Five Things I Want From An All-Inclusive Resort (Before I Go)

Ever since we bought our camper a few years ago along with our good fortune to be able to go on winter holidays for a few years running, I’ve begun to feel that my life basically oscillates between those two annual highlights.

We get off the plane in late February/early March, tanned and rested and immediately begin thinking of our next holidays to come that summer (okay, I usually spend a bit of time thinking about next *winter’s* potential holiday destinations since the feeling is so fresh in my mind.)  But I eventually switch to thoughts of summer.  Then, when summer ends and the camper’s put away, our thoughts turn to whether we can swing a trip to some tropical destination again.

Rinse, repeat.

This year, I spent a lot of time wondering if this year might be a good year to try a rental apartment/condo of some kind instead of an all-inclusive like we usually do.

But because it didn’t look we would save huge amounts by going non-all-inclusive (especially if we still want at least some of the amenities that all-inclusive offer – oceanfront locations, decent swimming pools, kid/teen clubs, the convenience of not having to do any shopping/cooking at all) plus the fact that Pace is now 12 and so this is likely the last year we can take him to a resort at a free/greatly reduced rate, we figured we’ll probably go to an all-inclusive this year again.

Shea and I began doing a bit of research this weekend and it made me think of a supplement to the lists I already did of “10 Things I Want In An All-Inclusive” and “10 More Things I Want In An All-Inclusive“, namely…

5 Things I Want From An All-Inclusive (Before I Go)

  1. Menus!
    It’s almost unbelievable how many resorts don’t post their a la carte restaurants’ menus online.  It’s fine to know that a resort has a “Mexican” restaurant or a “French” restaurant and most also post hours and dress codes/age restrictions for their culinary offerings.  So, since these menus rarely if ever change, it wouldn’t be hard to go one step further and post links to PDFs of the menus so that people who are trying to find out about exactly what types of dishes are at each restaurant – either for dietary reasons or just to start thinking about the delicious food they’re going to order – could do exactly that.  (Tip: Many larger resorts have fan pages on Facebook and you can often find photos of restaurant menus, cocktail menus, activity schedules and all that stuff you might want to know about ahead of time to aid with your planning that the resorts themselves rarely share.)
  2. Full-Featured Apps That Work and Provide Comprehensive Information
    This is sort of related to the last point.  Many resorts now have mobile apps but I’ve seen everything from apps with broken links/non-working pages to again, no detailed information (a list of restaurants with hours but no menus) to even some that have restrictions so you can’t actually use the app until you’re *on the property!*
  3. Pictures.  Photos.  Reviews.  Information.  
    This is a bit out of the resort’s hands (at least in terms of reviews – or at least non-biased ones that aren’t hand-selected raves) but a general rule of thumb is that bigger resorts are more likely to have more information about them – videos on Youtube, photos on Instagram, latest happenings on Twitter and Facebook.  People are making a massive financial decision when they decide to visit a resort so why don’t the resorts do more to give you everything you need to help you make that decision – instead of a handful of selected photos, put pictures of every aspect of your resort.  Have a professionally prepared “walk-through” video instead of some tourist’s shaky-cam version uploaded to YouTube.  Have a live cam.  Maintain a daily blog of what’s happening at the resort.  Have a staff member do mini-interviews with guests about their experiences as they’re happening.  Have a live map with “pins” for everywhere your guests have visited from.
  4. Responsiveness
    In all our visits to all-inclusives, it’s been really hit or miss (mostly miss) in terms of getting quick, accurate, informative responses to my advance queries – whether requesting a cot to booking a special dinner.  Sometimes this can be minor (especially if it can be fulfilled we arrive) but sometimes it can be incredibly inconvenient (when we traveled with Shea’s parents and her brother and his family to Cuba, the hotel caught that they should be located near each other because they had the same last name.  But we were put on another floor entirely and could only move when a room came up a couple days later.)
  5. Why Are You Unique?
    At their core, every all-inclusive follows the same basic template.  They’ll all have a buffet and some a la carte restaurants, they’ll all have daytime activities and nighttime shows, they’ll all have access to beaches and pools. And in terms of things to draw you back year and year, that’s a pretty inviting list and a good reason why the template *doesn’t* vary too much from resort to resort.  But at the same time, after you’ve been to a handful of resorts, perhaps you start to wonder if there’s anything else that makes one stand-out from another.  Because most resorts do have unique features – a water park.  An eco-theme in everything they do.  An archery range.  An a la carte that *isn’t* the standard combo of Mexican/Italian/Mediterranean/French/Japanese you see at most all-inclusive resorts.  What if you had a Middle Eastern restaurant?  An East Indian?  A high end one by a Michelin-rated chef?  Even a poolside food truck for something unique?  (All of those examples exist by the way.)  Anyhow, there are literally hundreds of options just across Mexico and the Caribbean for someone considering an all-inclusive vacation.  Let me know in advance what sets you apart from everybody else and what you offer that I can’t get anywhere else?

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