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Why all-inclusive resorts are an answer to your vacation now

Dreams Palm Beach, an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic Photo courtesy Pleasant Holidays

If you’re a fan of all-inclusive resorts–or are simply curious what they’re like–you now have more reasons to consider one for your next vacation. That’s because all-inclusive resorts might have advantages over other types of vacations in today’s COVID-conscious world. 

In fact, many travelers already are discovering the ease of a stay at an all-inclusive resort. 

About 95 percent of people booking Pleasant Holidays vacations in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are opting to stay at all-inclusive resorts, according to Jack E. Richards, president and CEO of Pleasant Holidays, one of the Auto Club of Southern California’s family of companies, which offers travel packages and books all-inclusive resort stays for guests. 

Here are five reasons for their current surge in popularity, along with suggestions for specific resorts that cater to a variety of travelers. 

1. Resorts are offering on-site COVID testing.

Most all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean maintain COVID-19 protocols and now include complimentary on-site COVID-19 testing. That’s important because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently requires that international travelers, including U.S. citizens returning to the United States, show proof of a negative test result. 

Some resorts go further, guaranteeing that if a guest tests positive for the virus during their stay, the resort will pay for the cost of the guest’s quarantine there, up to 14 days after the guest’s original departure date.

“I’m pretty impressed with the protocols that many of them are doing,” says Valencia, California–based travel journalist Mimi Slawoff, noting that some resorts are also offering free cancellations as long as you notify them up to 15 days before your arrival.

2. All-inclusive resorts offer a controlled vacation environment.

All-inclusive resorts might have one more advantage over other vacation models in today’s pandemic-cautious world: All-inclusives offer their guests a more controlled environment, an aspect that has made all-inclusive resorts a popular vacation option since the 1950s. 

“Guests don’t have to leave the property for meals or activities,” says Richards. “So, they’re staying on-site. The resorts are self-contained.”

That means guests can limit their contact with other people and reduce potential sources of infection. 

3. Resorts have taken steps to safeguard the health and safety of vacationers. 

Deep-cleaning and COVID-compliance are paramount. “Resorts have worked really hard to establish very stringent health and safety protocols,” says Claudette Covey, managing editor of Agent at Home magazine, a travel-industry publication. 

Resorts have reduced capacity and enhanced cleanliness protocols. In addition, all staff must wear masks and gloves, and face coverings are typically required for all guests 2 and older. 

Because all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean are typically located in spacious beachfront settings, they’ve been able to adapt well to other health and safety protocols. Instead of buffets, for example, many now offer single-plated dishes served in open-air environments. 

“Entertainment has changed,” says Slawoff, noting that instead of presenting a performance indoors, the resort might offer music on the beach.

“Guests want a high level of confidence that they will not get infected,” says Richards. “It’s their No. 1 concern, overriding price and anything else.” 

Specific protocols and practices vary, he adds, noting that Pleasant Holidays lists the latest information about the resorts it represents on its website. ( The website also offers a sense of the variety of different resorts.)

Covey suggests you check the latest COVID-19 protocols, not only for the resort you’re planning to visit, but also for the country. “Then keep checking until you depart; they change frequently,” she warns. Your travel advisor is also a source for up-to-date information on COVID protocols. 

4. All-inclusive vacations are easy to budget for.

At these resorts, you typically pay one price in advance that includes accommodations, meals, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, most on-property activities, and any evening entertainment. And resorts come in all price categories; rates can range from as little as $800 to more than $5,000 per person, per week.

“I like knowing upfront what’s included, so I can budget in advance,” says Slawoff, who has vacationed with her family at an all-inclusive resort about once a year since her three, now-adult, children were small. 

Some activities might not be included, such as spa treatments or motorized water-sports activities, so check before you book, Covey advises.

5. All-inclusive resorts come in many varieties.

Some are geared to families; others attract couples or singles exclusively. 

“I’m outdoorsy, so I love all the outdoor activities, and my kids have learned a lot of their outdoor skills, like kayaking, windsurfing, and sailing, at all-inclusive resorts,” Slawoff says.

The Beaches Negril Resort and Spa in Jamaica offers activities for all ages, including beach volleyball, tennis, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and waterskiing. The resort has a range of family suites in addition to other accommodations.

At the adults-only Sandals Grande St. Lucian on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia—a resort that caters to couples—you and your loved one can stay in an over-the-water bungalow with a glass window in the floor, so you can watch the underwater sea life from your bedroom. The mile-long beach offers plenty of room for social distancing from other guests.

At Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya, an adults-only resort in Mexico, you can snorkel in waters that are home to green sea turtles or you can go deep-sea fishing. La Huasteca–style embroidery art decorates the rooms, which have private balconies or terraces and whirlpools for two.

At the family-friendly Dreams Vista Cancun Golf and Spa Resort in Cancún, Mexico, you and the kids can scale a climbing wall, ride the waves in a surf pool, or play in a water park. At night, you can watch movies at the outdoor theater. You can even bring along your small dog. Stay in a family connecting suite for convenience.

For an affordable option, consider Hotel RIU Bambu on Arena Gorda Beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Children can join the RuiLand kid’s club for programmed activities, and teens have their own club, RIU4U. You can swim in any of five pools or just relax on a partially submerged chaise lounge at the water’s edge.

With such a range of options, you should be careful to choose the resort that meets your needs. “If you want a romantic vacation, stay at an adults-only property, so you’re not bothered by kids splashing in the pool,” says Covey. 

But don’t put off booking for too long. “We have seen an absolute surge in travel demand since mid-February, as soon as the vaccinations started becoming more widespread,” says Richards. “People have been cooped up for a year. When people get vaccinated, the first thing they’re doing is booking a trip to get out of town.”

Slawoff, in fact, is planning to head for an all-inclusive resort as soon as she’s fully vaccinated, saying: “I can’t wait to go.”

Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman produce and host two daily radio shows that are broadcast to a million listeners in 167 countries on the American Forces Network and air on their podcast at OnTravel.com. They also write the Travel Smart column for Westways, the member magazine for the Automobile Club of Southern California.

AAA Travel Alert: Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements. The local tourism board is a good resource for updated information.

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