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Tips from an All-Inclusive Newbie

Recently, three friends and I set out for our first foray into the world of the all-inclusive resort. The goal? Total relaxation. The destination? Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Along the way, we learned a few tips and insider secrets.

All-Inclusive Secret No. 1:

Booking is easy. I was really unsure about how this worked and had lots of questions. I booked through a third-party site, where I was able to call and work with a reservation agent. He had all the answers and gave me his extension in case I thought of more to grill him about later. Here are a couple of tips to make the booking process smooth:

  • Although our deal didn’t include airfare, reserving flights with the hotel resulted in an additional discount on our room. Most Canadian all-inclusive vacations do include air, hotel and meals, but it is always good to have an idea of market prices before you get on the phone to evaluate whether this is a good deal.
  • Even if you have parties who need to pay separately, elect one representative to get on the phone with the travel agent. Make sure that person has everyone's credit card information, full names (as listed on their passport) and dates of birth on hand when they call.
  • Pay attention to the rules and restrictions. In this case, any changes to our original reservation resulted in some hefty price differences.

All-Inclusive Secret No. 2:

They really are ALL-inclusive. I'm ashamed/thrilled to admit that we didn’t leave our resort for five straight days. We planned to head into town for some excitement, but in the end, everything we wanted was right there on site. There was a coffee shop, restaurants, a spa, a gym, pools, a beach, bars and activities. When we received our first activity schedule, I had visions of the "Dirty Dancing" talent show. Turns out, there were plenty of less cheesy things to do. From yoga classes to movies on the beach, these little amusements allowed us to meet all the other fun vacationers. Once we had friends on the property, there was really no reason to leave. Plus, staying on site saves a lot of money. If we had left, we likely would have shelled out extra cash for food, drinks or souvenirs. At our happy little resort, it was -- say it with me -- ALL included!

All-Inclusive Secret No. 3:

The food can be good! You can call us culinary snobs (and you'd probably be right), but going into this, we did not expect any memorable meals from an all-inclusive. However, to achieve total relaxation, we didn’t even want to think about where to eat. So we went for it. Turns out, our resort offered five top-notch restaurants and a great room service menu. We were not disappointed once. The secret is to make sure there are lots of options -- chances are you'll find food you like somewhere on the property. The best part is -- even if you order a meal that doesn’t suit your tastes, you can order again -- it's all included!

All in all, it was a great trip. If you are seeking cultural experiences and tons of excitement, I would consider something else. But to truly get away from it all, this is the way to go. Choosing the perfect resort is as simple as reading reviews. In our case, it turned out that Tripadvisor reports were pretty much spot-on.

Happy hunting!

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Tips by

Deal Expert, Chicago
Monday, March 21, 2011
See more Tips from
Caroline Eber