12 Common All-Inclusive Resort Mistakes That Could Ruin Your Vacation

All-inclusive resorts take the guesswork out of vacationing, but they require more preparation than you think.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Few luxuries sound more exciting than a trip to an all-inclusive resort located in a beautiful locale. Where else can you lounge by the pool with endless food and drink options at the ready?

However, before you lose yourself in the shrimp cocktail and rum drinks, ensure you’ve done the legwork to keep your vacation from going sideways. This includes both before you travel and when you are on-site.

Avoiding the following mistakes can help you avoid wasting money on your next vacation.

Going during the wrong season

photopixel/Adobe rainy cloudy weather in Cancun

Few things are better than jetting off to a tropical resort, but make sure to book your stay during the right time of year. Otherwise, you can end up vacationing during the rainy season, potentially putting a serious damper on your beach ambitions.

Also, research any local and national holidays so you don’t end up fighting crowds for the entire stay.

Presuming everything is included

Rawpixel.com/Adobe luxurious spa at a resort

It may stand to reason that everything will be paid for ahead of time at a resort that’s branded all-inclusive, but that’s not always the case. Some places may have upcharges for things like top-shelf liquor, spa treatments, transfers, and more.

Do your research so you don’t wind up with an unexpected bill after a high-end meal, or end up on the hook after a lengthy massage.

Forgetting to budget for tips

vinnstock/Adobe dollar banknotes and coins

While you should check the fine print to see which gratuities are included in your booking price, don’t forget to budget for tips. 

For example, you definitely want to tip the folks who help you get to and from the resort and who may not be on the resort payroll. Plus, tipping in general is good practice.

You may not need to tip everyone you encounter, but reward good service with a bit of cash.

Spending on items you don’t need

Mediteraneo/Adobe beautiful women with shopping bags

Make sure you book the right package at your all-inclusive resort so you’re not paying for things you don’t use. For example, alcohol can be a big portion of your bill. So, if you don’t drink, don’t get a package that includes cocktails.

You can even consider opting out of all-inclusive packages if you’re not planning on using a lot of amenities, or won’t be ordering a lot of steak and seafood dinners.

Pro tip: Before booking your next vacation, look for some ways to generate extra cash so your trip won’t put you into debt.

Booking the wrong kind of resort

topntp/Adobe luxury umbrella and chair around outdoor swimming pool in hotel and resort

While our idea of heaven is an all-inclusive resort on a tropical island with a full bar and an infinity pool, that’s not everyone’s cup of tea. So, double-check that you are booking the right kind of resort with options you enjoy and activities you’ll actually be interested in.

After all, you don’t want to end up at a family-friendly resort if you’re looking for a romantic getaway, or at a singles resort with the kids in tow.

Not understanding resort protocol

Mirko Vitali/Adobe  sportive friends at gym fitness club center

While going to an all-inclusive resort takes most of the work out of planning, find out the procedures for scheduling things like meal reservations and activities. Can you book everything beforehand or do you have to sign up daily?

It’s also wise to keep tabs on when restaurants and facilities — such as the fitness center and pool — are open and available for use.

Not exploring your booking options

wifesun/Adobe young buyer with trendy hair looks in laptop

Ever since the launch of Expedia, there have been more ways to make a reservation at a hotel or resort. Do some comparison shopping when it comes time to book, including exploring direct booking, using credit card rewards, or opting for a travel agent.

One method isn’t always better than another, so check each one to see which will score you the best deal, save you the most money, and add on extra bells and whistles.

Getting hustled by a sales agent

auremar/Adobe male traveler showing a camera to a travel agent

All-inclusive resorts know that when you’re on the premises, you’re on vacation time and likely enjoying yourself immensely. That’s why many will employ gregarious folks who can chat you up — and try to sell you something — while you’re chilling in the lap of luxury.

So, buyer beware. Otherwise, you can end up at a timeshare presentation or forking over cash for spa treatments you didn’t plan for.

Poor packing and preparation

Xavier Lorenzo/Adobe hands of young african man packing luggage before going on vacation

Just because you’re going to an all-inclusive resort doesn’t mean you don’t have to pack anything. If you’re headed to a tropical location, for example, bring sunscreen and appropriate beach clothing.

But don’t just throw bathing suits and sarongs in your suitcase and call it a day. You may need formal attire for dining out, for instance. And if you plan on catching local attractions, bring the right footwear for leaving the grounds.

Not exploring outside the resort

PR Image Factory/Adobe woman tourist walking in Amphawa street

Arguably the easiest mistake you can make when taking an all-inclusive vacation is staying at the resort for the entire duration of your trip. 

We get it — the food is good, the drinks are strong, and the beach is downright dreamy. But there is more to experience if you know where to look.

Spend at least one day exploring the nearby city, and spend your money to support the locals. Take in an authentic meal at a restaurant and check out any cultural attractions. You’ll be all the more enriched for it.

Not trying new cuisine

DragonImages/Adobe friends dining together

All-inclusive resorts are known for having tons of dining options, and since many, if not all of them are paid for, you can go a little wild. Why not sample some new seafood you’ve never tried, for example?

So, in addition to venturing out to local restaurants, make a plan to try as many restaurants at the resort as you can. You might even find a new favorite food.


maryviolet/Adobe senior couple relaxing by swimming pool lying on chaise-longues

Last but not least, just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to eat everything in sight and start drinking cocktails at 9 a.m. 

You want fond memories of the time you spent there, after all, not bad memories of hangovers. And you should keep your health in mind as you hit the buffet.

Have fun, and throw some of the rules out the window. But be careful to find the right balance between having a good time and taking care of yourself and your family.

Bottom line

nadezhda1906/Adobe happy family with three kids walk at sunset beach

Heading to an all-inclusive resort for a vacation can be the highlight of your year. But be warned that there are common mistakes that can put a damper on your fun while abroad.

To that end, make sure that the all-inclusive option is right for you, as you may fare better at an Airbnb with local flavor or a regular old hotel in some circumstances.

It’s all about which options will give you the best vacation ever at a price that also will leave your bank account in good shape.

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Cat Lafuente Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.

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