I’m Going to an All-inclusive and I Don’t Drink…Am I Crazy?
Janet and I have spent a good bit of time over the past few years exploring all-inclusive resorts around the Caribbean for our clients. It is work, but it’s a labor of love. One question we often hear from clients considering an all-inclusive is whether they’ll get their money’s worth. What we’ve found is that every all-inclusive is unique, and to make sure you get your money’s worth you have to do two things: choose the right resort, and then focus on the things you will do, not the things you won’t. We can help with the first of those things…the second is up to you.
People who know me well wonder how I get my money’s worth out of an all-inclusive resort. A few years ago, I quit drinking and committed to a sober lifestyle. So much for getting my money’s worth at the bars. A few years before that I had bariatric surgery. I lost over 100 pounds, but I had 80% of my stomach removed and what’s left can only hold a cup to a cup and a half of food. So much for getting my money’s worth at the restaurants. The only activity that interests me most days is lounging on the beach or at the pool. So much for getting my money’s worth out of the sunrise beach yoga and fitness classes.
So how do I get my money’s worth out of an all-inclusive? I focus on the entire vacation experience, not just any one component. Here is how I’ve come to view the value proposition when Janet and I stay at an all-inclusive, and how I consider whether I got my money’s worth:
1. I don't drink alcohol, but in the Caribbean diet coke is often more expensive than rum. And I drink a lot of diet coke. I also order the occasional non-alcoholic cocktail, and if the taste doesn’t suit me…I ask for something else. It’s all included.
2. I do all the meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, and post-meal clean up at home. When I stay at an all-inclusive resort…someone else takes care of all that. The only thing I have to do is get dressed for dinner and decide what style of cuisine I want to eat each night. Sometimes I don’t even do that. I just order room service…like every morning for breakfast. It’s all included.
3. Even though I can’t eat much at one sitting, I can eat five or six times per day. When I’m at home I don’t do that…I eat three small meals per day and usually no snacks. When I go to an all-inclusive resort I go wild. I have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but some days I’ll also have a mid-morning donut, or a mid-afternoon slice of pizza. Some days I'll have both. Who am I kidding? Most days I have both. It’s all included.
4. I love a good cup of coffee, but I’m not a fan of designer coffee shops. I can’t stand the idea of paying $5 for a cup of coffee in a fancy to go cup. When we visit an all-inclusive resort, I indulge myself in a cappuccino to go along with that mid-morning donut. It’s all included. Even the fancy to go cup.
5. I skip the bread, salad, and soup at dinner…those are the least interesting dishes you’ll find at an all-inclusive, even one that claims to serve gourmet food. Rather than filling up on the boring stuff, I skip it and enjoy more of my entrée. Janet and I order side dishes to share so I can sample them without filling up on them, and I don’t worry if I can’t clear my plate. It’s all included.
6. At dinner I am adventurous with what I order for my entree, making choices that I wouldn’t when eating at a restaurant where I pay for what I order. If I don’t like my entree after a bite or two, I order something else. It’s all included.
7. I occasionally order dessert, if it looks good. I’m too full to eat it right after the entrée, so I get it to go. I may or may not end up eating it, but that’s OK. It’s all included.
8. I always ask for small portions when we order our food, but I usually get a full-sized portion that I can’t finish. I am conscious of food waste, so I’ve asked the food managers at a number of all-inclusive resorts what they do with food left on plates. They all told me the same thing…they sell it to local farmers who use it as feed for their pigs. My leftovers help make someone else’s bacon a bit more flavorful. That’s a win-win in my book. And it’s all included.
9. Many all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean offer jerk pork, chicken and fish that have an authentic flavor profile you can’t find in the states. I love that flavor. The secret isn’t in the sauce or the rub…it’s in slow roasting and smoking the meat over a bed of pimento wood coals. I got that tidbit from a wizened 90-year-old Jamaican man who spent his whole life cooking jerk meat over a pimento wood fire. You can’t get that here in the states, no matter how authentic restaurants claim their jerk dishes taste, because we don’t grow pimento trees here and it is too expensive to import the wood. So when we go to an all-inclusive, I make it a point to have the jerk dishes several times, usually for lunch. It’s all included.
10. Dinner service goes fast since we both order one or maybe two courses at most, which leaves us with time for a romantic walk on the beach. Or my favorite activity…sitting on a lounge chair on the beach with a cigar and watching the stars in a clear sky unencumbered by all the light pollution we have at home. It’s all included. Well…except for the cigar. I bring my own.
11. While other guests are parked at the bars, I take full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the landscaping and grounds of the resorts I visit. I watch the tropical birds, the geckos…the cats when we stay at a Sandals resort. And even though I spend most of the daylight hours lounging by the pool or on the beach, I do occasionally go snorkeling in water so clear I can see my feet in the sand. You won’t find that at Ocean City. At a Caribbean all-inclusive…it’s all included.
12. The best part about staying at an all-inclusive is that I do all of the above and more, without worrying about the bill I’m going to get at check-out. Because…it’s all included.
When you consider whether you’ll get your money’s worth at an all-inclusive resort think about the things you will do, not the things you won’t. You don’t have to drink yourself silly or eat yourself into a food coma to get your money’s worth. You can, if that’s what you enjoy. I don’t, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out. The trick to getting your money’s worth is to choose one with inclusions you’ll enjoy, and focus on those rather than the inclusions you don’t take advantage of. It is an opportunity to try new things and new flavors without feeling like you are wasting your money if you decide they aren’t for you. Because you aren’t wasting your money. It’s all included.