extra. But many resorts levy a cover charge for high-end restaurants or for premium menu items such as lobster and imported steaks. If you have to make a reservation or there's a dress code for a particular resort restaurant, ask about a dining supplement before you pull up a chair.
5. Water Sports
Unlimited snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and use of pedal boats/aqua trikes are usually part of the package at Caribbean all-inclusives. And some even throw in diving lessons for beginners. But if you want to parasail, get dive certified, or buzz about on a jet ski, prepare to pay up.
I don't believe that any resort should be charging for Wi-Fi in this day and age (it's not as if they don't already have the service for their own use, after all) but, annoyingly, even some all-inclusive resorts do. Some do provide comp wi-fi in the lobby or public areas but it's rare to find a hotel that offers free, resort-wide connectivity. So if you have to stay in touch with the real world, those bytes will be added to the bill.
1. Your Own Boat
Stay in one of the villas on Fowl Cay, an all-inclusive private-island resort in the Bahamas, and you'll also get your own motorboat (and driving lessons!) so you can explore the Exumas' idyllic islets and crystal-clear waters.
2. Guitar lessons
Hard Rock Punta Cana helps guests get in the groove with free 48-hour loans of Fender electric guitars as well as 24-hour guitar lessons on the resort TV channel.
3. Spa Treatments
Stressed? You won't be after you take advantage of the blissful daily spa treatment that's included in the rates at the wellness-themed St. Lucian all-inc, The Body Holiday.
Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon is a Caribbean travel expert, award-winning travel journalist, TV personality, and black-belt shopper. Former executive editor of Caribbean Travel +Life magazine, she ventures to the beach and beyond, sharing the diverse culture, relaxed lifestyle and colorful people of the world's favorite warm-weather destination. She is also Jetsetter-in-Chief at www.JetSetSarah.com, where travel and shopping meet.
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