It’s that time of year (April/May) when most Canadians get completely, BARREL-TO-THE-TEMPLE SICK of winter. The type of winter that every year, especially in Newfoundland, we forget how MIND-NUMBINGLY NEVER-ENDING it is…
With this in mind, literally most of us migrate YEARLY down south to Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico or other hot and spicy areas for a taste of that sweet sweet sun and sand.
For a low-cost averaging $1,000-$2,500 (or even lower as we’ll mention) an all-inclusive resort includes flights, an entire resort of pools, all you can drink bars, all you can eat restaurants and usually on a major (and often stunningly beautiful) tropical beach of white sand and jolly rancher blue coloured waters. It’s just far too hard to pass up…
For the newbies and even the veterans, here’s a reminder of the basic tips on how to make the most of your down south resort escape!
Planning the Trip
1. Research and Select a Resort to Match Your Needs
This seems like an easy one but after being to 4 all-inclusives, I’ve done barely any research beforehand and have just let the travel agent choose for us based mostly on price and a minimum star quality (Really wouldn’t recommend going less than 4 star). But it’s worth taking the time to look into.
Ensure you know the resort you’re going to and that it matches your interests.
If you know you’ll want to visit a certain city or any city to get to know the local life day or night, don’t assume it will be cheap or easy to go far from the resort. Sometimes resorts are built in their own parts of the country far from neighbouring areas.
Double check the offering of the resort.
Is it adult only, family friendly or mixed.
Family resorts commonly have very strict hours for music and partying that can end at 11pm or earlier. If you’re partiers and especially if you’re in your college years, consider Adult-only even if it costs a bit more. DON’T FORGET TO ASK and don’t be our graduating university class that booked a family resort that spent the better part of a week giving us death glares and trying to kick all 50 of us out cuz we just had too much party to bring…
If you’ll want to hit the disco at night but don’t want to leave the resort, double check and email them to confirm they have one because sometimes the websites aren’t accurate and wedding planners are often third party and may not even have accurate information about the resort.
Check reviews on TripAdvisor and other review sites, but also learn how to take them with a grain of salt and weigh the importance of comments.
Sometimes people say that food is crap but what is the ratio of bad to good comments? If there are complaints about the showers not always being hot, is this a massive deal breaker? If you’re going to spend most of your time in hot weather, in the pool and on the beach, is a potential cold shower the end of the world? Balance against what your vacation priorities are i.e, cost, location, other offerings.
2. How to Buy
You can buy directly from the site of the resort or trip aggregators like Kayak or Expedia but there are several ways to get yourself a discount.
If planning a group trip, it’s usually best to plan a group discount through a travel agent. It’s also easier for guaranteeing everyone’s spot until they book.
And if you REALLY want to get some good prices, book last minute. There are tons of options and easy to find deals as low as $500 if you’re booking for just a few people.
At those prices it’s literarily cheaper to live on a resort full time…something to think about.
3. Get Your Shots and Medication
Make sure to check what diseases and illnesses are prominent in the country you’re going to and get the appropriate shots and/or medication.
Most Commonly for the Caribbean/Central America:
The TwinRix vaccine for Hepatitis A and B is a MUST especially for Central and South America. With a long list of ways to get either of them, Hep A can be contracted as easy as eating food or consuming drinks handled by an infected person. These diseases are INCURABLE so there is NO reason to take an unnecessary risk by not getting the immunity and it lasts the rest of your life. Worth the investment. You need to get these shots over a few months before you travel so make sure to plan accordingly.
Another absolute must is a shot for Tetanus which is now commonly combined with Whooping Cough. Whooping cough is on the rise lately; it’s very contagious, can be lethal to babies and historically hasn’t been included in K-12 vaccinations so worth looking into especially if you’ll be around kids after your trip. Tetanus needs to be redone every 5-10 years so double check your status.
And then there’s the embarrassing issue of contracting a temporary illness that leads to the notorious Bum Pee…and nobody likes bum pee…
Even worse if everything’s exiting both ends not being able to keep any food or liquids down. Not a happy vacation. But odds are super low of having this issue. From experience on past trips, only 5-10% of our group has had this issue. The best you can do is bring things like Gravol, Immodium and Dukarol (Ask your doctor) to help prevent or reduce symptoms.
And be sure to drink bottled water as though the local tap water is likely clean, your stomach may not adjust well enough to the different filtration and microbes to avoid a bum pee causing bug.
On the Trip
4. Tip For Better Service and of Course for Good Service Received
The general theory in life is that tipping leads to better service. This normally rings true unless you’re our friend Sabrina who thinks that everyone always ignores her, which we laugh at for being ridiculous. That is until we watched her lean over a free bar holding out 20 conv-pesos ($30 CAD) as an EXTREMELY generous tip and couldn’t get a drink to save her life for a half hour…we believe her now…
But in general (for those not named Sabrina), the theory is for better service at the restaurants, bars and elsewhere for the rest of the trip, tip the service staff well at the start. Potential benefits include a few under the table bottles of champagne to take back to your room.
Leave a tip for whoever stocks the fridge in your room for additional water and/or beer. And though I’ve never seen a difference in quality in tipping the room maids, unless they’re the ones stocking the fridge, it’s still good practice to appropriately compensate any great staff member especially the ones that must clean up your messy room.
There are opposing viewpoints of whether you should tip just money or if some of your tip money will go further if you bring down things like pencils, notebooks, shampoos, toys or make up, etc. I would say it can never hurt to do both especially on islands where basics are likely to cost more, communist countries where embargos on foreign products may be restricted or in countries where the poverty line is high.
Remember that tips can make up 50% or more of many staff’s pay. So if you have room to be generous, whatever you have or want to give, nobody is going to look down on you for it.
5. Bring Your Own Cup. The Bigger the Better.
Whether a bubba insulated mug or a sleeker version, walking around holding a mini keg won’t make you the classiest (Unless your name IS Bubba from which there’s nowhere to go but up) but if it gets your drink supersized, keeps it frosty and keeps ring of fire inducing pool water and zika flies out of your drink, it’s well worth it.
6. Avoid Ground Floor Rooms
If you’re squeamish at the thought of a bug, gecko, spider or cockroach wandering through your room…or your bed, ask for a room off the ground floor when you check in. Though a roach or spider is unlikely to make it under your pillow, it’ll never hurt to try and decrease your odds.
Also, glass balcony doors make for an easy target to rob your room if you forget to lock them. If nothing else it makes it easy for passers-by to get an eyeful of your…mangos and berries…while they’re on their way to breakfast.
7. Guys Don’t Forget Pants and Shoes
Though it may regularly be 25-30 degrees plus 24 hours a day, some of the a-la-carte restaurants require guys to wear pants and shoes. The alternative, if you forget, is to be the guy who has to wear his girlfriend’s dress to dinner. The other guy in this photo…well, that’s another story…
8. Ask for Adult Side Rooms
If you’re staying in a family friendly resort, there’s usually an adult only side. If you don’t have kids do yourself the favour and make sure you ask for an adult side room when you check in and keep the crying kids as…
Cuz let’s be honest, after all day of drinking and partying in the pool, you’re gonna be ANYTHING but PG…
9. Hydrate and Cover Up
If you stand in the pool drinking beer and pina coladas all day every day you’re GOING to get heat stroke, pass out or at the very least get very badly and uncomfortably burned.
Drink lots of water. Wear and reapply sunscreen. Wear a hat and cover up at least some of the time.
10. Try to Speak the Language
If in a country that speaks a different language, locals will ALWAYS appreciate you trying to speak their language (Unless they completely hate foreigners then you’re dead in the water). You may feel like you sound dumb, that they really don’t care or that they already know it in English so why bother. But it really does show them that you are interested in and respect their culture.
Most of the all-inclusives Canadians visit are in Spanish speaking countries so a few starters that you probably already know are Hola (Hello), Buenos Dias (Good Morning), Gracias (Thanks), Por Favor (Please), Cerveza (Beer), Pina Colada (Pina Colada).
The staff like helping you learn it, it makes for better relationships than just asking for drinks, helps the staff remember you and gets you better service and more fun interaction for the week even better than tipping, and it’s free!
Pick up a few words when ordering meals or chatting with the bar tender and by the end of the week you can piece together random sentences like “eres un huevo picante” (You are a spicy egg!) and “Yo Soy basura caliente” (I am hot trash). The latter getting plenty of pity and laughs from staff the morning after boozy nights.
Gloria Estefan. Move. The Fuck. Over.
You’ve been out-spanglished…
11. Make Friends and Loosen Up!
Canadians are already great at this, especially at finding other Canadians, but do your best to get out of your shell and open up to making friends with staff, locals, people in the pool, beach goers etc.
Go out of your way to talk to random people because the odds are they would love to chat even if English isn’t there first language if they are from Germany, Brazil, etc.
People are there from all over the world and it’s the best time to interact, learn things and party in ways you don’t normally do back home! Like when you find a pole, just anywhere, and what do you do? You start the party…”Pass the Champagne Mary” I’m looking at you…
Did we miss any? What lessons and stories do you guys have to make the most of an all-inclusive?
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Chris & Larry