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The Secrets to All-Inclusive Travel

One of the primary things you dream about as you work towards financial independence is the day you get to travel and enjoy the fruit of your hard work. Most of those fantasies include a tropical beach, a cold adult beverage, and the smell of sunscreen. Unfortunately, many of us become such proficient savers that we have a hard time letting go of the purse strings to actually start spending.

From those that are naturally thrifty all the way to those who are the exact opposite, there is a fantastic solution to help build memories through travel: all-inclusive travel resorts. These resorts were pioneered in the 1950s and have become a go-to solution for honeymooners, beach lovers, and retired travelers. The concept is simple and genius: you prepay all of your travel expenses including hotel, food, beverages, and entertainment when the trip is booked. This allows you the immediate benefit of budgeting your trip months in advance, and, once the trip begins, you can create a game plan to maximize the benefits of having an all-you-care-to-enjoy vacation. As cost conscious travelers, we have some experience and want to share some of the planning tips and tricks to help you understand and maximize the all-inclusive travel experience.

Know Where to Do Your Research

  • TripAdvisor is a dominant resource because it allows fellow travelers to post their reviews and pictures so you can get an understanding of what your experience will be like along with planning tips and pitfalls to avoid.
    • Maximize the power of the searchable customer reviews. It is powerful that you can search TripAdvisor’s customer reviews for specific details. Curious about the dress code at the resorts restaurants? It is easy to find the answer and experience of others by using the search function.
    • Be weary of the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed honeymoon reviews. Generally speaking, it does not take too much to impress new, young lovebirds who can barely take their eyes off one another. Considering that “honeymoon bias”, those reviewers may not be the best resource for determining how good a resort’s rooms, food, entertainment, or service is. Look for reviews from travelers that may have a bit of experience.
  • YouTube is your visual aid friend. Trying to decide between two different resorts or room types within a specific resort? YouTube can provide the visual information you need to make that well-informed decision.
  • com is known for exposing the difference between reality and fantasy. The site offers picture comparisons between resort website pictures and actual photos taken by the site’s staff. They also offer a pretty good resort analysis and critique.

Become a Booking Bandit

Leverage the ability to price shop and compare on the Internet and booking websites. Don’t forget that most airlines also offer their own travel agent services. Southwest Airlines, for example, does not allow their airfares to be purchased through any of the traditional aggregation sites, so if your city has a Southwest hub, be prepared to book directly through Southwest and their travel sibling Southwest Vacations.

  • Once a provider is chosen try to layer discounts.
    • com – many travel providers offer 1-3% cash back if booked through the eBates portal. Who doesn’t love a rebate of $40-$200?!
    • eBates and Retailmenot will also have coupon codes that you can potentially apply to your vacation.
  • See if your special occasions qualify you for free stuff! It is not uncommon for resorts to offer exclusive dining experiences (candle-lit dinner on the beach or 2 for 1 spa packages, for example) to honeymooners and couples that have celebrated, or will celebrate, an anniversary in the last or coming 30 days (to ensure you receive your upgrade, bring a copy of your marriage certificate). Birthdays can also be celebrated with some special recognition by the resort.

Know What is Included and What is Excluded

Benefits of all-inclusive travel are lost if you plan poorly and become a victim of upgrade surcharge shock. Areas to pay attention to are:

  • Airport transfers – you will need to arrange your transportation to and from the airport to your resort. A few upscale VIP resorts will include this in their price (they offer their own luxury transportation). However, most will require you to purchase this in addition to your all-inclusive package. The transportation companies will often use this opportunity to sell additional excursions and entertainment while you are traveling. This may be convenient, but remember that haggling and price negotiation are reasonable and expected.
  • Understand what food and beverages are included. Just like airlines have learned there is additional profit in charging for checked bags, snacks, and wifi access, all-inclusive resorts have learned there is money to be made by offering additional premium upgrades. There is nothing wrong with this except for sometimes you may not realize you are being offered something that is an additional charge. Pay attention specifically to:
    • Upgraded wine choices at dinner. They will offer you a wine list with upgraded prices provided, but what they don’t usually put forward is that there are similar house brands that are included in your base package.
    • Spa services are obviously an upgrade, but recently resorts have also started offering additional specialized lotions and creams that may be a premium on an already purchased upgrade.
  • Water sports- many resorts will provide complimentary access to snorkeling gear and kayaks, but do not assume it is included. Verify before you travel. Also know that motorized jet skis, jungle tours, ATV rides are extra and will need to be booked separately from the all-inclusive booking.

Be Wary of Time Share and Membership Pitches

Yes, it is great to get a $220 couples massage or surf and turf dinner on the beach for what they present as “free”. The catch is that you just need to participate in their sixty minute tour and explanation of their special membership or loyalty program. It is not uncommon for these experiences to last well over three hours and to turn into hardcore sales presentations. Recognize that your vacation time is very valuable, and it may make sense to pass on the perceived free stuff if there is a catch.

Traveling is a healthy spending goal, and one that we encourage our clients to make. The driving force behind that recommendation is that travel can be the gateway into creating lifetime memories for you and your loved ones. You also never know what life event or cultural exposure will spark that great idea or innovation for you or a loved one. So, regardless if you decide that all-inclusive travel is for you or not, try to create a bucket in your long-term goals for traveling and experiencing this awesome world we live in.

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