Don't Judge an All-Inclusive Until Day 3

judging an all-inclusive[trip style = all-inclusive]

I've been to my fair share of all-inclusives. They're an excellent trip style when seeking a vacation where you don't have to lift a finger and want the option of round-the-clock access to food, bevs, beach, activities, entertainment, etc...

Learning In between going on trips of alternate travel styles, I've frequented various all-inclusive star levels and companies (Sandals, Superclubs, Barcelo, Bahia Principe) in a handful of sun-drenched destinations. This combined experience has reminded me not to judge my experience until Day 3. Here's why:

  • Tired upon arrival.  Between packing late, getting up early, rushing through the airport and flying for up to 10 hours, I usually arrive at my destination tired to the point of semi-delirium--not the best state to evaluate my surroundings or initial experience.
  • Outsourcing.  In addition to being tired, unless you're paying thousands of dollars to be picked up in a Rolls Royce and stay in a suite at Sandals, most all-inclusive companies OUTSOURCE their transport--even if they say the resort is super all-inclusive from the moment you get off the plane.  This means the porters and drivers will ask for and expect a tip, and the level of service will unlikely be on-par with the resort's 4 or 5-star promise.  I've had some 'doozie' experiences with all-inclusive drivers, which more often than not, can start off your experience on a bad note.  In other words, between tiredness and transport, there's the potential to arrive at the resort with '2 stikes.'
  • Check-in.  Although this is an obvious statment, it needs to be said: other countries don't do things the same way  things are done in North America or Europe.  Thinking back, I don't know that I've ever had a smooth check-in process--except for at the Grand Lido Negril, now Grand Breezes Negril.  If you spend a significant amount of time reading Trip Advisor reviews for package-style vacations, transport and check-in are often people's biggest beefs!
  • 7-day rotation.  Like cruise ships, most all-inclusives operate on a 7-day activity schedule. Therefore, if you're not partial to the activities, meals or events happening on your first or second day, you may write-off an experience which could improve over the next 5 days...
  • Getting acquainted. Getting used to the resort's daily flow takes time.  Knowing this now, I always take the first and second day to acquaint myself with the grounds and check out the offerings, so I don't realize there's something I love on day 6.  I want to stress this point because discovering and activity or restaurant you love on the last day is the worst, and happens to people more often than not.
  • Finding your niche. After a day or two, travelers find their niche at the resort.  This is a source of comfort for people as they tend to find peace and calm when they get into the swing of things like: where and when to eat, lounging at the beach or pool, finding a bartender with whom to develop rapport, discovering the ebb and flow of their daily schedule, etc...
  • People.  Meeting or not meeting others at the resort can make or break an experience, yet getting to know others can take time, which is a commodity on a short week escape.

Context All this is to say, after day three you have context to evaluate your experience properly and with a clear head.  This is the formula I use to form my make or break opinion.  Also, looking on the bright side, if you don't love your first two days, the resort has 5 days to make it up to you.

Don't Love it? What to do First and foremost, my general bent is to always try and make the best of the situation.  Having been involved in a few all-inclusive experiences that haven't exactly gone my way (see accounts below), if you don't have any luck pleading your case with the resort's managers, wait until you get home and write a letter.  Most resorts take letters of complaint very seriously.  See a detailed account of best practices for 'holding an all-inclusive accountable' here ('complimenting and complaining' section).

Related articles All-Inclusive Tricks of the Trade :: Tips on booking for the best experience A Redo trip :: What to do when an all-inclusive experience goes belly-up Update on my Redo Trip :: An overview of the highs and lows of the Sandals WhiteHouse