So 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.