How to Choose an All-Inclusive Resort

Choosing an all-inclusive resort can be even more daunting than choosing a destination. You go from having a handful of destinations to choose from to having hundreds of all-inclusive resorts to choose from.

So here’s the million dollar question: how do you choose a resort while still maintaining a life? Seriously, it’s a legit question. If you consider the following, you just might avoid going down the dreaded rabbit hole many vacation planners find themselves going down time and time again.

Consider this…


Always determine your budget before hitting the ground running. If you don’t, you’ll be tempted by the pictures of the most luxurious resorts in the Caribbean, all of which come with a hefty price tag. If you have a budget set, you won’t even look at those pictures when you see the price tag next to the name of the resort. So set the budget right off the bat.


This is the next question you should ask yourself because it really narrows down the choices. If the answer is yes, you have two options: choose an adult-only resort or choose a resort that has an adult-only section. In either case, you narrow down your choices quite nicely when you answer this question.


Okay, so let’s say you’ve decided on an adult-only resort. Next, you should consider if you want a resort for couples only. Obviously if you’re going alone or with someone other than a spouse, the answer is no. If you choose yes, you’ve narrowed your search substantially. Most destinations offer only a handful of couples-only resorts.

TripAdvisor Ratings

Of course I live on the TripAdvisor site. And you should too if you’re researching right now. Check out my post, 6 Tips for Using TripAdvisor Effectively.

Rank: When you look up a resort, TripAdvisor will show you how the resort ranks against other resorts in that area, and it will give you the thumbs up rating (for example, as of this writing, Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun is ranked 2 of 23 hotels in Puerto Morelos and has an 88% thumbs-up ranking). .

Star Rating: When it comes to star ratings, the question you should ask yourself is not ‘how high will I go’ because if the price is right, we’ll all go for the 5-star luxury. The question is ‘how low will I go.’

Destination: When you’re answering this question, think about your destination. If you’ve chosen a destination that’s known for lower standards, you might want to consider no lower than 4.5 stars. But if your destination is known for luxury and high quality of standards and service, maybe going lower than 4 stars is okay for you.

Distance from Airport

If you’re a first-time traveler, you might not have thought of this one. And for me, it’s not usually a deal breaker, but for other people, it is. Resorts can sometimes be a two-hour drive from the airport, and after a long flight, that can be painful. So determine if you want to be at the resort within minutes of fetching your luggage or if you mind driving a distance to get to your paradise.

Food and Dining Options

Quality of Food: Food quality plays a huge factor in my decision-making process. And really, the only way to find out about food quality is to read reviews, as many as you can, to get a sense of what to expect. You may not need restaurants that are top rated but you probably don’t want to be spending your week dealing with stomach problems, either.

Dining Options: Also consider what you’re looking for in terms of dining options. Are you okay with buffet-only restaurants or do you want to get spiffed up every night and head to a nice a la carte restaurant with gourmet food and white-gloved service?

Most resorts offer both options but some will only allow you to dine at the a la cartes a specified number of times throughout the week. They’ll hand you two to three vouchers at check-in and it’s up to you to decide which two or three a la cartes you want to eat at, all of which will typically require reservations that can be tough to get. The remainder of the week you’ll be eating at buffet restaurants.

Size and Layout

Resorts come in many shapes and sizes. Some are small and intimate, where you see the same people doing the same things day in and day out, while some are so large that you need a shuttle bus to get to the beach or the restaurants. Consider which of the two you prefer.

A good indicator is to go to TripAdvisor and select the ‘amenities’ link, usually located at the top of the page under the resort name and address. At the bottom of the listed amenities it will show you the number of rooms at that resort. You can also track down a resort map here or on the resort’s website or post a question on the TripAdvisor forums to ask others about the size of resorts you’re considering.


If you’re a total beach bum — that is, you love spending every waking moment on the beach — you should omit the resorts that don’t offer such luxury.  Don’t assume that because you’re going to the Caribbean you’ll be lying on a stretch of unspoiled beach with white sand and turquoise water. Some resorts may sit on a beautiful stretch of beach while others may occupy a very small stretch. Do your research!

And if you consider yourself a scuba diver or have any interest in giving it a whirl, consider resorts that sit on a beach conducive to scuba diving. Some resorts even provide PADI training and certification.


If you go on vacation to party hard, omit the “sleepy” resorts — the ones that go completely silent after 10 p.m. Comb through the reviews and post questions on TripAdvisor to find everything you need to know about a resort’s party atmosphere.

The Crowd

Some all-inclusive resorts are known for attracting the spring break crowd, typically because the prices are within student budgets, while other resorts are known to attract an older, more senior crowd. Again, figure out what you’d prefer and … research!

Resort Amenities

Not all resorts offer the same amenities. Some offer a plethora of activities on the resort, such as mini golf, tennis, pool tables, and fully-equipped gyms and spas, but others don’t offer nearly as much. Figure out which amenities appeal to you and choose your resort accordingly.


Many resorts go through major renovations from time to time, and they rarely shut down while for it (they don’t want to sacrifice the lost revenue). That means you’re stuck waking up to the sound of construction or, even worse, you’re stuck listening to it while you’re trying to relax on the beach or around the pool. It could also mean you don’t have access to something you were really looking forward to, like a certain restaurant or bar.

So be sure to check with the resorts you’re thinking about visiting to ensure there will be no major construction during the time you’ll be there.


I can’t imagine there’s a single all-inclusive resort out there that ticks off every box in your wish list, especially if you’re working with a fixed budget. So I suggest you consider the things that will factor into your decision and prioritize them.

There’s nothing better than hitting the ‘book now’ button on a resort website or a booking engine or sending that e-mail to your travel agent to tell her exactly which all-inclusive resort you have chosen for your upcoming getaway. Hopefully this post will get you closer to that point (maybe even without a visit to that rabbit hole we discussed)!


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