All inclusive vacations are the ultimate way to unwind, pamper yourself and enjoy a stress-free getaway.
But there are definitely some tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to take full advantage of your all inclusive holiday to save you money, make sure you don’t miss out on anything and avoid any mishaps or inconveniences.
Below you’ll find my favorite hacks for getting the most out of an all inclusive resort vacation.
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Find a Resort That’s Perfect for You
There are SO many choices for all-inclusive resorts and it can be overwhelming to make a decision on where to stay.
Look at this as a positive thing.
Because there are so many resorts to choose from, many have unique features and amenities to draw you in.
For example, are you traveling as a couple on a honeymoon or romantic getaway?
Consider an adult-only all-inclusive resort that caters to couples.
Rooms at Secrets Huatulco come with a hot tub on your private ocean-view balcony and room-service is delivered through a box from the hallway so you can enjoy all the privacy you want.
Or Sandals Royal Caribbean (Jamaica) has overwater bungalows – you don’t have to travel to the Maldives for this type of dreamy resort experience.
Large Resorts with Lots to Do
Do you want to show up at the resort and enjoy a hassle-free week exploring every inch of the property? Choose a larger scale resort big enough to keep you busy.
I recommend the Bahia Principe Akumal (right between Playa del Carmen and Tulum), where you also get access to the amenities and restaurants of the other two connected properties – Coba and Tulum.
By staying at the Akumal, it’s like 3 resorts in 1.
Family Resorts with Waterparks
If you’re traveling as a family with young kids, there are tons of resorts that have built mini-waterparks into their pool amenities.
Bahia Principe Fantasia Punta Cana (Domincan Republic) is one of the best family and kid-friendly all inclusives in the Caribbean.
Resorts Closer to the Local Areas
If you want to enjoy the luxuries and comforts of an all-inclusive resort but want to spend some time visiting the local area, consider a less expensive resort in the Puerto Vallarta area.
By choosing a less expensive resort you won’t feel like you’re ‘wasting money’ if you leave the property for a few meals to dine at local restaurants.
There are plenty of options for authentic restaurants in the Puerto Vallarta area or Nayarit state that are accessible to those staying at all-inclusive resorts.
The Royal Decameron is located in the charming town of Bucerias, just north of Puerto Vallarta.
It’s inexpensive to stay here compared to downtown Puerto Vallarta, and you can walk to authentic restaurants. Learn more about Bucerias here.
Pack a Beach Bag as Your Personal Item/Carry-On
One of my best tips for all inclusive vacations is to use a beach bag as your personal item on the plane, instead of a large purse.
Now you’ve got a bag to bring you sunscreen, book, hold your clothes/beach coverup.
Plus, they squish down easily in the plane to fit under the seat.
Recommended: this bag comes in over 30 colors, is waterproof and fits perfectly under the seat in the plane.
Pack Beach/Pool Clothes in Your Carry On
I can’t stress this enough! Make sure you pack a swimsuit, sandals and a beach outfit (shorts, tank, summer dress, etc) in your carry-on luggage.
Depending on what time your flight arrives your room might not be ready when you check-in.
If this is the case, you don’t have to worry, as you’re able to enjoy the resort’s amenities while you wait.
You can leave your bags with hotel security and go enjoy the pool or the buffet for an hour while you wait.
Or, just in case your luggage gets lost and doesn’t show up, you can at least enjoy the pool and amenities while you wait for it to arrive.
Know the Dress Code
Most all inclusive resorts have dress codes for the a la carte restaurants.
Some resorts will list the dress code for restaurants on their website. In most cases, they ask for casual or casual elegance.
This means men should pack collared shirts (either short or long sleeved), and some restaurants won’t allow flip flops, but ‘dressier’ sandals or close-toed shoes are ok.
In most cases, men can wear shorts to dinner restaurants, but not swim shorts.
Some resorts require men to wear pants at certain restaurants, and dress pants or jeans are ok.
I’ve got more details about this (and a few other small things you might not have thought of) in my guide to 17 things to pack for an all inclusive vacation.
Make Your A La Carte Reservations ASAP
If your resort requires reservations for the a la carte restaurants, I recommend you make them immediately when you check-in (you might be directed to the concierge to do this).
So make sure you ask if they don’t provide this information when you check-in.
A la Carte dining is included in your all-inclusive stay, but since the restaurants tend to have lower capacity than the buffets, most require advanced reservations.
I recommend you do some reading before you arrive at the hotel and have an idea of which restaurants you want to dine at – and then make your reservations immediately.
This is because most of the restaurants are closed at least one or two days per week, so you might miss some if you don’t plan for it.
This is especially important if you’re traveling as a group of 4 or more people. If it’s just the two of you, it might not be a big deal.
Also, many of the more luxury resorts or adult-only resorts don’t require reservations – something to think about when booking as well.
Some resorts are now letting guests book their a la carte restaurant reservations online in advance, so check the website before you leave!
You Can Ask for More
If it’s your first time at an all inclusive resort, it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that you can have whatever you want (when it comes to food and drink).
While you can always go for more food at the buffet, you can ask for more food at the a la carte restaurants, too.
Even though they have set menus with appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from, you’re technically not limited to just one of each.
I’m not encouraging anyone to be wasteful or to overindulge, but if you can’t decide between two desserts, you could ask for them both.
Or if you’re trying to increase your protein intake, you can ask for extra or double meat with your entrée.
Some of the very inexpensive resorts may not allow this, so just be aware and ask if you’re not sure.
When ordering drinks you can ask to have them made as strong or as weak as you like.
How and What to Tip at All Inclusive Resorts
Whether you’re in Jamaica, Mexico (Cancun, Cabo, Mayan Riviera) Punta Cana, Costa Rica, you should always tip for great service. Bartenders, servers, housekeeping, bell hop and anyone who helps you out deserves a tip.
You can tip in Mexican pesos or US dollars, but I always try to use the local currency whenever I’m traveling.
For tipping housekeeping at an all inclusive, I usually leave 100 to 200 pesos (which is the equivalent of 5 to 10 US dollars) after the first day.
This should help ensure you get excellent housekeeping service for your stay.
Then, I usually tip again halfway through the trip and at the end. Of course you can tip everyday and more than this amount if you’d like.
It is standard to tip about a dollar (20 pesos) per drink for bartenders and pool servers at all inclusive resorts.
Again, I usually throw down 100 to 200 pesos with my first drink if I’m planning to have a few.
This helps them remember you and keeps the drinks flowing.
Plus, if the resort is busy and you’ve been tipping well, chances are your bartender will see that you’re coming in for another drink and will make yours before others who didn’t tip.
If anyone helps you with your luggage, about 20 – 100 pesos is standard depending how many bags you have and how heavy they are.
Hacks for Better Drinks at the Resort
Types of Drinks you Can Order
All alcoholic drinks are included – beer, wine, spirits, cocktails and slushie-frozen drinks.
Some resorts do charge extra for top shelf liquor, so be aware of this.
If you have a certain brand of liquor that you prefer, make sure you ask for it. The bartender may have it on hand.
They’re more likely to have it on hand if you tip them well, too!
Try the Region’s Speciality
I also recommend trying drinks with the alcohol that the region is most known for.
For example, on the Pacific side of Mexico where Tequila is made, they’ll have a great selection of tequila and tequila-based cocktails.
On the Caribbean side of Mexico and south like Huatulco, they tend to have a lot more Mezcal. And Jamaica is known for their rum.
Ice on the Side
When you’re sitting poolside or at the beach and are having drinks served to you, you can ask for your ice on the side.
Since it’s going to be hot out, the ice gets pretty melty by the time your drink gets to you.
If you ask for it on the side, you can pour out what’s melted and then place the rest in your drink. No watered down drink!
Take Advantage of the Hospitality Suite
If you have a late flight on the day you are leaving, you can check-out and still use the hotel amenities for the day.
The hotel will hold you bags while you enjoy your last hours of pool time, drinks and the buffets.
When you’re ready to depart, most resorts have a private hospitality suite with a bathroom, shower and changing area so you can freshen up before heading to the airport.
I recommend asking about this a day or two before your departure. Some resorts require you to reserve the hospitality suite in advance.
Book it early to get your preferred time slot.
Get to Know the Resort Staff
One thing you’ll notice is that the service from staff at all inclusive resorts is absolutely amazing. It’s a big reason why people love staying at all inclusives.
To make the most of the service you receive, you should make a point to chat and be friendly with the staff.
You’ll likely run into the same bartenders and servers while you’re there for a week or two.
The better you get to know them, the more they will make your stay pleasant and make sure you’re taken care of.
It helps if you know some of the local language (likely will be Spanish) as they will appreciate the effort so much!
I’ve been using Rocket Languages to help me learn Spanish, and it’s one of the easiest platforms I’ve used.
What I love it that they have specific modules for travelers, so you’ll learn useful phrases specific for your holidays.
Other All Inclusive Tips, Tricks and Hacks
If you’re staying at a resort near Playa del Carmen and planning to go into that city to visit the markets and do some shopping, turn your wristband inside out.
Many of the vendors and shop keeps know what all the resort wristbands in the area look like and will try to use this to get your attention to sell you something.
If you don’t want to be bothered as much, turn it inside out, or where light sleeves to cover it.
Pack your sunscreen in your luggage! It’s going to be very expensive to buy onsite, so to save money, bring your sunscreen with you on vacation.
Also, you’re going to need a lot more than you’re used to using at home. Definitely don’t underdo it when it comes to how much sunscreen you should pack.
Most Mexico and Caribbean areas prefer if you use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the delicate ocean life. And especially if you go on any excursions, reef-safe sunscreen is required – particularly if you’re planning to visit any cenotes (underwater caves)!
The best reef-safe sunscreen I’ve found is Kokua – it’s zinc-based with no harmful chemicals.
Protect Your Passport from Humidity
Most likely it’s going to be humid on your vacation, and something I learned the hard way is to protect your passport from humidity!
Sometimes you’ll need to do more than just keep it in the in-room safe.
Several years ago I just threw my passport into the safe and left it for a week.
Upon departure, the pages had all started to curl from the humidity. And if you’ve ever had a damaged passport, you know that border agents do not like to see this.
To avoid any potential trouble, make sure you have something to protect your passport from humidity.
Best Time to Go to an All Inclusive Resort
To get the most out of your vacation at an all inclusive resort, it’s best to avoid peak travel seasons.
Spring break, Easter and the holiday season are the busiest and most expensive times to visit a resort.
If you schedule your trip for the beginning or end of shoulder season, you’ll enjoy a much more personalized experience.
You won’t have to get up as early to claim pool chairs, you’ll get more attention at the swim up bars and you may even get upgraded upon check-in if the hotel has vacancy.
If you’re heading to Mexico or the Caribbean, try the months of April or November.
Consider Resorts that Offer Free Quarantine
To welcome travelers back and make guests feel more confident about booking a trip, many properties are now offering a free quarantine if you end up testing positive for you-know-what on your departure.
From what I can find, here are the resorts and properties offering free quarantine:
This includes hotels like Moon Palace Cancun, Moon Palace Jamaica, Playacar Palace and Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos (and a few others).
The website indicates up to five days are complimentary and then a special rate if you require longer.
These are the resorts under the name Dreams, Secrets and Breathless.
The website says if a guest test positive on site, quarantine will be covered for up to 14 days. This is for the guest and one travel companion.
The Excellence Collection
This includes Finest Playa Mujeres Hotel, Beloved Playa Mujeres, Excellence Mujeres, Excellence El Carmen (Punta Cana), Finest Punta Cana and Excellence Punta Cana.
The website indicates that quarantine is complimentary for up to 11 days.
Do you have any other tips to help fellow travelers get their most out of their all inclusive resort vacations? Let me know in the comments below!