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Ask the Traveler: How to choose an all-inclusive resort

Illustration by Andrea De Santis

How to choose an all-inclusive resort?

Get this question right, and your whole vacation is made in the shade … er, sun. 

I’ve never shied away from trip planning, but as real life grows exponentially more complicated, I suspect many die-hard DIYers’ fondness for logistics—restaurant rezzies, tour comparisons, transit puzzles—is waning. Enter the all-inclusive resort, where controlled microcosms of food, drink, and entertainment wait just outside the suite. 

More travelers are heeding this siren song of simplicity, according to Pleasant Holidays President and CEO Jack E. Richards. In Mexico alone, the company saw a double- digit percentage increase in sales from 2019 to 2021, with 95% of bookings being all-inclusive. 

Hotel operators like Marriott International, which plans to more than double its number of all-inclusive properties by 2025, are diving headfirst into that infinity pool, too.

To winnow the options, start with safety. Protocols vary by resort and can include daily temperature checks and limiting housekeeping visits. Whether the other guests in your resort bubble are vaxxed and recently tested will also vary by location.

Many Caribbean countries—hot spots for all-inclusives—have been requiring proof of one or both upon arrival. A dedication to making things easy has led many international all-inclusives to offer on-site COVID screenings, a requirement as of press time for travelers returning to the U.S. Some even cover quarantine accommodations, and a handful include medical coverage and trip-replacement guarantees.

Next, try filtering by interest. If  “beckoning for the next piña colada” tops your to-do list, you’ll likely find plenty of options (be sure to designate a driver if you plan to drink alcohol). But more active travelers may be surprised by all-inclusive trips that offer the chance to fish the Alaskan wilds, safari through Botswana, or wine and dine in Vermont.

Just be sure to read the fine print. Are airport transfers included? Is there on-site child care? If not, those costs add up. Travelers who eschew alcohol might seek resorts that don’t lump booze into the bill. Spa aficionados should check to see if packages include treatments or request a menu with prices in advance. That way, there are no surprises.

So, how to choose? Carefully—because today’s legwork will pay off in tomorrow’s pool lounger.

Want to suggest an Ask the Traveler topic? Write to Jessica Fender at westways@aaa-calif.com.

You may also like: Ask the Traveler: Can travel cure what ails me?

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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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