The All Inclusive Land Based Vacation, Deal or No Deal?

Let’s talk about the word all-inclusive. What does  all-inclusive really mean?

Some resorts like to say they are,  Super all inclusive, Luxury all-inclusive or Gourmet all-inclusive.

How true is this?

I just got back from Mexico, where the resort claims they have no buffets on property. They also refer to themselves as Gourmet All-Inclusive. I was amazed when I went for breakfast and also when I went to lunch later in the day, to find a buffet. I asked one of the staff why they claim to have no buffets, when I just had breakfast at one this morning.  She assured me they were not buffets, but they were called food displays. I thought to myself, oh OK, basically another name for a buffet. Who do they think they are kidding ?  I guess this is their clever way of marketing.  In my eyes and I am sure in yours,  it was a buffet. Maybe it is the way the food is displayed, that makes it a Food Display.



Buffet or Food Display

Breakfast buffet area

Breakfast buffet area



What are your expectations of an all-inclusive resort?

If you have been to a few all-inclusive properties, then you know they are all different in what they have to offer. Finding the right one for you, can be a challenge, especially if you are just relying on reviews online. If you have never been to an all-inclusive resort, there are lots of things to look at to find the best one for you.

It is always best to talk to an experienced travel agent to guide an assist you in choosing the right resort for you. People constantly ask me, which is my favorite resort? My answer to them is that my favorite resort might not be your favorite resort. Everyone has different needs and wants. I need to find out more about you to match you up to your ideal property. A doctor never prescribes without learning more about you. As a travel professional, it is important to share your likes and wants with me, so I can better serve you. 

 Be careful not to book with a agent who starts telling you where to go before they really know what you want. Interview your agent. Have they traveled much or are they reading from a brochure? Does the agent partner with only a few resorts, they recommend to everyone?

When choosing an all-inclusive property check to see if these things are offered below

  •  Spa – Is it a full service spa? What hours is it opened?
  • Gym- What type of equipment do they have? Is there a fee?
  • Pool – How many? How long are they open? Is there a lifeguard present? Adult Only Pool?
  • Lounge Chairs – Are there enough lounge chairs at the pool and the beach, or do you have to get up at 6:00AM to grab one?
  • Entertainment – How often? What kind?
  • Water Sports – Are they extra or included?
  • Beach – Is it swimmable? Is it constantly full of seaweed? Can you put a float in the water or is it not allowed?
  •  How far to the beach? Is it next to the property or across the street?


How many are there and when are they open?

That's what I call service.

This is what I call service. delivering appetizers in the pool at Secret’s Akumal.

Are they sit down or buffet style?

Do you need a reservation, if so how far in advance must you make it?

Is there a variety of food options? Italian? American? Mexican?

Can you go to the same restaurant more than once?

Is there always a dining option open throughout the day or evening?

Many resorts boast about all their restaurant options, but don’t always have them open each night, especially during slow season. Some of the options only seat a small number of guests. If the resort has a very large number of guests, it can be difficult getting in to the restaurant of choice. Some resorts give preference to the suite or butler guests first, giving others very little chance of getting in.

Room Service

Is there room service available at the resort for all room categories or only the suites?

Room Service delivered in the Secret Box

Is there a fee for room service?

When is it available? 24 hours?

What kind of a menu selection is offered for room service?

What is the typical wait time before receiving your food selection?

Are you provided with towels daily and in the evening during turn down service?

How quick do they clean the rooms?

Do they have coffee makers in the room?

Some resorts have secret boxes where they can drop off your room service order, without ever seeing them. This is great in the morning when I don’t want to see anyone. I love to order my coffee the night before and tell them to just leave it in the secret box at whatever time I give them. Nothing like waking up and having my coffee ready for me.

Dress Code

Do you need a jacket for dinner?

Are jeans ok in the restaurants.

Can I wear my flip flops or sandals?

Is there a place to eat lunch during the day in your bathing suit while swimming?

Can you wear shorts in the restaurants?

Will they serve food on the beach or at poolside?

Room Category

What types of rooms are available?

Beachfront (means you are close to the beach)

Oceanfront (ocean is in front of you)

Oceanview (means you can see the ocean somewhere)

Pool view (view of pool area)

Garden View (view of the gardens)

Run of the House (the resort can put you where ever they want)

How far away is the room from the main building, beach, and restaurants?


Children’s Program

What type of program is offered for the kids daily?

Are there different age groups?

Who is guiding the programs?

Is babysitting offered? How much? Are they Qualified babysitters?

How old does the child need be to participate?


Property Location

How far is the property from the airport? If you are only going for a few days, you want to select a property closer to the airport, so you are not spending your vacation in a van transferring for hours. Is your transfer a shared or private transfer?

Are transfers provided? If you book online, your transfers are usually not included and can cost quite a bit, depending on the location of the resort. Many are an hour or hour and half away from the airport.

Is the resort located on the beach, or across the street?

Are there any stores around for shopping?

Is it located in a safe area where you can venture out on your own?

Is their any security at the property? Is it gated only allowing guests to come in?


Alcoholic Beverages

What is available?image

Is the Liquor Top Shelf Brands or the Local brands?

Beer – Is there a selection? Any American Beer?

Is it available 24 hours?

Are the bars open in the day and evening?

What are the hours they are open?

Does everything shut down before midnight?

Is tipping expected to get a drink?



What is the average temperature?

When is the rainy season?

Some of the resorts during the winter season experience cool temperatures in the evening, cooling down the water temperature. Check if the resort has heated pools, if you like warmer temperatures. I prefer a warmer pool myself, at least at 82 degrees.


Are the tips included?

If they are included, does the staff still expect you to tip them to provide you with good service?

 I hope some of these suggestions were helpful to you when choosing an all-inclusive resort. Please leave your comment and don’t forget to like my blog.

If you don’t have a travel agent I am happy to help you at

Feel free to call me. Brenda at 888-547-9876 or 610-709-9876.


If you have any travel questions or topics you would like me to share, please email me at


Brenda Punchak, ECC, (Elite Cruise Counsellor), Caribbean & Mexico Specialist, Honeymoon & Destination Wedding Specialist

  1. These are very helpful reminders. It is safer then to ask the travel agency all that is included in the package but good to have these guidelines too to make sure that nothing is amiss.

    • It is always better to book with a good travel agent. With their knowledge and expertise that they have, they can guide and direct you, as well as save you money.

  2. Wonderful article on the many things to consider when looking into an all inclusive!

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