Five Things I Learned About All-Inclusive Vacations
In July, my best friend and I traveled to Antigua, with visions of the azure sea and rum cocktails in our heads. We made our plans in May, through a LivingSocial travel deal—an all-inclusive resort nestled on the white sands of our dreams. What’s that they say about the best laid plans? Here are five things I learned from being an all-inclusive newbie:
1. Whenever possible, fly direct. When we booked our tickets, my friend and I were overcome with excitement and the thrill that the trip had become real. We may have overlooked a few details in our stupor. Things like, there’s only one flight into Antigua per day on American Airlines (and most others that fly to the island). So when we arrived at the airport on the day we left and discovered that our first flight was delayed, I mumbled something like, “I vaguely remember that there weren’t many options for the connecting flight…” We ended up staying the night in Miami (with a hotel voucher), and missing a full day in Antigua. Next time, I’d spend the money up front by flying direct.
2. Recommendations are key. You know what they say—the internet is your friend! Until it isn’t. Neither my friend nor I had ever been to the Caribbean, nor had we stayed at an all-inclusive resort. But, we took LivingSocial’s word for it, and it showed. Our resort, while in a wonderful location, was outdated, and whenever had to ask the staff for something (like a maintenance request to fix our broken AC), we felt as though we were imposing. Lesson learned: word of mouth is still relevant in 2013.
3. How inclusive is “all inclusive?” Well, it’s…complicated. Sure, there were three restaurants to choose from, except…none of them were open, and we learned upon arriving that our package didn’t apply to them anyway. Our resort tracked our meals by having us wear color-coded wristbands, and checking our names off a list each time we ate. The same goes for our beloved rum cocktails; actually, only certain drinks were included, which was not made clear before the trip. In the end, I don’t think the money we put towards our included meals was worth the price of admission. My new take on resorts and all-inclusives is: go big or go home.
4. People want to sell you things. I arrived in Antigua ready to get away, unplug, and relax. I was expecting a certain level of hospitality from the resort; while a few staff members had it, most didn’t. The same goes for the atmosphere…the minute we walked by the front desk, the travel liaison urged us to meet with her and purchase an island tour—most of which were between $300-400 per person. There were also numerous vendors roaming the beaches, selling everything from jet ski rides to jewelry. While this is common in many places around the world, we thought we were on a private beach—part of what we paid for was peace of mind.
5. When it comes to resorts…paying more is worth it. From what we could tell, some of the surrounding resorts were nicer, more modern, and had more guests. While we loved the beach-front access at our resort, it was difficult to really unwind when the staff and facilities were under par. My new take on resorts and all-inclusives is: go big or go home. This is not the time to get a good deal…if you’re going to do it, really indulge! Otherwise, your money will be better spent renting a beach house, getting a nice hotel in a big city for a few days, or a stellar spa day.
A storyteller at heart, Melissa is a writer and Washington, DC-based portrait photographer. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has a graduate certificate in documentary film-making. Melissa grew up in Philadelphia, PA and, among other travels, has spent time studying abroad in Ireland and Prague. Currently, Melissa is the Assistant Director of Alumni Marketing & Communications at George Washington University. In her spare time, she is a contributing editor to En Route Traveler and loves editing photos, veg cooking, running, and planning trips with friends and family.