Hola! Bienvenidos a mi nueva blog post! I am going to share with you All-inclusive travel tips!
Hi! I am still recovering from my vacation in the Dominican Republic and re-acclimating to being home. I still have the remnants of Spanish dialogue playing in my head and an urge to suggest to my husband, Travis, “Let’s head over to the swim-up bar”.
This was our sixth stay at an All-Inclusive resort, which is still our favorite manner of vacationing. When looking to stay at an All-Inclusive, the Caribbean is the place to be. One price for all the meals, snacks, drinks, accommodations, and palm trees and sunshine you can handle… What is not to love?? Be aware, however, that the price range of All-Inclusive resorts vary widely depending on the resort and the destination. The Dominican Republic is overall the most affordable, with the U.S. Virgin Islands being among the most expensive. Additionally, you can find All-Inclusive resorts from $150/night for two people, up to $1,000/night.
All-Inclusive Travel Tip #1 – The Dominican Republic is the overall most affordable destination for All-Inclusive travel
With this massive price range, and all these options, it can become very overwhelming. I would recommend narrowing your search to 1-2 destinations, then identifying 4-7 items you want most in your resort. For example, if I live in the Midwest (which I do), and I have a Spirit Airlines Credit Card to offer me ultra-budget airfare (which I have), I may decide to look into the Dominican Republic and Cancun. Then, lets say the items I want most are 1) a pretty beach, 2) close to the airport, 3) highly rated food, and 4) an ocean view. If you know at least a range of your total budget (either by price per night, or total cost) that will also help.
Then, I make an excel spreadsheet with rows for each resort, and I can then compare with columns for price, each of my preferred items, and additional notes. Each time I have used this method, I have come out with a clear winner, even among all the options. For this research, I use CheapCaribbean.com, Trip Advisor (be sure to read the reviews and look through traveler’s photos), and I like to book through Hotels.com because I earn a free night after booking 10 nights through hotels.com. Super easy!
All-Inclusive Travel Tip #2 – Be organized! It pays to do a little research and planning
If all this still sounds overwhelming, then you can always look at Groupon or Living Social for All-Inclusive deals. Just be sure to research the resort first on Trip Advisor. If you live near a major airport hub (O’Hare, LAX, JFK/LaGuardia) then it may be worth it to also consider the deals that package airfare. However, I live near Detroit Metro Airport and majorly regretted the only time I ever purchased one of the airfare plus accommodations packages. What the deal does not tell you, is that you won’t get to choose the flight or the airline. Which means you may get stuck with looooong layovers eating into your vacation time, among other inconveniences.
For this vacation, I wanted to save as much money as possible, but still enjoy some of my favorite parts of a vacation. So, I decided to fly Spirit (budget airline) to the Dominican Republic (affordable destination for All-Inclusive resorts). I wanted a resort that was near the airport (which narrowed my search to Punta Cana), I wanted a balcony off our room (a non-negotiable for me), adults-only, and on the beach. I used my excel spreadsheet method and decided on the Punta Cana Princess. Again, this was definitely not the most luxurious resort we have ever stayed at, however we paid just over $1,000 for 5 nights all-inclusive (for both my husband and I). Pretty dang cheap. If you want to save as much money as possible on your flights, I would recommend reading my Secret Tips and Tricks So YOU Can Buy Cheap Flights!
Once we checked in and they showed us to our room, we set down our bags and headed back to the check-in desk. I knew that this resort had both basic rooms and honeymoon suites. We paid for the basic room, and they gave us one on the ground floor. Personally, I prefer to be on the highest floor possible because the views are better and I (probably irrationally) think that there will be less chance of spiders and bugs in the room. So, I told the staff that the room was nice, but I was hoping for a room on a higher floor or a honeymoon suite. They initially started to tell me how nice the basic room was. I agreed, then reiterated my request. They then checked the open rooms available for the nights we would be there, and Voila! they sent a bellboy to move our luggage to a honeymoon suite on the third floor, free of charge.
All-Inclusive Travel Tip #3 – ALWAYS ask for an upgraded room. If you know what to ask for, and it is available, they will give it to you for free!
Once we were settled in our room, it was time to explore! We spent the first three dayss of our vacation more on chill mode. We started every morning at the breakfast buffet (because, obvi) and spent the rest of the morning/afternoon in the sun alternating from the swim-up bar in the pool and cabana beds on the beach listening to the waves.
One afternoon they even had a foam party in the pool with a DJ! It was crazy, loud, obnoxious, music full of air horns, and it was awesome. Such a fun time. Each evening, the resort had a show or other entertainment event. We watched a gymnastics show, magic show, and Michael Jackson show. I am huge Michael Jackson nerd, and I LOVED the Michael Jackson show. The music was of course great, the crowd was into it, and most importantly, the Michael Jackson impersonator NAILED the moonwalk.
By the fourth day we felt relaxed enough that we wanted to step off the resort property and do some excursions. One night we met up with some new friends and took a bus to a Cave Party at Imagine Night Club. It is an actual cave that has been turned into a dance club. It was pretty cool, especially the bats flying around the cave ceiling. I do wish I had done a bit more (ie. any) research on this club though. The excursion was definitely oversold by the staff and was in reality more disappointing that what they pitched. The bus ride took over an hour to get there because we stopped at 5-6 other resorts first to pick up other people, and only one of the rooms was open so we had no choice in the music like we were told we would. All in all, it was a cool experience, but not worth the price.
All-Inclusive Travel Tip #4 – Research reviews on excursions, or talk to others at your resort who have gone on that excursion. The staff will talk up, often unrealistically the excursion to get you to book.
The final full day of our trip, we decided to do an all day excursion. This time, I had already read reviews online AND we talked to others at our resort who took this same excursion earlier in their stay, so we had a very good understanding of the details. We took a bus to Bayahibe, past La Romana. There, we boarded a catamaran and party cruised to Saona Island, dancing merengue and bachata the entire way.
Saona Island is part of a National Park, barely inhabited, ringed with soft sand beaches, and more palm trees than I have ever seen in one place. It is the definition of paradise. We were served lunch and open bar as part of the excursion package, then we were ready for the water! Saona Island is in the Caribbean Sea (unlike Punta Cana, which is on the Atlantic), so the water is clearer, calmer, and warmer. After several hours here, we then boarded a speed boat and went to a natural pool with dozens of starfish at the bottom of the water. The perfect way to end this trip to paradise.
For more of an adventure in the Dominican Republic, use my referral link to book at Outback Adventures!
All-Inclusive Travel Tip #5 – Leave the resort property for at least one excursion. See more of what your destination has to offer!
**Speaking of these starfish, I think it is worth pausing here to talk for a moment about animal tourism. I am one of the biggest animal lovers you will ever meet, and trust me when I say that it takes effort for me to refrain from much of the animal tourism I encounter while traveling. Luckily, our tour guides at the natural pool instructed us not to lift the starfish out of the water. Even better, would be leaving them completely undisturbed. At our resort, there were people with an iguana and a monkey that you could hold and pose with while they took your picture. The problem with the majority of these “get your picture taken while holding or posing with wild animals” is that this is not a natural behavior for these animals. If you see animals behaving in a way that doesn’t seem natural, odds are some cruel and unethical methods were employed to get the animal to perform this way. Either through fear and physical abuse, or sedative medication. So when you see this, please do not partake! If people don’t spend the money on unethical animal tourism, then there is no incentive for it to continue. **
Bonus Travel Tip: Do extensive research before partaking in any animal tourism
Our final night in Punta Cana, our resort had a beach party with a DJ. It was fun, but I was so exhausted I only stayed a short time (Travis didn’t even make it out!). Maybe 3 minutes after getting back to our room for the night, we heard a deafening roar…it was a flash torrential downpour. I was sad for the beach party but pretty glad I didn’t get caught in it!
The next morning, since we were on a beach facing East, I set my alarm for 5:45am. I wanted to make one last attempt to photograph a pretty sunrise over the water. I had woken up for the sunrise almost every other morning, but was only met with gray clouds. As soon as I turned the corner of our building, I saw the pink and red sky. Finally! The sunrise that morning was spectacular. For this occasion, sunrise was better for photographs, because the sun would be over the water. The other reason I prefer sunrise to sunset, regardless of the location of my travels, is I am usually the only person there. No crowds, no distraction, just the feeling of my soul being connected to the earth and the sun and the sea and the sky, and a sense of gratitude for this life.
Travel Tip #6 – Wake up early for the sunrise. It is worth it, I promise!
I hope these tips were helpful and informative. If you have never gone to an All-Inclusive, but have been empowered to try it by this post, let me know how it goes! And if you have any more questions related to All-Inclusive vacationing, send me a message or comment below. Hasta Luego!
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Leah Little has a full time job as a social worker, and has managed to travel the world while wearing beautiful clothes by knowing how to score deals in travel and fashion. Learn more about her journey here. Join the Leah Little Travel and Fashion tribe by entering your email to subscribe to be the first to learn new ways to enjoy the best in travel and fashion for less. Say hi and send her a message! Contact