The ultimate guide to surviving an all-inclusive resort
All-inclusive resorts offer a unique opportunity to pamper yourself in a stress-free environment. The freedom, variety, and sheer indulgence these vacations offer can be overwhelming, which is my reason for assembling this guide to help you make the best of your experience. It doesn’t matter if this is your first all-inclusive stay or your 50th, I bet you will find something useful here. We will start with the basics of all-inclusive resorts, then move to some tips that can make you the local superstar when it comes to ordering drinks. What is the best strategy to not only enjoy yourself, but get your money’s worth when staying at an all you can eat and drink property? Let’s talk about it.
All-inclusive resorts can be found around the world and depending on the property you book your stay at, the amenities that are included in the package price can vary wildly. Some resorts offer top-shelf liquor, meaning Maker’s Mark, Grey Goose etc. while others require an additional charge for the good stuff. The same can be said about food. At some resorts, only the all you can eat buffet and beach grills are included, and the fine dining options are available at an additional cost. The services offered with the rooms can also vary, from a basic room to an oceanfront suite with 24-hour room service and your own personal butler. Do your research and decide on the amenities you want before you make your reservation. Lastly, look at current news stories about the area you will be traveling to. Find out if it is safe outside of the resort walls? Unfortunately, depending on political climate in some places it might be ill advised to venture off the resort property unless you are with a tour group.
Once you have your reservation secured, make sure to inquire about airport transportation, this can vary depending on the level of room you choose. The higher end suites will often include airport transfers and a private check-in location, while the normal rooms may require you to arrange for your own transportation. It all depends on where you are traveling to and the resort. As an example, many of the resorts in Jamaica have airport shuttles, and a nice waiting area with drinks located right outside of customs in the airport.
You never know when you might be separated from your suitcase while enroute to your vacation paradise, but with some planning even a suitcase arriving late won’t be a problem. I bring a big enough carryon bag (keeping in mind the dimensions which are always listed on your airlines website) with the items I need for a day or so without my suitcase. I learned this firsthand the hard way. This is my list of items I pack for every trip, if you have items that should be added to the list, feel free to drop me a message.
Swimsuit, sandals and a shirt or tank top, the resorts will usually have a swimsuit option for sale in the gift shop, but why not just pack yours in your carryon luggage? In the event your suitcase doesn’t make it with you, at least you won’t be stalled getting into the water and starting the fun.
Medications, most people pack these in their suitcase which is a mistake, especially if you need your medications daily. If I am going to be on vacation for an extended time, I will often pack a couple days’ worth of medications in my carry on and the larger bottles in the suitcase.
Phone charger, this is one of the most commonly forgotten items outbound and returning. I always leave my phone charging until it is time to leave and forget to unplug the charger and stuff it in my bag. If I am going to be on vacation for a longer stretch, I will often bring two chargers with me, especially if I am going to be traveling to more than one location during my trip. This way if you leave one at the hotel you won’t be scrambling to find a charger when you reach your next destination.
Beach Bag, they roll up small and can be easily thrown into a carryon, or if the bag is big enough just use the beach bag as your carryon. This way when you arrive at your vacation paradise, you can empty the bag and have something to tote your cover up, sunscreen and other items to and from the beach or pool.
Book or e-reader, there will inevitably be quiet times during your vacation, and it can be great to just relax on the beach with a good book. This means planning ahead and buying a few titles before you leave home if you have an e-reader.
Sunscreen, I usually pack a small sunscreen (aerosol) in my carryon and at least one more new tube or canister in my suitcase.
A hat, my wife and I both bring our hats, wherever we are going. I use tilly brand because they handle getting wet very well. If you are in a warm climate, just take your hat off and dip it in the water at the pool or beach. The added bonus of the Tilly brand is the Velcro pocket located in the top of the hat. It is a great place to keep identification or your room key if they don’t have a bracelet system to enter the rooms at the resort.
GoPro with flotation handle. These convenient, sturdy little cameras are waterproof and can take reasonably good photos, meaning you don’t have to carry your phone around with you. Even with the handle attached, a GoPro is small and easy to stuff into your beach bag.
Anti-diarrhea medication. You never know how your body will react to traveling and the rich food at the buffet. Resorts do usually have this in the gift shop, but as with other things can be pricey. I usually also bring Tums or other antacid.
Pain reliever or Aspirin, sore muscles, and headaches from the sun are very common.
Bug bite stick, this is one of those things that is easy to forget, especially if you are leaving from colder climate during the winter months. I use the Benadryl brand, just dab it on for instant relief from bug bites on the beach or at the pool.
While we are the subject of things to pack, here is the list of items I always pack in my suitcase. There are options here depending on the length of time you are traveling for, and the size of your suitcase.
Aloe or other sunburn reliever, I will often put a small amount of this in my carryon. In the suitcase usually pack a large tube because sunburns happen.
Towels, resorts always have these, but I always like to bring a big towel with me. The added bonus for this is that it makes my beach chair easier to identify from a distance. If you find yourself tight on room in your suitcase on the way out to the resort, the towel will always be the first thing to stay at home.
Towel clips, you can find a ton of different fun styles of towel clips on Amazon. They keep your towel from blowing away on a windy day, grab yourself a fun set of margarita or shark clips.
An insulated cup. The cups used at the resort bars are usually small, and thin. With an insulated cup, you will have more drink and it will stay cold longer, even on warm days.
Bring a power strip with you, when I am charging phones and other things it is always convenient to have a few extra power outlets available. This has become one of the things I bring with me anytime I travel. The added bonus is that I tend to not leave phone chargers behind because everything is plugged into one central location.
Nice dress wear, I usually bring a few dress shirt options, and a couple pairs of slacks. Often, the fancier restaurants don’t want men wearing shorts. My wife will usually bring a few light dresses and some fancy sandals. There are always nice places to eat at the resorts and usually require men to have a shirt with a collar. It’s nice to have a few options for fancy nights, even if you plan to stay at the buffet options. I usually find it a good plan to bring a couple non-shorts and tank tops outfits.
For my daily wear, I tend to lean toward comfortable active wear like shorts, which is a good option for just about any activity you plan to do while at the resort. I highly recommend bringing a good pair of walking shoes and socks. I will usually wear the shoes on the plane and pack some sandals.
I always bring a rash guard with SPF protection. Most resorts sell them, but they can be rather pricey. Inevitably I or my wife will get burnt the first day in the pool. A rash guard with SPF protection will allow someone who has overindulged in the sun to still hang out in the pool without risking further discomfort.
Extra pair of sunglasses, if you are anything like me, my sunglasses always get lost somewhere along the way, especially if I am napping by the pool or at the beach. Most resorts sell them, but as with other things can be pricey.
Zip top bags for wet swimsuits. Most times you will have the chance to dry your suits, but if you are partaking in the beach or pool on your last day, a zip top bag can allow you to toss your suit right into the suitcase without getting everything wet.
Pool floaties, they are fun for everyone in the pool and pack flat. Depending on how much room you have on your return home, it is always an option to donate these to another person to enjoy.
Deck of cards, there is always room for cards. In the event you experience inclement weather, a deck of cards can be a good option to pass the time.
Mexican trains dominos, this is an easy to learn game and can be played with 2 to 8 people.
A battery-powered fan, the one we have is actually sold as a stroller fan and came from Amazon. It has a clip to clip it directly to your beach chair and features a removable battery which can charge your phone. The fan itself runs for hours on a single charge and features a water reservoir which provides mist. There are a ton of styles and sizes available, but if you have the room for this, I guarantee that you will never travel without one again.
Whether staying at a resort or taking a cruise, I hear all too often that travelers try to justify the additional cost of an all-inclusive stay by eating and drinking to excess until they make themselves miserable. It can be tough to wrap your head around being able to have whatever you want for food and drink. Here are a few strategies to help you get the most out of your vacation investment without making yourself sick.
Balance is the key
It can be tempting to go crazy ordering at every meal but be mindful of how your stomach will handle the additional calories, rich food, and different spices. If you are like me, I usually try and get a couple months of dieting in before I head out to the beach, which means my body will not be accustomed to the glut of calories that an all you can devour buffet will offer. I always recommend taking it easy the first day and eating a bit lighter to allow your body time to acclimate to the richer food. I do indulge, but I also try and have meals that are lighter like salad or fruit and granola options for breakfast.
Feel free to ask for more
As a rule, I recommend that you don’t overindulge or waste food, but feel free to ask for both of those cool desserts if you can’t decide between them, you are on vacation after all and if you need permission here it is. Remember that you don’t have to stuff yourself at every meal. Most resorts have options for food and beverage 24 hours a day. You can always get more food at the pool or beach grill. Pace yourself, all-inclusive resorts are a marathon not a sprint.
Sitting in the sun all day or relaxing in the pool can be a drain on your natural hydration, which can affect your body in many different ways. Drinking lots of water can help with digestion, energy and lots of other important body functions.
Take it slow
I try and take a different tact when partaking in the all you can eat buffet scene. Rather than rushing the line to fill my plate, I hang back and wait to hear what others are saying is good. My thinking is that this way you aren’t wasting food by taking something that is not good. I do of course always remember that everyone has different likes and dislikes.
I always take the opportunity to try local fare or different dishes. You can get a burger anywhere, try something new and cool. I usually focus on the meats, but be sure to balance it with lighter fare like salads and fruits and vegetables for digestive health
This article will give you the ammunition to be a superstar when ordering drinks on your vacation. While the booze is included in your all-inclusive resort package, most of the bars don’t have a menu and it can be confusing to order. But before we get to the drinks, let’s talk about some basic strategies to make the best of your bar time.
Some resorts (and cruises) charge extra for top shelf liquor, so if you prefer Grey Goose, Maker’s Mark, and Don Julio, be sure to read up on what is and is not included at your destination.
Ask for what you want, the bartenders are happy to make the drinks strong or weak depending on your mood.
When ordering your drink, ask for a side of ice. This is a great trick especially in hotter climates. Unless you are guzzling your drinks, a side of ice will serve as a source to keep your current drink cold to the end, while providing cold water as the ice melts.
Just like with the food at an all-inclusive resort, it is important to remember this is a marathon not a sprint. Your level of hydration will affect your tolerance for alcohol, and you don’t want to be that guy (or gal) sloppy drunk and passed out at the pool. Likewise, getting hammered on the first day and being hungover the following day is an amateur move. Up your game!
Stay on target
Vacation drinking rules are the same as the rules for drinking at home. Don’t mix a bunch of different kinds of alcohol, it leads to a tough morning the next day.
Start with weaker or fruity drinks then move to stronger as the day wears on. Many begin their day drinking with Bloody Mary’s or Mimosas. I personally don’t do well with Champagne, it gives me a headache so your mileage may vary.
Listen to your body
A ton of factors go into your ability to drink. Remember you aren’t at home. The sun will affect your ability to hold your alcohol, your level of activity during the day and your level of hydration also play a factor. Consider slowing down once you get that first buzz feeling until you know how your body is going to handle the booze. Yes, it is all included, but if you get hammered on the first day, then the hangover day(s) will impact your drinking performance.
If you are picky about your brand of booze, you can (at most resorts) buy a bottle of specific alcohol for your personal enjoyment. The bartender will usually put your room number on the bottle, and you can ask for it no matter who is working the bar. Do be aware that prices can be high for specific types of booze.
Drinks to order
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s talk about some drinks that can make you a superstar at the all-inclusive bar (see what I did there?). Everyone else at the bar is also searching their memories for something to order, and having a list of fun drinks to order can give you that “cool guy” moniker. First, some frozen drinks to get you cooled off.
Banana Monkey: Pina Colada mix, Kahlua, Vodka, Banana, and ice, blended. This one has different names depending on where you are.
Mudslide: Vodka, coffee liqueur, Bailey’s and a chocolate syrup drizzle, usually blended with ice.
Pina Colada: Pineapple juice, coconut cream, white rum, blended with ice.
Strawberry Colada: Same as pina colada but substitute strawberries for pineapple.
Dirty Monkey: Banana, pineapple juice, cream of coconut, rum, banana liqueur, Kahlua. This is one of my favorites.
Cold Favorites, most of these are served over ice.
Lime or Strawberry Daiquiri: Strawberries or lime, rum, lime juice, and sugar. This one is easy to drink, some bartenders will serve this blended with ice and others will serve it over ice (which is my favorite). Try both versions and see what you like best.
Bahama Mama: orange juice, pineapple juice, dark rum, coconut rum, lime juice, and grenadine
Bay Breeze: Vodka, cranberry juice, pineapple juice and a hint of lime
Chi Chi: Pineapple, coconut, and vodka. This is a Pina Colada with vodka if you’re not a rum fan!
Cuba Libre: Rum, coke and a splash of lime juice.
Electric Lemonade: Vodka, blue curaçao, lemonade
Mango Tango: Mango nectar, orange juice, coconut rum, triple sec, lime
Moscow Mule: Vodka, lime, ginger beer
Mexican Mule: Tequila, lime, ginger beer
Kentucky Mule: Bourbon, lime, ginger beer
Dark and Stormy: Rum, lime, ginger beer
Chelada: beer, lime juice and salt.
Espresso Martini: Vodka, coffee liquor, chocolate drizzle,
Long Island Iced Tea: just about everything with a splash of coke.
Mai Tai: white rum, orange curaçao, lime juice, orgeat (almond syrup), dark rum
Margarita on the Rocks: Tequila, lime, triple sec
Michelada: Beer, lime juice, sauces & spices. This is a good middle of the day drink by the pool.
Mojito: white rum, mint, sugar and soda water
Paloma: Tequila, lime, and grapefruit soda
Screwdriver: vodka and orange juice.
Sex on the Beach: Cranberry juice, orange juice, vodka and peach schnapps
Tequila Sunrise: Tequila, Orange Juice and Grenadine.
Blue Hawaiian: Rum, Blue Curaçao and pineapple juice, this one can be served over ice or blended.
Drinks to try
Iceberg/Mexican Bulldog: a beer with frozen margarita mix on top.
Lava Flow: Rum, coconut rum, strawberries, banana, coconut cream, pineapple juice, ice.
Miami Vice: When you can’t choose between a pina colada and strawberry daiquiri, order one of these! It’s a mix of the two.
Bob Marley: Crème de menthe, banana liquor and coffee liquor layered in shot glass. Warning this is a strong one.
Mexican Flag: Grenadine, White Tequila and Creme de Menthe
Cucaracha: Tequila and Kahlua
Bumblebee: Layers of Baileys, Kahlua and Sambuca
Adios Mother******: Vodka, rum, tequila, gin, Blue Curacao
Turbo: Sambuca and Tequila
After Dinner or For Dessert
Baileys on the Rocks
Spanish Coffee: The special coffee drink that’s lit on fire! Coffee, Kahlua, Triple Sec, 151 rum that’s lit on fire to caramelize the sugar coated rim, usually served with whipped cream.
Irish Coffee: Coffee, Irish Whiskey, Sugar and Whipped Cream
Your bartender will always have specialties they have created, be sure to ask for something unique. Just like with food, try something new, the worst thing that can happen is you not liking it. Step out of the jack and coke routine and experiment while it’s all included.
Learning from those who have spent a lot of time at all-inclusive resorts is the best way to make your next adventure more fun.
Reserve the top-notch restaurants early in your stay. Sometimes they are difficult to get a reservation for, so if you book the first day you arrive you can be pretty sure of getting into each of the cool restaurants during your stay.
Make sure to partake in the fine dining restaurants on the property. They always offer an upscale food experience over the buffet. Be aware that wine service is not always included in the all-inclusive package price, but having the staff pair your wine with the food is always a fun dining experience.
When dining in the upscale restaurants, always peruse the food offerings that are an additional cost. At a recent resort stay, the restaurant offered a tomahawk steak that would feed 2/4 people. It was an additional cost but included higher end side dishes and when it was brought to the table featured a parade around the dining room with sparklers and the wait staff singing. The waiter even carved and plated the steak tableside. The couple later said it was a memorable part of their vacation and would repeat. This would be a fun thing to plan if you were at the resort celebrating a special occasion.
If your all-inclusive package includes a personal butler, be sure to find out all the services the butler offers and utilize them for your stay. They are there to help, and you will tip them at the end of the stay so why not indulge in the convenience they bring to your stay.
Inquire about the process for reserving a beach chair or bed. Often the process begins with a trip out to the person coordinating the beach chairs or beds early in the morning. This can give you a leg up on the better choice of spots to relax in starting your second day at the resort.
Keep track of your stuff, put it in the safe in the room when not in use. Some resorts will automatically lock your safe with a special code that the security will need to open if you forget.
Take advantage of the fun resort activities. If you have never tried scuba, sailing, or snorkeling etc. it may be included at your resort at no additional cost. Check the offerings before you get to the resort and plan ahead of time before you arrive.
Learn about the local culture you will be visiting. Some resorts have cooking or other cultural classes or demonstrations that you can learn a bit about the people. We have come home with a few great recipes we still use to this day from the cultural cooking classes.
Research your options for tours and activities. Sometimes there are options for booking a cheaper version of your desired activity through the internet rather than using the resort concierge.
Best time to go
All-inclusive resorts can get crowded, especially the family-oriented ones. Consider off season travel time like April or November for Mexico. Spring break and summer are usually the busiest times for these resorts, if you are looking for less crowded pools, and not needing to get up early to reserve beach chairs consider booking your trip during the offseason months.
Things to watch out for
Not everything is included in all-inclusive resorts. Depending on where you book your stay, top shelf alcohol, some resort activities and the higher end restaurants may come at an additional cost.
Depending on where you book your stay, there will often be an opportunity to attend a presentation which will tempt you to buy in to the vacation property. Budget in time for this “timeshare” speech, often you will get some cool perks like a spa treatment etc. for an hour of your time.
Don’t overindulge in alcohol
Don’t be that guy or girl drunk and passed out at the pool. Pace yourself, start slow with weaker drinks and ramp it up as the day goes along. Starting the morning out with shots after breakfast as soon as the pool bar opens is going to lead to a bad day.
Don’t drink the water
No matter where you are traveling to, be careful with tap water. This includes using bottled water for brushing your teeth anytime you are in Mexico. “Most of the time” water served in the restaurants comes from a filtered source and “should” be ok but I would check with others before your trip to determine the safety of the water at the resort.
Bring lots of sunscreen
Bring more sunscreen than you think you need. I usually bring at least one new bottle in my suitcase, often times two if I will be at the resort for a week or more. Getting a sunburn is miserable and reduces your time playing in the sun or pool.
Tips are usually not included in your all-inclusive package price. I always bring a stack of five dollar bills for incidental tipping when enroute to your vacation destination or on the way home. Tip the skycap, tip the shuttle driver and the bellcap bringing your bags to your room.
I always tip my bartender in the middle and end of my stay; this will ensure prompt service throughout your time at the resort. Leaving a five to ten USD tip for the housekeeping staff after the first day will usually ensure prompt services for your room. Another reasonable tip for the housekeeping staff when checking out is also appropriate.
The most important thing to pack
Even the most perfect vacation can have problems. Things will go wrong, reservations will be unavailable, but approach everything with a cool head and a sense of humor. Remember, you are in paradise, and this is your time to relax and unwind not stress about things that are out of your control.
There you have it! What do you think? What was your favorite tip that you will use for your next all-inclusive vacation adventure? I love to hear from my readers, feel free to drop me a message right here on Blind Travels or on my social medial links below.
“Ted’s journey into the landscape of the human body is a marvelous celebration of all that is physical, sensual and diverse
” – FSTOPPERS
About the author
Ted Tahquechi is a blind photographer, travel influencer, disability advocate and photo educator based in Denver, Colorado. You can see more of Ted’s work at www.tahquechi.com
Ted operates Blind Travels, a travel blog designed specifically to empower blind and visually impaired travelers. https://www.blindtravels.com/
Ted’s body-positive Landscapes of the Body project has been shown all over the world, learn more about this intriguing collection of photographic work at: https://www.bodyscapes.photography/
Questions or comments? Feel free to email Ted at: firstname.lastname@example.org