What to Wear for Your All-Inclusive Resort Vacation

What to wear at an all-inclusive resort
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You’re finally going on vacation!

And maybe you’re wondering – what’s the dress code at all-inclusive resorts? And why do they have dress codes?

It’s important to understand what’s expected so you can pack appropriately, and not risk being turned away for that romantic dinner because you’re not dressed correctly.

But fear not! It’s really simple once you understand the basic terminology used and the setting in which they apply.

Deciphering the Dress Code Lingo:

Nearly all of the all-inclusive resorts have dress codes for most dining venues, along with bars, nightclubs, and the show theatre (where evening entertainment is performed) that apply to all guests with a few exceptions, noted below.

You’ll see terms used such as “casual”, “resort casual”, “daytime casual”, or (for evening) “elegant”, “resort elegant”, “evening resort wear”, along with the rare but more familiar terms like “semi-formal” or “formal”……we’re breaking it all down for you.

First: The When and Where

It’s important to remember that the dress codes apply for restaurants and bars on the property, not the pool or beach (unless you want to sunbathe topless!)…..for the most part as long as your private bits are covered you’ll be fine at the pool or beach and at the pool snack shack and/or beach bar & grill, where it’s perfectly fine to walk up in your swimsuit and bare feet to grab a drink or enjoy a quick snack or meal.

BUT when you’re indoors at their bars or restaurants – which often can include their patio or outside seating – then you need to be dressed appropriately for the venue…….fancier venues mean fancier clothes, and evening dining means…..evening wear.

And many all-inclusive dress codes will give you specifics, such as “no cutoff shorts or sleeveless shirts” or whatever their specifics are – this includes the footwear, some will say “no flip-flops” for evening dining in a fancy restaurant, so pay attention to the shoes you’ll pack.

Daytime Dining

Most all-inclusive resort dress codes will specify “Casual” or “Resort Casual” for daytime indoor dining and yes there is a difference……”resort casual” is a nicer level than “casual”.

  • Casual can be denim shorts and a t-shirt on top, or a cover-up, pareo, or a light sundress over your bathing suit will generally suffice, and flip-flops or Tevas are fine. You’ll often find a “Casual” dress code applied at the Buffet restaurant or even some a la carte restaurants at breakfast only. For ladies, if you’re wearing a bikini, just be sure it’s fully covered – showing too much skin is considered unappealing where people are dining, and no one wants to sit down where your nearly-bare butt has just been. For guys, the same applies — shorts/t-shirts/flip-flops or Tevas are fine.
  • Resort Casual would be nicer-than-denim shorts (mid-thigh or longer, no booty shorts) or longer jeans (full or capri length) and a nice top, or a light sundress (but definitely no swimsuits). For guys, bermuda shorts and a polo or short-sleeved shirt on top is fine, but please no sleeveless tanks and no t-shirts unless they’re the dressy kind without graphics plastered on them….generally nice-looking (dressier) flip-flops or sandals will do for covering your feet, for guys this can be sneakers or boat shoes. Usually “Resort Casual” is specified at the nicer indoor a la carte restaurants at lunch, but sometimes at breakfast too, especially if you’re in a “club” or “preferred” level-exclusive restaurant.
What to wear at an all-inclusive resort
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For the most part all swimwear – we love this sweet Check PricesPolka Dot One Piece – must be covered unless you’re soaking in the sun by the pool or ocean or partaking of the pool/beach grill. Also remember, for a cover-up you’ll want to get something with a breathable fabric, think cotton or linen, as the Caribbean can be warm and humid.

Evening Attire

What to wear at an all-inclusive resort
Couples

Most all-inclusive resort dress codes require something fancier for evening wear, sometimes called “cocktail attire” but most often referred to as “resort elegant“. In the Buffet restaurant you can usually get by with the same “resort casual” look that you wear for daytime dining, but check to be sure – sometimes all-inclusive resorts will switch the buffet restaurant to an a la carte one for dinner, so be prepared for a casual-to-somewhat-dressy evening look.

When an all-inclusive dress code saysresort elegant“, “evening elegant“, or “cocktail attire“, this is what they mean:

  • Women are asked to wear cocktail dresses, or elegant blouses and pants/skirts. Dressy sandals (but not flip-flops) are fine. Think about what you’d wear if you wanted to ‘dress to impress’ on a first date to a nice restaurant, that’s your look.
  • While men are not usually required to wear a jacket, a nice button-down long-sleeved shirt (oxfords are acceptable if they’re on the nicer side) and long dress slacks are mandatory for evening dining (no jeans or shorts), along with clean and nice-looking boat shoes or loafers but not sneakers. Some dress codes may specify a “suit coat and tie” but this is rare….and those that do will often have a ‘loaner’ coat or tie on hand…..that said, if you check ahead of time so you’re prepared, you won’t be caught off-guard when you want to try that fancy french restaurant, and won’t have to wear an ill-fitting loaner.
  • IF you’re at the rare all-inclusive that specifies “semi-formal” or above, definitely pack the suit jacket and tie, along with dress shoes, as sandals or other open-toed shoes or sneakers/loafers/boat shoes will definitely not be allowed. Ladies, y’all know what to do…..dress to the nines, gals! But remember, while semi-formal can mean a cocktail-length dress, “formal” means mid-calf or longer, nothing at or above the knee.

Fitness, Water Sports, and Other Activities (Oh, my!)

What to wear at an all-inclusive resort
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After a long day and night of unlimited food and drink, you might be wanting to check out the plethora of activities that the resort has to offer to get you moving!

While there are typically no dress codes required for anything other than indoor dining or clubbing, you’ll want to pack accordingly with nice leggings, or sporty shorts, and athletic-style swimwear for physical activities.

Check PricesWater shoes or Teva-style sandals that can go in the ocean are a good option to throw in your suitcase as well.

Off Property

Every property has an abundance of tours, excursions and off-property activities, and while many of the water activities (think snorkeling tours or swimming with dolphins) will only require a bathing suit and suitable footwear (such as the afore-mentioned water shoes), there are many additional off-site tours that will require a little something more!

For example, if you’re heading into town — and want to explore local churches, chapels, or other places of worship — some may require women to cover their hair or bare arms, so stuffing a sarong or Check Pricespareo into your tote is a good idea.

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About Trisha Miller 56 Articles
Trisha is the Editor-in-Chief at Travel Writers Exchange, a community for travel writers & bloggers. She's also a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, and a former member of the IFWTWA, serving on their Board of Directors from 2009 through 2015. When not traveling the world visiting the many all-inclusive resorts she loves, Trisha spends her time writing, mainly about travel and technology, sometimes both at the same time.
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