With thousands of resorts and dozens of countries to choose from, it can be difficult to find an all inclusive vacation right for your family. Consider some of our top tips on how to narrow down the list and pick the right resort for you.
Set your Budget and Time of Year
Before you begin searching, you should narrow down your dates and set your budget. The time of year you travel will play a big role in how far you can stretch your travel budget. A $1,000 per person budget will get you a lot more bang for your buck in November than it will in February or March where the same resort might be double the cost.
Your budget will also help narrow down the list of destination countries. It’s easy to find lots of cheaper resorts in Cuba, a few in the Dominican Republic, and if you find a good sale, one or two in Mexico for $1,000 per person, but don’t be expecting to go to an all inclusive in Bermuda for that price.
Pick your minimum hotel rating
Are you a 5 star all the way traveller? Or would you be fine with a 3 star resort?
There are two things to know about hotel star ratings.
1. Star ratings for resorts are not based on how nice the resort is or how great it is going to be, but rather they are based on the number of amenities. A newer 4 star resort may have a couple less amenities than an older 5 star resort that hasn’t been renovated recently, but high probability that the resorts itself will be nicer and have more updated features and rooms.
2. The star ratings for resorts down south are not comparable to the star ratings for hotels in Canada/USA. So often when reading reviews on resorts people make comments about how a resort isn’t a 5 star and should be rated as 3 star. It’s important to keep your expectations realistic.
We always search for 4 star or better resorts but almost always end up booking 4.5 star resorts.
What amenities are you looking for?
When you start reading all the amenities that each hotel offers, it starts to sound the same and it gets easy to think that resort choose doesn’t matter because they are all the same. I have yet to find a resort that isn’t adults only that doesn’t have a kids club with play ground, kids pool, high chairs or babysitting.
But there are some things that will set apart different resorts by a couple of special features. Looking pictures of the resort is a great way to see these special features. Features we look for when booking resorts with our kids:
- Children’s water park
- Special character and shows for the kids
- Family friendly rooms
- Baby club for children under 4
- Kids buffet
Sometimes you may have to compromise one feature for another.
Want a beautiful beach? Cuba is a the place to be with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The trade off is that the food in Cuba does not compare with the food availabile in Mexico.
It is important to figure out which features are important for your trip and look for resorts that offer those. This will narrow your search considerably.
For travel time there are two things to consider. The first is how long a flight will it be. Are you looking for a flight that is 3 hours or are you OK with a 6 hour flight. Flight time will help to narrow down which countries and cities you are willing to travel to.
Another thing to consider is the distance the resort is from the airport. Some hotels are 20 minutes from the airport, others are 2 hours from the airport. After having to sit still on an airplane is your little one going to be alright to sit on a bus for 2 hours? It also helps to read reviews to see if the shuttle from the airport to the hotel makes a lot of other stops prior to getting to your resort. These stops can add considerable travel time to even a short bus ride.
In general we have found that there are two times for flights to all inclusive destinations. Early morning flight out with a midday return flight OR midday flight out with an evening/late return flight.
We prefer to do morning flights. Sure it sucks getting up and to the airport for 4 am but the nice part is that you get to the resort in the late morning/afternoon with plenty of time to get in some sunshine and enjoy the resort before bed time. On departure day we have always been able to enjoy breakfast and then heading to the airport.
With late afternoon flights you arrive after dinner and will likely need to get the kids off to bed shortly after getting your room. A benefit is that the kids will hopefully be well rested for their first full day in the sunshine. Departure day there is no need to rush. The downside is that you need to check of our your room, often by noon, and you no longer have a home base. If your child still naps where do you put them? Where will you get changed out of your swim suits? When you get back home at midnight how will the kids be waiting in line for customs or for your luggage?
Trip Advisor is where it is at for reviews on resorts. But it’s not as simple as reading the last few reviews to make your decision about a resort. The first thing we look for is the overall rating of the resort. Since I have already narrowed down my search to 4+ stars I expect that the resort rating in trip advisor would be at least a 4 put of 5.
Recent reviews can tell you if things have gone downhill or if there are major issues at the resort which may be an issue when you are looking to visit.
Reviews from the previous year can help you identify things like how busy the resort will be and if there are issues. Things to look out for during high season are long waits at the buffet, impossible to book a la carte, and not enough loungers. Low season also may have some issues such as not all the restaurants being open or certain amenities being closed for renovation.
Finally, family reviews can be a wealth of information. They are usually filled with good tips about being at the resort with kids. This will include things like the kids club, pool and shows, but also things like being stroller friendly or the amount of high chairs available.
Comment below and share with us how you pick your all inclusive vacation!