Tips and tricks for enjoying all-inclusive resorts
Last updated November 2023
Since this has been one of my most popular posts, I’m going to keep coming back and updating it every time I think of new all-inclusive resort hacks for you! I want you to have the best vacation ever so here are my top tips, tricks and hacks. The newest all-inclusive hacks will be added at the end of this post so now there are more than ten, and it’s always growing.
All-inclusive resorts offer fun and relaxing vacations because they take care of everything. As their name implies, they have pretty much everything you could want. Almost everything. Having stayed at several different resorts, I have learned quite a few all-inclusive resort hacks along the way.
It is possible to make your stay at an all-inclusive resort even better. I’m going to share some tips that I use to make vacations even better. Spoiler alert, I am a big fan of all-inclusive resorts. I’m also going to share with you some items to bring with you that will improve your all-inclusive experience.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, that enables me to continue providing you with awesome and informative blog posts like this one.
All-inclusive resort hacks, tips and tricks
I’m going to start with a few travel tips that will make your tropical vacation more enjoyable. You may know some of these, but I am confident that you will learn something new. I want you to have the best vacation possible!
Next, I’m going to share some must-have items to bring with you. These things will significantly improve your all-inclusive experience.
1. Choose the right all-inclusive resort
This is perhaps the most crucial travel tip, so we are going to start here. If you end up at the wrong resort, it will put a damper on your vacation. I am, unfortunately, speaking from experience.
There are thousands of resorts to choose from so take the time to do some research before booking. It is important to know how to pick the right all-inclusive resort. Don’t want to research? Have a travel advisor do the hard work for you.
Before you begin your research or think about hiring a travel advisor, you need to make a list of what’s important to you. Are you looking for an adults-only, romantic resort? Or are you travelling with a large group including children?
Do you want to be right on the beach, or closer to the town where the action is? Make a list of amenities you’d like the resort to have and then set some parameters when researching.
Trust me on this one, you don’t want to be trying to enjoy a romantic getaway while kids are jumping, splashing and screaming in the pool beside you. Lots of resorts have adults-only pools so make sure yours does if that’s what you’re looking for.
Ditto high-end alcohol or theme restaurants. No two resorts are the same. Making sure your resort has the amenities you want is time well spent before your vacation. Use this checklist to help you decide which resort is right for you.
2. Enjoy the free sports offered at your resort
The majority of all-inclusive resorts offer non-motorized sports for free. Take advantage of these complementary features. Some resorts even offer a free introductory scuba lesson in the pool. To find out what your resort offers, talk to the concierge or activities team. Often, there is a stand located out by one of the pools.
Days spent lounging by the pool are great, but for those of you who get bored easily, taking advantage of the free sporting activities can keep you entertained. I find these are great options for couples who have different levels of activities. This all-inclusive hack has saved me on several occasions.
One of you can go and enjoy paddleboarding for a few hours while the other chills by the pool with a book. The best part? It’s free! This is one all-inclusive resort tip that many people don’t take advantage of, but should.
3. Pack your swimsuit and flip-flops in your carry-on
Depending on when your flight arrives, you could get to the resort before check-in. If this happens, they will hold your luggage and you will be able to enjoy the pool and other amenities while you wait. Having your swimsuit and sandals ready to go will make this much easier. This way, you won’t have to search your suitcase for these items upon arrival.
This is also a safeguard in case, God forbid, your luggage gets lost. This is an unfortunate reality that does occasionally happen, which is why using a suitcase tracker is one of my airline travel must-haves. You don’t want to be on vacation with nothing more than what you wore on the plane. Do yourself a favour and pack your beach clothes on the plane with you.
4. Tip the bartenders, please and thank you.
This all-inclusive resort hack is for both your enjoyment as well as the staff’s. When staying at resorts, or anywhere I go, I always tip the bartender. Depending on how many drinks I plan to have, I will either tip with each drink, or I’ll give one large tip at the beginning of the day.
Sadly, I noticed that very few people tipped the bartenders at the last resort I stayed at. FYI, please do because they do not get paid very well. If you tip at home, you should also tip when on vacation. On my last vacation, I learned that the resort workers made $9 a day! They really appreciate your tip.
Research the local customs, but even a dollar a drink goes a long way for the staff. The same goes for the housekeeping staff.
Aside from being a good person, when you tip, the bartender will remember your name and your drink of choice. As the week goes on, you will feel like a VIP every time you visit the bar. Hey, it pays to be a good person 😉
5. Join the free social activities offered every day.
These are different from the free water sports mentioned above. These activities include everything from pool volleyball to ping pong to salsa lessons. Resorts always offer fitness activities every day. Why not enjoy a beachfront yoga class or sunset dance lesson? After all, this is why you are staying at an all-inclusive resort.
If water sports or sports, in general, aren’t your thing, be sure to check the resort’s daily board for other activities. Many offer bingo, evening trivia games and more. There are usually a ton of activities every day and the schedule changes daily. Be sure to check the board every morning when you go for breakfast to ensure you don’t miss out.
Must-have items to bring to an all-inclusive resort
When you are packing for your trip, there are a few items that would likely never cross your mind. I didn’t think of them either, which is why I’m now sharing them with you. This next section of all-inclusive resort hacks includes items to bring with you.
I learned my lesson after my first all-inclusive experience and I guarantee you that your experience will be better if you bring some of these items with you.
6. Bring a watch or chunky bracelet
When you stay at an all-inclusive resort, they give you a wristband to wear. This band identifies you as a traveller staying at that resort. It is a safety factor as it makes it easy for the staff to know whether or not you’re supposed to be there. However, it also lets locals know that you’re a tourist.
If you plan on leaving the resort, wear a watch or bracelet to cover your all-inclusive resort band. It’s much easier to barter when people don’t know you’re staying at a resort. Since you can’t remove it or you won’t be able to get back into your resort, simply cover it up.
These colourful wristbands are a marker that you’re a rich tourist, or at least the locals think you’re rich because you’re staying at a resort. Don’t let yours make you a target.
7. A reusable to-go cup
Yes, they have cups at resorts, but they are tiny and plastic. I won’t get into the environmental issues because that’s a whole other post. You want to bring your own cup to keep your tropical beverages cold in the hot temperatures.
Make sure your cup is double-walled or triple-walled so it doesn’t sweat. There’s nothing worse than relaxing poolside with a warm, watered-down beverage. This all-inclusive resort hack also works great when you’re spending the day at any beach bar.
When I stayed at my first all-inclusive, I continually watched my Strawberry Margarita melt in the plastic cup they served it in. Never again! I now bring my trusty double-walled reusable cup. I chose one with a lid and a straw.
This way, it keeps my morning coffee hot but it also works perfectly for keeping my poolside bevvies frosty cold. This is one of my favourite all-inclusive resort hacks. I don’t leave home without it!
For more tips on how to be an awesome tourist while helping save the environment, check out these 15 tips on how to be a responsible traveller. Bringing your own cup is just the beginning and every small change we make can have a huge impact.
8. Towel clips
Here’s the thing about tropical vacations on the beach, they are always windy. The ocean breeze keeps you at the perfect temperature but it constantly blows your beach towel off your chair.
I noticed several people staying at the last resort I was at using towel clips. Genius! I am definitely going to purchase these before my next trip. If you travel as a family, check out this 20-pack of towel clips.
Update – I bought towel clips! I used them when I recently stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico and they are awesome! See below, I bought the cute pink margarita ones and I didn’t once have to battle a falling towel.
9. Sunglasses cord
If you’re anything like me, you pay good money to protect your eyes. And you probably also like water sports. Invest in a cord for your sunglasses so you don’t lose them. It’ll be the best $5 you ever spend. I would have lost several pairs of my sunglasses by now without my cord.
Want to rent a jet ski? No problem. Whip down a waterslide? You’re good! Enjoy your water activities without squinting or worrying you’ll lose your sunglasses. I have two sunglass cords and highly recommend them.
Pro tip: Not just for the water, they are also great when visiting amusement parks with roller coasters.
10. Foldable tote bag or backpack
This is one item I didn’t think about when I stayed at my first all-inclusive resort. However, if you are going to leave the resort and go on any excursions, you are going to need a bag to put your belongings in.
I find that foldable backpacks are the most convenient and have enough space for a towel, your phone, water bottle, snacks etc. but don’t take up too much space in your suitcase. I have used mine on every trip for day excursions. I also used it once to bring home all the souvenirs that wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.
Having an extra bag is always a good thing! The last time I was in Mexico enjoying all the cool things to do in Tulum I was very glad I had my backpack with me. It’s hard to go out on an excursion without a bag.
11. Bring Ziploc bags or containers to your all-inclusive resort
I just learned this all-inclusive hack on my last vacation and I’m excited to share it with you! I have wrapped so many sandwiches and goodies in napkins that I’ve lost count. When you are staying at an all-inclusive resort and you have an excursion, I always recommend grabbing food from the buffet at breakfast to take with you.
The last resort I stayed at even had a table of premade sandwiches all ready to go! The problem? There’s nothing to put them in. I used a napkin and artfully folded it, placed it in my backpack, and hoped for the best. The result? A somewhat squished sandwich. At that moment, I wished that I had a plastic sandwich container or baggie that I could have put it in.
Conclusion – All-inclusive resort hacks
I hope you have learned a thing or two with these all-inclusive resort hacks. I know from first-hand experience that they have improved my vacations. Even if you aren’t staying at an all-inclusive, these tips will help improve any tropical vacation. In fact, I used several of these tricks when I stayed at the Atlantis Bahamas resort.
If you love travel deals, definitely check out these travel rewards hacks to earn free travel!
If you are travelling to Mexico to stay at an all-inclusive resort, be sure to check out my 8 helpful Tulum travel tips as well as these helpful tips for visiting cenotes. Tulum is very different from other spots in Mexico so I also created an ultimate guide for what to wear in Tulum. These posts share even more travel tips that are specific to Tulum and Mexico.