A tried-and-true favorite for the initiated, all-inclusive vacations may scare off people who haven't been on one before. Taking your first all-inclusive vacation or want to know how to travel this way? To make sure you're getting the most of your all-inclusive stay, we've collected 11 tried-and-true tips from our deal experts.
Things to Know Before You Go
1. Bundle air and hotel. Even if your deal doesn't include airfare, bundling flights with the hotel often results in an additional discount on the room costs. Be sure to check prices in market for flights before booking, so that you can determine whether it saves to book as a package.
2. Book as a group. Even if you have guests who need to pay separately, elect one representative to get on the phone with the travel agent. Make sure that person has everyone's credit card information, full names (as listed on his or her passport) and dates of birth on hand when calling. The phone agent will thank you, and your life will be approximately 10 times easier.
3. Pick the best resort for your trip. Often, all-inclusive resorts cater to specific groups of travelers looking for trips like Caribbean vacations or Mexico getaways. Traveling as a couple and looking for romance, relaxation, and a distinct lack of being splashed by kids jumping into the pool over and over again? Consider booking at an adults-only property. Traveling with kids that like to jump into the pool over and over again? Look for resorts featuring pools and activities geared toward children.
4. Pick a travel time accordingly. Traveling off season (i.e. avoiding spring break or peak summer travel) can help you to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of all-inclusive travel, like crowded pools and booked-up restaurants. If you're looking for a relaxing retreat without having to get up at 6 a.m. to reserve a pool chair, book in the off season. The spring months after spring break (mid-April, May, June) are great times to visit an all-inclusive.
Things to Do on Property
5. Get to know the resort. Make sure to do your research (either beforehand or via the front desk) on which activities, meals, drinks, entertainment and more are included. Some mega-resorts are often basically their own mini cities, so take advantage of the amenities and activities on property before venturing offsite. Knowing your onsite options helps prevent you from retroactively getting FOMO (fear of missing out) upon learning you missed out on free yoga and snorkeling.
6. Befriend the concierge. If you are looking to adventure off property, make sure to chat with the concierge and find out what resources the hotel offers -- often, they can hook you up with a shuttle, connect you with tour companies or simply direct you toward the best local attractions. Take advantage of their knowledge -- that's what they're there for!
7. Make dinner reservations. Upon asking our fellow Travelzoo deal experts for all-inclusive resort tips, almost everyone responded with this one. Many of the non-buffet, higher-end restaurants get booked up quickly for reservations -- so make them, and make them early. Nobody wants to end up scrounging for chips and guac at the pool bar.
8. Take your food to-go: Ask if the restaurant will package the food up to go, and have a picnic on the beach. Some will, and some won't, but if yours is OK with you taking the meal to go it will make for a romantic night, good way for the kids to let off steam or simply an excuse for not changing out of your bathing suit.
9. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. As with the above tip, don't be nervous to ask for what you want (or need). Kids amenities (cribs, cots, toys), bubble baths, extra hot sauce at the buffet -- these resorts are often committed to providing a truly all-inclusive experience, so don't feel bad asking for things you might not be sure are available. Be nice -- the worst outcome is they don't have this available.
10. Indulge in room service. If it's included in the "all-inclusive" experience, then why not eat breakfast in bed or chips and salsa while watching late-night TV? This is the kind of stuff vacations are made of.
11. Figure out the tipping policy. Tipping can be a tricky business at all-inclusive resorts, and unfortunately there is no "best practice" as it differs at each property -- at some, employees aren't allowed accept tips, and at others they are appreciated but not expected. If you're not able to find information on the hotel's policy beforehand (guest reviews will often mention how it's handled onsite), feel free to ask the front desk or observe other guests once you're there.
-- Nile Cappello is a social media manager at Travelzoo and based in San Francisco. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.