Updated: Oct 29, 2018
Interested in going for a Caribbean getaway? Here are some useful tips and tricks to make the most of your time away.
¡Hola! I am still recovering from my vacation in the Dominican Republic and acclimatizing to being back at home. I still have the remnants of Spanish dialogue playing in my head and an urge to suggest to my husband, “Let’s head over to the swim-up bar”.
This was our sixth stay at an all-inclusive resort, which is still our favourite manner of vacationing. When looking to stay at such a resort, the Caribbean is the place to be. One price for all of your meals, snacks, drinks, accommodations, palm trees, and sunshine that you can handle... What is not to love? Be aware however, that the price range of all-inclusive resorts vary widely depending on the resort itself and the destination that it’s located in. The Dominican Republic is overall the most affordable, with the U.S. Virgin Islands being among the most expensive. That being said, you can find all-inclusive resorts going from $150 per night, up to $1,000 per night.
Interested in going for a Caribbean getaway of your own? Here are a few things you should remember when doing so:
Travel Tip #1: The Dominican Republic is the overall most affordable destination for all-inclusive travel
With this massive range in pricing and seemingly countless options, it can become overwhelming to determine which all-inclusive to travel to. I would recommend narrowing down your search to one or two destinations, then identifying around four to seven amenities that you want most in your resort. For example, if I live in the Midwest (which I do), I may decide to look into the Dominican Republic and Cancun. Then, let’s say the items I want most are 1) a pretty beach, 2) located close to an airport, 3) highly rated food, and 4) an ocean view. If you know your budget, that will also help.
Next, I make a spreadsheet with rows naming each resort, so you can then compare pricing, each of your preferred amenities, and additional notes along the intersecting columns. Each time I have used this method, I have come out with a clear winner, even among all the options. For this research, I use CheapCaribbean.com, Trip Advisor (be sure to read the reviews and look through travellers’ photos), and I like to book through Hotels.com because I earn a free night after booking 10 nights through their website. It’s super easy!
Travel Tip #2: Be organized! It pays to do a little research and planning
For this vacation, I wanted to save as much money as possible, but still enjoy some of my favourite parts of a vacation. So, I decided to fly with a budget airline to the Dominican Republic (as mentioned before, this is an affordable destination for all-inclusive resorts). I wanted a resort that was near the airport (which narrowed my search to Punta Cana), I wanted a balcony off our room (a non-negotiable for me), adults-only, and on the beach. I used my spreadsheet method and decided on the Punta Cana Princess. Again, this was definitely not the most luxurious resort we have ever stayed at, but we paid just over $1,000 for 5 nights, all-inclusive. Pretty. Dang. Cheap.
Travel Tip #3: Always ask for an upgraded room. If you know what to ask for, and it is available, they will give it to you for free!
Once we checked in and they showed us to our room, we set down our bags and headed back to the check-in desk. I knew that this resort had both basic rooms and honeymoon suites. We paid for the basic room, and they gave us one on the ground floor. Personally, I prefer to be on the highest floor possible, because the views are better and I – probably irrationally – think that there will be less chance of spiders and bugs in the room. So I told the staff that the room was nice, but I was hoping for a room on a higher floor or a honeymoon suite. They initially started to tell me how nice the basic room was. I agreed, then reiterated my request. They then checked the open rooms available for the nights we would be there, and voilà! they sent a bellboy to move our luggage to a honeymoon suite on the third floor, free of charge.
Travel Tip #4: Explore the resort! Check out all of the things that it has to offer, including events during the day and night.
Once we were settled in our room, it was time to explore! We spent the first three days of our vacation in chill mode. Every morning began at the breakfast buffet (because, why not?) and we spent the rest of the morning into the afternoon in the sun, alternating from the swim-up bar in the pool and cabana beds on the beach listening to the waves.
One afternoon, they even had a foam party in the pool with a DJ! It was crazy, loud, obnoxious, music full of air horns, and it was awesome. Such a fun time. Each evening, the resort had a show or other entertainment event. We watched a gymnastics show, magic show, and Michael Jackson show. Since I’m a huge Michael Jackson nerd, I particularly loved that one. The music was great of course, the crowd was into it, and most importantly, the Michael Jackson impersonator nailed the moonwalk.
Travel Tip #5: Leave the resort property for at least one excursion. See more of what your destination has to offer!
The final full day of our trip, we decided to do an all-day excursion. We took a bus to Bayahibe, past La Romana. There, we boarded a catamaran and party cruised to Saona Island, dancing merengue and bachata the entire way. Saona Island is part of a barely inhabited National Park, ringed with soft sand beaches and more palm trees than I have ever seen in one place. It is the definition of paradise. We were served lunch and open bar as part of the excursion package, and then we were ready for the water!
Saona Island is in the Caribbean Sea (unlike Punta Cana, which is on the Atlantic), so the water is clearer, calmer, and warmer. After several hours here, we then boarded a speed boat and went to a natural pool with dozens of starfish at the bottom of the water. The perfect way to end this trip to paradise.
Travel Tip #6: Wake up early for the sunrise. It is worth it, I promise!
The next morning, since we were on a beach facing east, I set my alarm for 5:45 am. I wanted to make one last attempt to photograph a pretty sunrise over the water. I had woken up for the sunrise almost every other morning, but was only met with gray clouds. As soon as I turned the corner of our building, I saw the pink and red sky.
Finally! The sunrise that morning was spectacular. For this occasion, sunrise was better for photographs, because the sun would be over the water. The other reason I prefer sunrise to sunset, regardless of the location of my travels, is that I am usually the only person there. No crowds, no distraction, just the feeling of my soul being connected to the earth and the sun and the sea and the sky, and a sense of gratitude for this life.
And that’s all it takes to have an incredible time at an all-inclusive!
I hope this post inspires and empowers you to go on your own all-inclusive vacation. ¡Hasta luego!