Below are some of our most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about all-inclusive resorts and all-inclusive travel, as well as about the destinations where you’ll find an abundance of all-inclusive resorts, along with some general travel questions.
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All Inclusive Resorts
Ting’s irie mon,
Yes, a guest at Couples Tower Isle can use the Couples Sans Souci beach.
you join the Romance Reward Program.
They offer a free ‘Trading Places’ and they shuttle you back and forth from 10am – 4pm.
It is free.
If there is a wedding on the Nude Isle at Couples Tower (whereby it would be closed to non-wedding-guest wannabe nude sunbathers) – they will shuttle more frequent during the 10am – 4pm times.
You can do the same thing at Couples Negril and Swept Away.
One caveat: you have to be on the same side of the island – Tower Isle and Sans Souci can trade…….Negril and Swept Away can trade. But not from one side of island to another.
Don’t forget that Sans Souci does have a nude beach section. Wouldn’t want you to singe your eyeballs ….
Yes, I have been there…… it was exhausting holding in my gut all day……..
All Inclusive Travel
Drat! And I was going to say “the boat, duh“…but you already figured out that one.
Seriously though, the only thing they have in common is that your meals are included. And you get to see some beautiful tropical places.
After that, the differences between cruises and all-inclusives are many, but what most people are concerned with when they ask that is how the cost/value stacks up. At an all-inclusive you’ll also have all of your drinks (yes, alcoholic drinks too) included, along with anytime snacks and room service, and many activities. While you can add on a ‘drinks’ package (or pay as you go) on a cruise, that adds to your cost.
We’re not knocking cruises mind you (well not much anyway), as some people really enjoy them…and the constant up/down and rocking movements of the….(urgh, sorry must change the subject)….hey did you see The Poseidon Adventure?
Yes, alcohol is really included!
Every resort has their own moniker, but whether they call it “all inclusive”, “awe inclusive”, “ultra inclusive”, or whatever, the bottom line is that it doesn’t include *everything*, but pretty darn close to it.
What’s included: To qualify as an all-inclusive, a resort has to include all food, all beverages including alcoholic ones (but the brands of alcohol carried will differ from a two-star resort to a five-star resort – at the lower end of resorts you’ll find only local beers, wines, and spirits or sometimes those of a inexpensive US brand, at the high end of the scale you’ll find top-shelf US brands and more ), daily and/or nightly entertainment, and many activities of both the land (yoga and other fitness classes, cooking or language lessons, tennis, bicycling, etc.) and water (snorkeling, kayaking, pool or beach volleyball, etc.) varieties.
What’s not included: The things they can upsell you on such as Spa Treatments, off-site excursions and tours, golf, scuba diving, or deep sea fishing. SOME resorts do include some of these things (such as an included golf package at Palace Resorts, or an unlimited dive package at Sandals Resorts, or even a Spa package at a destination Spa resort such as Miraval), but most All Inclusive resorts do charge for those add-ons.
To be 100% certain, ask your travel agent for a complete list of what’s included when you get a vacation quote.
Primarily because Americans are simply so accustomed to it….so we do it even when we don’t need to.
At *most* all-inclusive resorts, the ‘tips’ are included in your package prices so you don’t NEED to shove a dollar at the bartender/waitress/porter. And at some of those resorts, employees are not supposed to accept tips, so it’s important to know before you go.
So even though it’s NOT expected, does it get you better service? Eh…the jury is still out on that – the wait-staff at all-inclusive resorts really cannot afford to have any unhappy guests, so they certainly won’t ignore the non-tippers, and I’ve personally observed them treating both tippers and non-tippers with equal care and service, so my advice is that you should only tip if you really, really want to reward someone, but be sure you won’t jeopardize their job if you do.
That said, we’ve got a terrific blog post all about tipping at all inclusive resorts, we’d love to see YOUR opinion in the comments!
Ooh that’s a great question! Kids can be expensive little buggers, can’t they?
The answer is a resounding YES! Let’s face it, kids can be like little hoover vacuums when it comes to their appetite….at an all-inclusive you won’t be dragging out your wallet every 15 minutes to buy yet another snack or drink, and there are more than enough activities (including waterparks!) offered these days to keep them entertained for the entire trip (even your teens!) so you won’t be paying for pricey entertainment.
And there’s more good news! There’s a LOT of competition these days in the family-friendly all-inclusive resort market, so many all-inclusive resorts have lower rates for kids under 12, summer-time specials and discounts, and some even have ‘kids stay free‘ promotions.
Additionally, a trend we’re starting to see is the multi-family vacation (and an increase in family reunions), where two or more families share a Villa (many of which sleep from 12 to 20 persons) located at all-inclusive resorts, a great cost-sharing maneuver.
They do seem expensive, don’t they? But when you factor in everything that you won’t have to spend extra dollars on (like meals, drinks, snacks, and activities) then you can really see the value in an all-inclusive.
That said there are definitely ways to save money, sometimes big money:
- Grand Opening (or soft opening) specials can save you up to 50% and more if you’re willing to go when an all-inclusive resort first opens. Of course you may encounter a few issues that will get worked out over time, such as staff that isn’t yet fully trained, restaurants that don’t have all their menu items available yet, or a gym that hasn’t yet received all of their equipment, but you’ll also avoid the crowds and often can get more personalized service and sometimes discounts at the Spa.
- Travel during hurricane season. While sometimes risky due to the aforementioned hurricanes that *could* happen, you can save a great deal and some resorts offer ‘hurricane guarantees’ which can offset some of your losses if you do have your vacation cut short.
- If you’d rather spend most of your time at the beach or pool, or exploring the area, then opt for the lowest (aka cheapest) room category. A room with a view may be nice, but saving $100 (or more) per night to rest your head may be nicer.
- Sign up to get on a whole slew of email lists from all the resorts (or just sign up for ours), then sit back and wait for the promotions to hit your inbox.
Even taking recent events into account, Cancun, Mexico is less dangerous than many cities in the U.S.
A quick review of recorded crime statistics shows that there is less crime and violence in Mexico than there is in the U.S. and an even lower rate of violent crime in the popular tourist areas of Mexico.
Cancun and other resort destinations in Mexico rely on tourism as their primary (and in some cases, only) economy……everyone from the Mexican police to the average Cancun citizen takes the safety of tourists very seriously – crime there could have a huge negative impact on their jobs, so they work hard to combat it!
Does that mean there is *no* crime? No, but as long as you’re being as smart as you’d be anywhere (not going out alone at night, not flashing loads of cash, etc. – be sure to read our post on how to avoid travel scams!), you’ll be as safe (if not more so) than you are at home.
That’s a great question! As the ocean temperature changes so does the seaweed problem, some years there is little to no seaweed (also called “sargassum”), in other years there is an over-abundance of the stinky stuff. Weather — sometimes far offshore — also has an effect. These factors can be hard to predict, and sometimes last for weeks or months, often changing overnight.
Your friends might have a perfect seaweed-free vacation just the week before your trip to the same destination, when you might encounter a daily pile-up of seaweed.
What that means is that it’s hard for anyone, expert or not, to tell you exactly when or where to go to avoid seaweed, but you do have SOME options.
- Consider an all-inclusive in Playa Mujeres or Costa Mujeres (north of Cancun), where they get *some* protection from the seaweed from Isla Mujeres (which also blocks some of the ocean’s larger waves, resulting in calmer water).
- There are several great all-inclusive resorts in Isla Mujeres where there is no seaweed at all on the west-facing (inward aka leeward) coast of the island. We’re really looking forward to a stay at the brand-new Check PricesSecrets Impression Isla Mujeres when it opens!
- A few resorts – such as the Check PricesHotel Xcaret and the Check PricesHard Rock Riviera Maya – have a “lagoon”-style beach area featuring either natural or man-made off-shore reefs that block most waves, and most of the seaweed, but still let you wade and snorkel amongst the fishies.
- On the opposite coast, the all-inclusives in Puerto Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta, and Riviera Nayarit, rarely suffer from seaweed problems that can sometimes plague the Caribbean side of Mexico.
It’s also important to know that the government of popular Caribbean tourist destinations including Mexico, along with many in the tourism industry, are now spending millions of dollars to combat the problem. One solution being implemented is off-shore nets that will keep the stuff from hitting the beach.
Want to know more about when/where/why seaweed is more of a problem than it used to be?
Mexico Seaweed Report
Sigh….if only we could control the weather for our vacations…..but since we can’t, you need to prepare for any likely eventuality, which — if you’re traveling during the months in which you might get a blizzard — means checking the weather reports voraciously, and considering staying at an on-airport hotel (or one that is very close) the night before your flight, because missing a flight can get very, very expensive, unless of course you have a good travel insurance policy.
Note: While there is still a chance that the blizzard might result in cancelled flights even if you’re at the airport on time, at least in that case you’ll have some recourse as many resorts will allow you to change your arrival date by one day without any penalty when your flight is cancelled.
Regardless of how a missed flight happens, this is where it really pays to have booked with a travel agent – they can help you out in a jam by checking all of your flight options and re-booking you, as well as contacting the resort on your behalf. If you didn’t, contact the company or resort you booked with right away to find out your options for changing your arrival date and airport transfers, and call your airline right away to find out what you can do — but be prepared to pay a change fee at the very least, and likely a ‘difference-in-fare’ fee, and that’s IF they can get you on another flight.
A great option is ParkSleepFly – they offer packages on Airport hotels that include free parking for your car and a shuttle to the airport……also great for those who have a long drive to the airport, or who have a hard time getting up for an early flight.
Maybe. It depends on your state and whether the driver’s license you’re issued is in compliance with the REAL ID Act, which since 2005 has been a federal standard for photo identification.
Updated 08/10/2020 to reflect the current (extended) dates
Updated again 05/24/21to reflect the current (extended) dates
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending the REAL ID full enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023, due to circumstances resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning on January 22, 2018, domestic air travelers from states that are not compliant and have NOT been granted an extension will need to show an ‘alternate form of acceptable identification“, of which one is a Passport (book or card).
Beginning on May 3, 2023, ALL domestic air travelers will need a REAL ID compliant driver’s license or one of the aforementioned acceptable methods of identification.
Remember that if you leave the U.S., you’ll still need a Passport to return – that won’t be effected by the REAL ID Act.
- LATEST UPDATE:
- Here’s a great explanation of the REAL ID Act:
- And from Homeland Security, some FAQs about REAL ID and travel:
- Here’s where you can check to see if your state issued driver’s license is compliant with REAL ID:
(Scroll down and click on your state on the map for specific information)
Yes. You should be concerned.
Here’s why: As with previous mosquito-borne viruses — such as malaria, dengue, West Nile virus,and yellow fever — Zika virus will eventually spread around the globe, and even climates that have no mosquitoes won’t be entirely safe from it as travelers will bring it home with them.
What’s important to remember: For most people not only is the risk of infection minimal, but if you do get bitten by a Zika-carrying mosquito the effects are generally mild and no worse than any other flu. Those at higher risk include women who are pregnant and couples who are trying to get pregnant, as the Zika virus has been linked to birth defects, including microcephaly. The CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention) advises those women/couples to avoid travel to areas where Zika has been reported.
What can you do? Be SURE to ask what the resort you’re planning to visit is doing to control the mosquito population on their property (most all-inclusive resorts take mosquito control very seriously and will use sprays and other means to keep them at bay), and ALWAYS check the website of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention for the most current information on Zika Virus.
This happens more frequently than many realize……”Yikes! I got married and changed my drivers license but not my passport – what now?!?”
BUT, this is a biggie — make no mistake, you MUST ensure that your names match on both your airline ticket and your passport! If they don’t, then one or the other must be changed, which generally incurs a fee. AND in case you’re wondering, if you’re a U.S. citizen, you cannot travel outside of the US or its territories without a passport any longer – it’s required to return the the U.S., no exceptions…..so don’t think that because you changed your driver’s license that will suffice — it won’t.
Depending on how much time you have before you travel (at least 3 months or more), it’s better to change the name on your Passport, because you’ll need to change it eventually anyway (you have up to one year after marriage to change your passport if you changed your name).
Tight on time? You can get a new passport in as little as 8 days by going to a Department of State Passport Agency, but that does require an appointment and proof of immediate international travel, along with paying the expedite fee, or you can expedite the mailing of your new passport (2 to 3 week turnaround time) by simply paying the extra expedite fee in addition to the normal application processing fee when you apply or renew by mail.
If you’re short on time, it may be faster and less expensive to have your airline change the name on your ticket, but each airline has their own policies and fees (which are generally less than the expedite fee for a new passport!). Check with your travel agent or directly with your airline to explore this option.
Lastly, remember that your Passport MUST be valid for a period FOLLOWING your return flight — usually for at least 6 months after — but be sure to check with your travel agent as that date can vary depending on what country you’re visiting.
Generally speaking, Hurricane Season runs from June 1st through November 30th of each year, however in recent years the Caribbean has experienced a few Hurricanes earlier than June 1st, and a few later than November 30th.
So what is the likelihood that a Hurricane will impact your vacation? There’s no way to predict that as far in advance as most people book their trip, but when you consider that in any Hurricane Season there are typically only a few (although 2020 was a record-breaking season, with 12 that made landfall somewhere) and the season spans 5 to 6 months, there’s a lot of time in that window to have a fabulous vacation with great weather. Just no guarantees!
Lots of travelers prefer this time because many resorts offer cheaper rates during Hurricane Season (specifically because of the risk), BUT it’s wise to be sure you have Check Pricestravel insurance that includes trip interruption that specifically includes Hurricanes (so no “act of God” exclusions). The best is (naturally) Cancel For Any Reason insurance (aka “CFAR”) because if a Hurricane looks likely just before you head out for vacation, you can cancel and rebook without losing your deposits or payments, and it also often covers your airfare changes.
While all travel sellers will offer trip insurance at the time you book your trip, you can also (usually) add it yourself through these companies, so it’s worth comparing costs and benefits to be sure you’re getting the right coverage and a good price.
- Check PricesInsureMyTrip.com
- Check PricesTravelProtection.com
Mid-August through mid-December is the least expensive time of the year to go (excluding holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving) for the resorts, however keep in mind that this overlaps with Hurricane Season, which is generally from the beginning of June to the end of November.
Mid-December through mid-April is what we call “high season” and it is highest in demand and highest price. “Shoulder season” is from Mid-April to mid-August. Family resorts are still in high demand in June and July, but the prices are higher over spring break. For high demand times, plan further ahead to get the best deals.
Be sure to read our article on Travel During Hurricane Season for more advice.