These types of properties may come with some sneaky fine print, so you’ll want to pay attention before you book.
All-inclusive resorts are a favorite mainstay for beach-seeking tourists. Second only in popularity to cruise ships, said resorts are undeniably convenient, affordable, and relaxing, especially in the hotspots like Mexico and the Caribbean. Despite their name, however, not everything is included. Keep in mind that exclusions vary by resort, but here are the most common exclusions from “all-inclusive” resorts.
Food Worth Writing Home About
Unlimited food at all hours of the night and day is arguably one of the biggest draws of an all-inclusive resort. It’s also really nice to not have to worry about when and where you take your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or snacks in between. But while it’s possible to enjoy a very good meal or entree on occasion at all-inclusives, you’ll mostly be consuming “hit or miss” (quantity over quality) or all-you-can-eat caliber buffet food. And since everything is catered to comforting Western tastes, you certainly won’t be getting an authentic or otherwise local meal.
Similar to the food options, unlimited beer, wine, and basic cocktails are always included. But you’ll likely incur a surcharge when ordering premium or specialty drinks such as name brand liquor or champagne. In some cases, your preferred brand won’t even be available. While basic in-room minibars are often included, it’s not unheard of for guests to complain about watered-down drinks, so check the reviews beforehand if booze is important to you.
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While most all-inclusive resorts feature the same unlimited buffet-type food delivered directly to your room at no extra charge, they never include the expected gratuity for the staff delivering said food. So, while tips for waitstaff and servers at on-site restaurants are almost always included, you’ll be expected to tip for room service or drinks delivered to your beach chair.
Motorized Water Sports
In between sunbathing and swimming in fancy pools, you’ll have the chance to hit the open water on kayaks, paddleboards, or personal sailboats—all of which are included at most all-inclusives. Wave runners, jet skis, powered boats, and parasailing are all extra, however, and can be just as expensive (if not more so) at the resort as they would be at home. So if you have a need for speed, plan to spend extra.
Snorkeling & Scuba
In many locations, especially the Mayan Riviera, you’ll be able to access world-renowned reefs, snorkeling, and dive sites. But getting there and renting gear will almost always cost extra. While free snorkeling masks and fins are sometimes included on the beach, you’ll likely have to pay to scuba dive or access the better underwater marine life offshore.
As with cruise liners, you must pay extra to access outside tours with a guide, such as the popular ruins of Chichen Itza. Oftentimes, guided tours are more expensive when booked through the resort than if independently booked. So if you plan on sightseeing, consider comparing tour operators to desired locations beforehand.
While you might be able to hit a bucket of balls at the driving range or use the practice putting greens for free, you will certainly pay extra to play nine or 18 holes of on-site golf. Although not every all-inclusive resort offers golf, many of them do, and you will always be required to pay before playing—that’s a guarantee. So budget for greens fees accordingly.
Although towels and beach chairs are almost always included, many other beach favorites are not. Think sand toys, bodyboards, hair braiding, friendship bracelets, and other vendor-related knick-knacks. You’ll still get the all-you-can-eat beach food and drinks if you walk to the bar (or tip a beach attendant to deliver it to you), but auxiliary fun in the sun costs extra.
Like free childcare, this “Fear Of Missing Out” service varies by resort and may be unreliable. Sometimes it’s included. Sometimes it’s not. Other times you may get it free by booking a suite but pay for it if booking a standard room. Bottom line: check before you book or ask if Wi-Fi is included in your package. In some cases, simply asking for free Wi-Fi at the time of booking can often result in its inclusion.
Unlike most cruise ships, many all-inclusive resorts charge extra for (or don’t even offer) childcare. This service varies by resort, however, so if you’re interested in free babysitting, you’ll need to do your research first.
Although free airport shuttles are sometimes included at normal hotels, they’re almost never included at all-inclusive resorts and often cost more when booked through the resort than if you made your own arrangements. Like Wi-Fi, you might be able to ask for a complimentary shuttle at the time of booking, but don’t expect it. Overall, this is a service you’ll have to pay for, just like you would airfare.
In recent years, many hotels have sneakily resorted to charging resort fees on top of the listed room rate. Frustratingly so, these fees of up to $30-40 per night don’t show up until you arrive on the property, well after booking. Regrettably, many all-inclusive resorts have taken a liking to said resort fees. While you might be able to get them waived by asking at booking, there’s no guarantee, so do your homework beforehand to avoid these where possible.
Few things in life are worse than having your skin scream in pain after being burned by the sun from a day on the beach. But if you don’t plan ahead, your wallet could get equally burned. Case in point: many resorts charge up to $15 per eight-ounce bottle of sunscreen—about the same price it would cost you to take a cab and pay $3-5 per bottle at the store. So if you want to stay protected, plan ahead or pay later.