I grew up vacationing to All-Inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean among other other places. We’ve been to the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico and Turks and Caicos staying for the most part in All-Inclusive Resorts. Some kids go camping with their Father, I went on a bodyboarding/surfing trip with mine. Many East Coast families spend time together in popular places such as the Jersey shore and Myrtle Beach, mine spent Thanksgiving a lot closer to the equator with all included island drinks in our hands and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Growing up I knew I was very lucky to be able to attend these amazing vacations that many of my friends only dreamt of; now that I’m older I look back on these trips and have a multitude of thoughts on the topic of All-Inclusive Stays.
1. Our all-inclusive stays are not at all eco-friendly. Although many All-inclusive stays may be easy on the wallet and you may argue that we’re providing jobs for the native people, there are much deeper thoughts that I have developed regarding this concern. The time we spend at these resorts, which include all of our food and beverages with gratuities, cause our wallets sing songs of praise – however, that low price can’t possibly be dished out appropriately to all of the resort staff who make our stay as amazing as it is. Also, think about all the waste guests produce while on vacation: countless towel washings, wasted food and drink, garbage of other sorts, and so on and so forth. This shouldn’t keep us from these kinds of travels entirely, however, it should make us more conscientious. Slip the workers making your stay extra amazing a sneaky tip to show them your appreciation and understanding of how hard they are working for you. Hang and reuse towels for as long as possible, don’t fill your plates with food you will not finish or your glasses with beverages you will not drink (especially water bottles), and try to carry-in, carry-out with as many items as you can just like you’re in the woods. If you bring a number of snacks or drinks from home try and place their wrappers in a plastic bag that you will tie up and bring back with you to throw away. Simple notions such as the ones mentioned above can make a big difference in a little way.
2. I’m aware some people truly go away to relax for their full stay but try to get out and experience the island you are staying on in a safe manner. Some of my favorite tropical memories took place outside of the resort walls. Horseback riding in Mexico, even if it took seemingly forever to get to the stable, and walking around the streets and shops of Puerto Vallarta showed me more about Mexican culture and lifestyle than sitting inside our tropical oasis did. All of the cousins really enjoyed interacting with and practicing their Spanish skills with the locals. Leaving the resort in Ocho Rio’s with my large, Italian family provided one of the best Jamaican days I’ve had and I’ve honestly had quite a few. Heckling and Haggling with a taxi driver to convince him to be our tour guide provided a day full of fun local adventures. We drove up near some mansions with beautiful views, enjoyed our time at Dunn’s River Falls, took turns on a natural swing of vines and learned a great deal about Jamaican history and culture before stopping to enjoy the absolute best Jamaican Beef Patties and other local favorites. In my opinion, you can’t truly enjoy a place if you don’t know anything about it and the best way to learn about a place is to immerse yourself in that culture even if for a short time.
3. Know the amenities of your resort before you go. This could make a world of difference in how you fill your resort days. If you know that scuba diving is included, but you must be certified first, make it a point to get certified beforehand or on your very first day and then use the equipment for the remainder of your stay. Know the schedule of events each day: is there a volleyball game every day at 11 AM? Do the waterslides close at a certain time for a lunch break? When are certain workout classes offered and where do they meet? You’d be surprised at the number of activities you miss when you stay somewhere because you simply didn’t know it was included. Do your homework before you leave and ask for a daily itinerary when you arrive. When I stayed in Jamaica with my friends we would take a picture of the whiteboard, with the list of activities on it, every morning so that we could refer to it from our beach chairs. You better believe we never missed an activity or a game!
4. Plan your stay just right. You don’t want to arrive at a resort without time to enjoy that very first day, that you have paid for with that very first nights stay. Also, you don’t want to leave first thing in the morning either – why gyp yourself from a few more Mai Tais and cheeseburgers on the beach? In order to do this, you must do your research. Know when check-in and check-out time is at your resort. What kind of accommodations can be made for those arriving before check-in or depart after check-out? When do the airport shuttles run? Are you really far from the airport? because their might be an excursion on your way there or something to see or do to take up time before having to check in. I know I’ve taken outdoor showers and changed in restrooms while the front desk held my luggage so that I could enjoy the pool until the moment I had to leave. There is nothing worse than sitting in the airport for longer than necessary when you could be sitting on the beach.
5. RELAX. This is the point of the all-inclusive resort. You don’t have to worry about how many dinners might cost, if your kids are going to be stolen out from under your nose at the pool, getting to places in a timely manner, or if you can afford another cocktail; you don’t need to worry about anything after you check in other then making it to the airport on time, if you must worry at all. Use your resort as a home base to see other things: spend a day relaxing then get up the next and eat breakfast before exploring the island or country you’re staying in and return for dinner and drinks; spend the next day relaxing,enjoy all of your meals and then maybe leave the resort for some nightlife; the possibilities are endless. There is no need to stress when you’re on vacation – stress all you’d like leading up to it, paying for it, and getting to it and then just go with the flow. All-inclusive resorts were designed for stress-free vacationing so why not spend your time stress-free?
I love to explore and adventure so my current idea of a wild vacation is not a beach bum, all-inclusive resort. This is not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy it, or take the opportunity to go to one, but if I were planning a trip of my own I’d prefer it had a little more uncertainty. I have loved each of my vacations to all-inclusive resorts and am thankful I have been there; I get to enjoy time with my family, meet new people, soak up the sunshine and devour food and drinks throughout my stay. As an adult, who may be returning to an all-inclusive resort one of these days I’d like to take the 5 thoughts above and really apply them to my stay. The smallest change can make a world of difference.