Written by “Go-To Global Gal” Alyce
In case you’re wondering, a “newb” (or “noob”) is a “newbie,” and until recently I was most definitely a newbie when it came to resorts—let alone staying at an all-inclusive resort. This blog post is for anyone else who finds themselves with plans to stay at a resort for the first time. My hope is that this post will help you better know what to expect, and maybe even help you make the decision if you’re still trying to decide whether a vacation at a resort is for you!
Things I wish I would have known before I left on my trip:
- Resort Dress Codes
When I first heard about the dress codes for the resort I was headed to, I remember thinking, “Whoa, I really feel like an imposter now,” and “Welp, there goes my plan to pack light!” In retrospect, I think I over-thought things. Both my uncle and I may have been a bit more on the over-dressed side of things at many of the dinners where we had been told the described dress code would be enforced, but wasn’t.
I think, in our case, my uncle and I were overly concerned about the dress code. He actually went out and purchased new clothes—like button-ups and a dinner jacket—but he and I probably could have dressed more casually. You know what they say about hindsight, but perhaps since we were traveling with a large sponsored group of plumbers from the Midwest we may not have needed things like dinner jackets or fancy dresses. Though we did wonder if maybe some of the fancier restaurants we didn’t make it to, did enforce the dress described in the resort brochure.
It’s always fun to dress up though, if you ask me! Ha!
Now, some resorts really are strict about their dress codes. You need to pay attention to the differences between “island casual,” “smart casual,” and “resort dressy.” Lost yet? Don’t worry—so was I. The resort I stayed at was kind enough to include descriptions for each in the information packet we were given, but if you need help “cracking the code,” so to speak, I’ve shared an article below that might be helpful!
I think if I’d done more research (i.e. searched for photos online of people dining at our specific resort’s restaurants) I might have had a better idea about just how lax our particular resort in Punta Cana was about their stated dress code.
Want to learn more about dress codes at resorts so you have a better idea of what you might need to pack? Check out this helpful article—I wish I would have found this before I left! Hopefully it will help you “crack the code”! http://www.cheapcaribbean.com/deals/cracking-dress-code.html
- Obscures vaccines recommended.
This wasn’t too much of a surprise, but what was a surprise was that my insurance didn’t cover most of the recommended vaccines (particularly the malaria medication and the typhoid vaccine). When I was in college, my student health insurance did cover obscure vaccines and medicines when I needed them for my move to Taiwan. However, when I went to my doctor to get them this time, I discovered that my insurance wouldn’t cover them. I chose not to get them since I’d only be in the Dominican for 5 days, but my uncle did go ahead and get his. They ended up costing him several hundred dollars.
Remember to check the CDC website to see what types of vaccines are required, and which ones are recommended, for the country your resort is located in. If the vaccines and medications are fairly uncommon, your insurance may not cover them, which means you’ll need to factor their cost into your overall budget. It’s just something to be aware of. For me, I decided that I would go the route of packing very powerful insect repellent with 40% Deet. I never left the room without dousing myself in the repellant and I also wore water-proof mosquito repellant wristbands for good measure. The resort also said that they sprayed regularly, so I decided to take the risk and forgo the vaccines/medicines not covered by my insurance. As it turned out, I only saw one mosquito.
- They aren’t kidding when they say it’s “all-inclusive.”
In all honesty, the “all-inclusive” experience was probably the most surreal part of the trip for me. After living in Taiwan, and now Southern California, I’ve had my fair share of tropical waters, white sand beaches, and towering palm trees. (Not to say that I take them for granted or anything! I only mean to say that I have been around and lived in places that are a little similar, so I may not have experienced the same sense of, “I feel like I’m on another planet,” that some of the guests escaping winter snows may have felt.) Still, I’ve never been anywhere where I didn’t need to have my wallet on hand—where I could get anything I needed to eat or drink, or participate in any activity, all without pulling out my debit card or cash. I could eat a full gourmet meal at a restaurant and then just get up and leave without asking for the check, paying, or leaving a tip.
I felt like I was dining and dashing. I kept expecting someone to come running after me shouting, “Ma’am! You need to pay!” However, as strange as it sometimes felt, all costs incurred really were covered. The only exception to the all-inclusive policy I experienced during our whole stay at the resort was when we were dining at the resort’s beachfront seafood restaurant. After days of living in the extraordinary “no-pay paradise,” it was a bit of a shock when I opened up the menu and glanced at the wine list. The wine there was excluded from the all-exclusive policy. In fact, on the last page of the wine list, I found a bottle of wine listed at $800 USD. Needless to say, I snapped that menu shut and ordered a delightfully free rum and coke!
If you sat too long at a chair in the lobby, you’d probably find one of the staff putting a cocktail or a beer into your hand. Enjoying lounging by the pool, but feeling peckish? Hop up and walk a few feet to the grill and order yourself a hamburger or hot dog—no money necessary. Enjoy a drink without leaving the cool water—just pull up to the Manatee Bar that’s built right into the side of the pool. Want to take a kayak out in the ocean or go snorkeling in the water? No problem, just give them your room number, sign your name, and off you go!
Our flight, lodgings, tips, all of our food, drinks, minibar, a half-day guided excursion off the resort, and transportation to and from the airport were all covered as a part of our package. The only thing a person needed to have with them while they were out enjoying the resort was their room key so they didn’t get locked out. The really great thing about this—beyond just how cool it was to be able to walk around and get food or beverages whenever we wanted without any money—was that beyond the cost of the package, a person wouldn’t have to budget a whole lot of spending money. I think that in the five days we were at the resort, I only spent about $120 and that was on gifts at the souvenir shop. Not bad for five days in paradise!
Note: There were a few extra things that would have required money that weren’t a part of our particular package—like the spa treatments, certain wines at some of the restaurants, additional excursions that were not a part of our package, etc. So if you want to get things outside of your package you might have to pay, but depending on your particular package, it may already include everything you want. For example, I didn’t feel like I needed an afternoon at the spa so I didn’t worry about needing to pay for it out of pocket. Additionally, I opted to stick with the free 1/2-day marine excursion (rather than looking at other excursions like the dolphin encounter and zip-lining course) because it was already included in my package and wouldn’t cost extra. In short, make sure you know what your package includes and then if there’s anything you really want that isn’t included, make sure you factor it into your budget! (You may be amazed though by just how much is included in an “all-inclusive” package–I know I was!)
- Just because it looks and feels like paradise, remember to mind your health.
Again, pay attention to the CDC recommendations for your destination. While saying that, I need to note that the CDC must tell you every possible hazard. Even if the chances of you having an issue are minuscule, being told every possible malady known to an area usually makes things sound really dire and pretty intimidating. (It’s a lot like those ads you see on TV for any pharmaceutical where they are required to list every potential symptom, but the chances of you experiencing the symptoms may actually be very low.) Depending on whether you live with existing health issues or not, you can take some of the possible illnesses/issues with a grain of salt. That said, if they suggest you don’t drink the tap water, use it on your toothbrush, or get it in your eyes while you’re showering—take those warnings seriously. Even at luxury resorts, depending on where you are, they may not have the ability to filter the water enough that their tap water is safe for people who aren’t accustomed to their water.
At the resort we went to, they had antibacterial gel available at the concierge desk of all the restaurants and in all the bathrooms, which was actually in line with what my research online had told me was recommended. Additionally, in our room, they had a sticker on the bathroom mirror that announced, “Don’t drink out of the tap.” This guideline was especially easy to follow as our room was stocked with bottled water. Still, it can be easy to forget not to use the tap when you’re brushing your teeth because oftentimes this is a life-time pattern that we do on “auto-pilot.” Consider a colorful piece of tape across the faucet, or a sticky note—something bright and colorful that you’ll notice that will help you remember not to use the water from the faucet on your toothbrush.
I hope this has helped give you some ideas about what to expect. Every resort is going to be different, of course, but there are some underlying features that will stay the same. Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll be sharing more about my experience, including the things that I enjoyed the most about staying at a resort, as well as some of the things that I struggled with. Hopefully, my experience and the things I learned will help you decide if staying at an all-inclusive resort vacation is for you!