All-Inclusive VIP Club: Worth it?

One question I see time and time again on travel forums and resort fans pages is “Should I pay the extra money for the VIP club?” And of course, a multitude of people weigh in with thoughts, opinions, and anecdotes.

First, a bit about these “clubs.”  Basically, you pay the extra and you get more, like premium liquor in your room, access to club-only restaurants and pools, access to a designated area of the beach with swankier sunbeds and chairs, a VIP lounge, and maybe even a butler – always depends on the resort.

Is it really worth it?

I’ve said yes to the club at some resorts and said no at others. And I’ve never regretted my choice. Why? Because I researched the club inclusions at each resort, and I then decided if they were worth the cost.

And that’s what you should do!

Here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself when deciding if you really need to ‘join the club’ on your next all-inclusive vacation.

Want premium liquor?

Typically, you’ll get lower-shelf liquors in your basic package. But upgrade to the club and you’ll bump up a shelf or two to the more premium liquors.

Tip: Before you go signing up for club based on this one consideration, find out if your resort will trade in your lower-shelf liquor. They just might. If they won’t, then yes, you should consider the club upgrade if this is really important to you.

Need to get away from the kids?

If you’re traveling without kids but couldn’t book an adult-only resort, the club has you covered. Typically, resorts will rope off one section of the property for club-only guests. This includes a section of the beach, at least one pool, and sometimes even a restaurant or two. And on top of that, guests typically have to be 18 or older to sign up for the club upgrade. That means you can completely escape the kids as long as you’re plopped on the club side of the resort.

Want hand holding?

Often, club upgrades come with access to a member of the concierge team. They help you get settled in when you arrive, they’ll offer to make dinner reservations for you, and they’ll check in with you periodically to ask if you need anything.  Without the club, you’re usually on your own for all of that.

Word of warning:  Sometimes they call these staff members ‘butlers’ but if you’ve been to a resort brand like Sandals, where butler service means you have a dedicated butler at your beck and call to do everything from unpacking your clothes to walking you to dinner every night, do not expect that as part of your club package anywhere else. The level of service you get as part of your club package will rarely ever touch the level of butler service you get at a place like Sandals – but keep in mind that you often pay thousands extra for that true butler service at Sandals.

Enjoy the little things?

Then there are the little extras that might enhance the feeling of luxury – a pillow menu, robe and slippers, arrival and departure gifts (like a beach bag or a fruit arrangement), or even a free excursion or spa treatment. A club upgrade typically comes with these niceties.

Want more dining choices?

Not all resorts will offer added dining options to club guests but some will. Some may have a restaurant or two exclusive to club guests, while others may offer additional dining hours for club guests.

What you don’t always get

I’ve seen and heard this complaint a few dozen times over the years: “but I’m a club member…doesn’t that get me….?” While a VIP club might come with a bunch of perks, there are a few upgrades you won’t get.

Room upgrades

A lot of people associate the word ‘upgrade’ with room upgrade, but that’s rarely a club inclusion. Being a club guest typically includes upgraded amenities and services only. See The Mystery Behind Free Room Upgrades

Preferred restaurant seating

While being a club guest might get you into a club-only restaurant, it will not get you that perfect beach-side or pool-side table you long for. You’re at the mercy of your maitre d’ when it comes to seating.

Tip: Make your reservation early and request a prime seat, or show up outside of peak hours.

The perfect beach chair

Got your eye on the perfect beach chair? Being club won’t do a thing for you! Yes, you’ll get the designated area of the beach, but that’s the extent to it — you’re on your own when it comes to the chairs and sunbeds. You’ll need to get up early and plop yourself down to secure it. Same goes for pool chairs.

Warning: Getting up at 6AM and throwing a towel or magazine on your favorite chair and leaving for half the day is not the best way to secure your chair. Some resorts now monitor this and will remove your belongings if you’ve been gone from the chair for more than a couple of hours.

Tips

Dig deep

Go to the resort website and find out exactly what the club offers and then consider if those extras are worth the added expense.

Go to TripAdvisor and read posts or reviews from people who have opted for the club. Check if the resort really does deliver on their promises. Definitely check if they enforce the ‘club-only’ rule on the club side of the resort. Some resorts might offer this exclusive section of the resort but might not enforce it, which means it can be overrun by kids or it could be difficult to find a chair on the beach or around the pool if everyone’s flocking there.

Don’t wait

Don’t expect to show up at the resort and request to sign up for the club at check-in. Many people think this is an option since it’s just an added service, but it’s not that easy. Many resorts limit the number of club guests in a given week, so signing up at the last minute is rarely ever an option – especially if you’re traveling during peak season.

Conclusion: Do your research before you hand over your hard-earned money!

 

 

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