All inclusive – a stress free travel option that potentially saves a heap of money too, but will it live up to your expectations? Here are some insider tips and things to consider if you are thinking of going all-inclusive on your next break.
1. Do the maths and compare providers
Anyone can book to stay at an all-inclusive hotel, you don’t have to go there as part of a full package. As such, it is worth finding out the price of staying at the hotel and seeing if you can get a flight or other transport that works out cheaper than what the package providers are offering.
2. Read reviews before booking
Every hotel is going to have its share of less than lovely reviews, but it will soon become apparent which hotels are ones you’d rather avoid. Look for comments about the quality of food, occurrences of “upset tummies”, the quality of the entertainment, and information about the location and what is nearby.
3. Contact the hotel (not your package provider) before your stay
Ask them to send you all the info about what’s on offer at the hotel, such as what is included, dining times, restrictions, and what perks or services need to be pre-booked. Many all-inclusive hotels have a main dining experience for guests and additional speciality restaurants. While the speciality eateries come at no extra cost, they must be pre-booked and you may find that when you arrive the next available table is a fair few days into your holiday. There are also likely to be complimentary activities or experiences available, which may also need to be pre-booked, and may have an additional charge for equipment hire.
4. Budget for eating out
Even a diverse buffet, and a choice of “speciality restaurant” options can get a bit boring by day 5, as can being tied to the hotel to make the most of the all-inclusive mealtimes. Take a bit of extra cash and treat yourself to a couple of meals out. This way you’ll get a chance to not only explore the local area, but also indulge in a variety of authentic local cuisine. Okay, it may feel wrong to miss out on a free meal or two, but it’ll enrich your holiday experience no end.
5. Stop at Duty Free on the way out
All you can consume free booze is a huge draw for those looking for the perks of an all-inclusive break. Unless you have paid for a top tier package, or a hotel where you can purchase branded drinks at one of the top-end hotels, you might find what you are served a little lacking on the percentage front. Realistically a hotel doesn’t want a complex full of inebriated people, so the drinks served are likely to be a less potent version of what you are used to. The answer is to stop off at Duty Free on the way out of the UK and take your favourite tipple with you – it is likely to be cheaper than what’s on offer nearby and easier to get depending on which country you are visiting and it’ll mean you don’t need to leave the hotel in search of some decent booze.
6. Pack your reusable water bottle
Even if the local water isn’t safe to drink, the water served to guests will be – so take your reusable bottle for them to fill up rather than using one of the small glasses, or small plastic bottles they usually dole out. It is also handy to have if you are going out on a tour or trip and don’t want to add to the plastic waste problem at your destination.
7. Take something to cover your wristband (or use the elastic band trick)
Wearing the all-inclusive wristband outside your hotel can make you an easy target. Either for locals wanting to get as much money as they think they can from you, or worse, for opportunistic pick pockets to lull you into a false sense of security by saying they remember you from your hotel where they are a gardener/bar staff/ porter… Hotels aren’t keen on people removing them and getting new ones, just in case it gets slipped to someone not staying at the hotel so you have a few options: Say you are allergic to plastic, and they should allow you to attach it to a bangle, watch or bag; take a sweatband, large bangles or similar to cover the hotel one when you are out; or cut the tag off and use an elastic band to hold it back together so it can easily be slipped on and off.
8. Choose local tour operators
Your package provider will have a host of trips and tours you can book on. While they will (most probably) use the services of the local community, booking direct with a local tour guide or operator will be benefitting a local community even more directly, and may even give you a more truthful insight into the impact tourism is having on the wider community. If you are not sure which is the better option at your destination ask questions on any popular travel forum.
9. Get travel insurance
Even if you aren’t planning to adventure far, or only intend on taking part in activities provided by the hotel, you must make sure you have adequate travel insurance. Food poisoning, injury, theft, or even the collapse of a tour operator are all things that could be covered by travel insurance.