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Going All-Inclusive? How to Choose the Right Resort for Your Ideal Vacation

When you want a relaxing and stress-free vacation, heading to an all-inclusive resort is an ideal solution. For one price, your lodging, food and activities are all covered. All you need to do is sit back in a comfortable pool chair and enjoy the sunshine while hotel staff caters to your every need.

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However, as with most things, not all resorts are created equal. Some all-inclusive resorts cater to budget travelers who want to have a great time, while others appeal to those who want high-end luxury, a spa retreat or the chance to acquire new skills. And while you can still have a great time if you don’t choose the perfect resort, asking some important questions before you book can increase the chance that your all-inclusive vacation is exactly what you had in mind.

What Are Other Travelers Saying?

While to some extent you can take other traveler’s reviews with a grain of salt — some people won’t be happy no matter what a resort has to offer, or there could have been extenuating circumstances that lead to a less than pleasant stay — reading what other people have to say can help you find the best resorts for your needs. Look for reviews from travelers like you; most review sites allow members to input basic demographic information or make evaluations of who they believe certain properties would best suit. Look for themes when you read the reviews to determine whether the resort is a good fit. If you’re looking for quiet relaxation and most of the reviews mention the parties that take place by the pool and beach every day, you might want to book elsewhere.

What Activities and Amenities Are Available?

These days, you can do almost anything at an all-inclusive resort, from kayaking and snorkeling to learning how to do circus tricks. Before you book, consider the activities that you hope to do and confirm that the resort offers them. Ask whether the activities are available on-site or whether you’ll have to go elsewhere to experience them; for example, if you have your heart set on swimming with dolphins, where is the nearest center? Something that’s an hour away might not be ideal for you.

In terms of amenities, again, consider your priorities. Will your vacation be ruined if you don’t have a water view? Are you looking for a simple, comfortable place to rest your head after a day of fun, or do you want something with all of the bells and whistles? Different resorts offer varying levels of amenities in their rooms; some offer fully stocked refrigerators and minibars as part of the room rate, while others charge extra for the privilege.

What Are the Dining Options?

Some people resist all-inclusive resorts because they are under the (incorrect) impression that the only food options are buffets, where you join hordes of other guests to load up on mediocre food. While food quality varies between resorts, many resorts have shifted gears and now offer a wider array of dining options. For example, you might be able to choose from several onsite restaurants, room service and buffets, and eat when and where you want to. Confirm the dining options and arrangements before you book, because in some cases you need to make reservations ahead of time.

What Upgrades Are Available?

Most resorts offer guests the opportunity to upgrade their experiences for an extra cost. Ask about upgrade options before you book; a better room category, more service options, better dining or additional activities might be possible for just a little bit more money.

Where Is the Resort Located?

If leaving your resort to see some of the local sites and culture is important to you, you don’t want to book someplace that is an hour away from the nearest city. Ask about transportation options as well. Some resorts offer scheduled tours to nearby attractions, or will help you book other transportation options.

What’s the Fine Print?

Perhaps the number one cause of disappointment among those who choose all-inclusive vacations is not reading the fine print and understanding exactly what is and is not included in the package price. When you book, understand exactly what you are getting for your money, and what you’ll have to pay extra for upon arrival. For example, at many resorts you will have to pay extra for premium alcohol, spa treatments, golf and motorized watersports. Knowing ahead of time what you’ll have to pay for out of pocket will help prevent disappointment and unpleasant surprises at checkout.

All-inclusive vacations represent an excellent value for your vacation dollar, and if you don’t want to stress over the details, they can be one of the most relaxing options as well. Just be sure to ask the right questions and get all the facts, or risk wishing you had gone somewhere else.

About the Author: As a busy mom of four, Laurie Brown loves the convenience and affordability that all-inclusive resorts provide her family. She’s planning a trip to the Bahamas later this year.

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