10 All-Inclusive Resort Secrets—Revealed

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vacationresortSo you scored an all-inclusive vacation. Awesome—now you can order Piña Coladas and practice parasailing on the Pacific all for free, right?

Not so fast. Many all-inclusive packages have sneaky caveats that mean you end up paying extra for the vacation you dreamed of.

MarketWatch did some investigation and came up with 10 ways that visitors to all-inclusive resorts often end up shelling out more than they expected—from automatic gratuities to impossible refunds. Find out how you can avoid these pesky fees and get on with the getaway you were hoping for.

1. “All-inclusive” is a tricky term. At some resorts, it means the bare bones, like food and only certain activities. Other places may throw in drinks and transportation. At Club Med, for example, spa treatments and motorized water sports cost extra, beyond the all-inclusive fee.

2. A standard vacation can be less expensive. In some cases, the all-inclusive price is significantly higher than the non-inclusive one. That means you’d have to do a lot of extra activities to make it worth your extra money. (That said, some people say they’re willing to pay more for the convenience of having someone plan their trip for them.)

3. Alcohol and fancy eats cost extra. Surprise! An all-inclusive package that includes booze and premium food is often more expensive than the soda-and-sandwiches kind.

4. Looks can be deceiving. Many tourists are bummed out to find the resort they’re visiting is under construction and their room isn’t nearly as elegant as the ones advertised. Avoid this pitfall by checking travel sites with guest reviews or by consulting a travel agent.

5. Extra fees are lurking everywhere. Want to check your email or hit the hotel treadmill? Better pay up (again). On many all-inclusive vacations, things such as internet and gym access require additional payments.

6. You can’t get out of tipping the staff. Certain resorts and cruise lines automatically bill their visitors for the staff’s gratuities, coming out to about an average of $11.50 per guest, per day. At other places, the staff refuse tips because gratuities are already included in their paychecks.

7. You won’t get much local experience. If you’re a tourist who likes to really learn what life is like in the communities you’re visiting, an all-inclusive package probably isn’t your best bet. These resorts typically offer a lot of on-site shopping, dining, and other activities.

8. Refunds are hard to come by. Even in the case of bad weather, the fine print on resort contracts often makes it difficult to get your money back. Consider purchasing traveler’s insurance—although it typically only covers trips that are completely canceled.

9. Your travel agent profits by booking all-inclusives. Commissions at all-inclusive resorts can be as high as 16%. That’s why travel agents may be more inclined to book people on these kinds of trips, even when it isn’t the best fit for the customer.

10. Cheap prices could mean you’re missing out on the good stuff. A discounted rate seems appealing, but there’s a chance you’re booking a trip during hurricane season or will get rooms with a less-than-stellar view. Get in touch with a travel agent or with the resort itself to ask if there are any issues with the deal.

Looking for more ways to cut costs while getting the heck out of Dodge? Check out these budget-friendly destinations. 

  • James

    This is dumb. Internet costs more in majority of the resorts. Gym is always free in All Inclusive Resorts. Having Liquor included is standard and doesn’t cost more because it’s always included. Who wrote this? A 12 year old?

  • World Traveller

    This article is very poorly informed! As a former travel agent and a regular traveller I have to disagree with many of these points. 1, 2 and 7 are all correct. 3 and 5 are almost never true. 4, 8 and 10 are true of almost any vacation. And number 6 blows my mind… there are the rare occurrences where a package will include gratuities but other than that why on earth would you want to “get away with” not tipping a service person who has earned it??? And as for number 9 of course they earn commission, how else do you think they make money after spending their time (sometimes hours) helping you out? And this is true of any type of booking, not just all inclusive. Also, I’ve never heard of 16% making it into the agents pocket so the incentive to push in the wrong direction and have an unhappy client just isn’t there! Read the fine print and rules (or ask your agent to explain it to you) before booking any trip and make the right choice for yourself.