If your idea of an ultimate vacation is sipping endless cocktails on a sandy beach, then keep reading for the best tips for all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.
Tips for All Inclusive Resort Vacation in Cancun
Sometimes the best vacations are the ones that allow you to completely relax. The kind of vacation where you can spend all day at the beach or the pool with nothing to do. You know, the kind of vacation where your biggest decisions are between which poolside cocktail to order first- Margarita or Mojito and which restaurant to go to for dinner- Italian or Seafood? I’m talking about an all-inclusive resort vacation.
If you’ve never been, or if it’s been a while since your last all-inclusive trip, you’ll want to keep reading for 15 of the top tips for all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. Yes, there are plenty of other destinations with all-inclusive resorts, like the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and even other parts of Mexico like Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. But there is a lot to cover, so for this post, I am going to focus on Cancun and surrounding areas like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Cozumel.
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What Does All Inclusive Mean?
The term all inclusive does vary from one resort to the next. However, there are some features of an all inclusive plan that are common across the board. For example, they will typically include your hotel room, food (at most restaurants), beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and non-motorized water sports like snorkeling.
Some luxury resorts also include transportation to and from the airport, room service, and additional amenities.
Now, that you’re up to speed on what an all inclusive resort is, keep reading to learn all about how you can have the best AI vacation.
What Type of Experience Do You Want
My first tip is to determine what type of experience you want to have for your vacation. I suggest doing this first because there are several different types of all inclusive resorts in Mexico, and there is a place for everyone. From the budget resort (great for spring break) to the 4 Diamond ultra-luxury resort (perfect for a special celebration, like a honeymoon).
Don’t book a resort solely based on where a friend went or what the latest influencer recommended. Is your vacation with family and you want a chance to relax and participate in fun activities together? Are you wanting an adventurous experience where you explore the local area outside the resort? Or maybe you want a luxurious and romantic trip with your partner where you stay on the resort grounds for the duration of your trip.
These are questions that only you can answer, but questions that are most important to answer so you can pick the resort that is the best fit for you and your vacation style.
Where Do You Want to Stay
There are so many all inclusive resorts, it can be overwhelming to try to pick one, especially if this is your first time planning an all inclusive vacation. After you decide what type of experience you’d like to have, the next step is to determine where you’d like to stay.
It’s important to know that when people say they’re traveling to Cancun, they might not be referring to downtown Cancun or the Hotel Zone. Many people fly into the Cancun airport and stay at a resort somewhere else in the Yucatan Peninsula, for example, the Riviera Maya. The Riviera Maya is made up of several small towns like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Puerto Morales. Let’s take a closer look at the different areas.
Believe it or not, Cancun used to be a sleepy little fishing village, even in 1970. Today there are almost 200 hotels in the area, and it’s the best place to stay if you are looking for night clubs that keep the party going until morning. This area also has some of the most beautiful beaches. And super easy access to Isla Mujeres, if you’re looking for a day trip.
It’s important to know that the hotel zone is a long way from Tulum, where many of the archeological sites and centoes are, so if a lot of sightseeing and excursions are on your list of must-do activities, I would not recommend staying in this area.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen is known for its coral reefs, which makes it a fantastic spot for your vacation if you’re into diving or snorkeling. However, the beaches here, while lovely, aren’t quite as pristine as those in Cancun.
There are plenty of options for all inclusive resorts here too. Playa del Carmen is also where you will find Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) which runs parallel to the beach and is full of shops, local restaurants, and nightclubs. Playa del Carmen is also located in the heart of the Riviera Maya, making it super easy to take day trips to see the Mayan ruins, cenotes, or enjoy many other fun excursions. If your perfect vacation includes lots of sightseeing and excursions, then I would recommend staying in Playa del Carmen.
Tulum is beautiful. It’s said to be an energy vortex- meaning that it is an area that is highly conducive to spiritual activities. If that’s of interest to you, and you’d like to experience this on your next vacation in Mexico, Tulum might be the place for you.
Unfortunately, Tulum is not the best place to stay if you are looking for an all inclusive resort. While there are plenty of resorts with Tulum in their name, the truth is they are not actually in Tulum. They are near Tulum. Many of the resorts that are actually in Tulum, cater to a more bohemian crowd, some don’t have A/C or TVs in the room, and some resorts do not have pools.
Cozumel used to be a hidden gem for snorkelers and scuba divers. The island has grown in recent years. Today it has its own international airport, is a port of up to 35 cruise ships a week, and has become a popular destination for people looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Cancun.
The vibe on Cozumel is a little more relaxed than what you’d find on the mainland and has more of a small-town feel. It is a great place to go if you’re a nature lover and adventure seeker wanting an all inclusive resort experience.
What Type of All Inclusive Resort
There are different options in terms of the type of all inclusive resort you could stay at for your all inclusive holiday. My next tip is to determine which type of resort is the best fit for those you are traveling with and the experience you all want to have.
A family-friendly all inclusive resort, caters to families. In addition to including food and beverages during your stay, there are often plenty of family-friendly activities available for families to enjoy as a part of the all inclusive rate. Some examples might be, movie nights on the beach, water slides at the pool, and kids or teen clubs.
Adults-only resorts are exclusively for people 18 and up (there are a few that are 16 and up). They don’t all cater to romance and honeymoons, although there are plenty of resort options that do. There are fantastic options for everyone- from resorts that cater to honeymooners, some that are more suited for adults looking to party, and some that are lifestyle-friendly. I recommend hiring an experienced travel agent, so you have the all inclusive experience you’re hoping for.
You should also consider the size of the resort. There are some that are high-rise hotels, more commonly found in the hotel zone of Cancun. Others are sprawling resorts that require golf carts or even shuttle buses to get you from one place to another.
When is the Best Time to Visit Cancun
The next tip I have is to consider the time of year. Peak travel season is December through April. You can expect the weather to be between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This time of year also sees the least amount of rainfall.
During high season, prices will be higher, and it will be more crowded. If you are considering booking your vacation during the holidays (aka Festive Season), you must book your vacation package as far in advance as possible. Some people book a year in advance. The same can be said for March, when swarms of spring breakers head to Mexico.
The shoulder seasons are mid-April through mid-May and mid-October through mid-November. In April, prices start to lower as the temperatures (and humidity) begin to rise. This time of year also brings more sargassum-the brown and smelly seaweed that is creeping up more and more due to climate change and pollution.
Low season, which is June-November, is also hurricane season, which is very important to remember. You can expect the best prices but could have wet and rainy weather.
Tips for All Inclusive Resorts in Mexico
Now it’s time to get to the best part- how to make the most of your time at an all inclusive resort. These are tips and tricks that I have picked up through my years of traveling to Cancun, and combined with the tips above, will ensure that you have an awesome all inclusive vacation.
Hire a Professional
As you can tell, there is a lot to take into consideration when picking out the perfect resort. Cancun, and the surrounding areas, has grown so much in recent years. With so many different resort options, it is a great idea to enlist the help of a professional travel agent. Hire someone who is experienced in visiting and selling vacation packages in the area. Doing this will ensure you have the experience of your dreams.
Don’t forget to book your transportation in advance. Stepping out of the terminal at the Cancun airport is overwhelming, to say the least. Just picture this, crowds of people wheeling tons of luggage, all trying to figure out where they are supposed to go, tour operators calling you trying to upsell you something, vendors selling beer and margaritas, and taxi drivers offering rides. Yikes. Not how I’d want to start my vacation.
Make sure that you make reservations for your transfer service prior to departure. I also recommend getting a private transfer. That way it’s just you and the others in your party, being transported to your resort, without having to make stops for others along the way.
Book Tours and Activities in Advance
Avoid disappointment and make sure you book any tours and activities before you arrive. This is especially important if you are traveling during peak season. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to get the dates you prefer.
Another benefit of booking your excursions in advance is that you will also have a better idea of how much you are spending. Booking in advance could also save you a little bit. Sometimes prices will increase the closer you get to your departure date.
I briefly mentioned the importance of reading the fine print, but I can’t emphasize this enough- Please read the fine print or you could miss out on really cool perks and amenities that are included in your all inclusive package. These perks are typically detailed in your booking confirmation. They could be anything from discounts for spa treatments, complimentary golf, or a champagne breakfast.
In addition to these perks, your resort will often have fun and unique activities that are included as a part of your stay, such as morning yoga at the pool, salsa dancing lessons, or a tequila tasting. There might be also various activities that are available on the resort for an extra charge, like an exclusive wine and cheese tasting.
As I’m sure you understand by now, your all inclusive resort vacation is inclusive of your food and beverage, but please do not forget to tip the staff members. They work hard to make sure the experience we have exceeds our expectations. I think it’s important to tip to show appreciation for great service.
US dollars are accepted, so there is no need to exchange money. I always recommend taking a couple of hundred dollars in small bills, a mix of $1, $5, $10, and some $20. When I get to the pool or beach for the first time, I tip a little bit extra and usually receive excellent service as a result. See below for a general guide on tipping.
Shuttle Drivers: This depends on how far your resort is from the airport, and how much luggage you have. Anywhere from $5-$20 is recommended.
Bellhops: A general guideline is $1-2 per bag.
Housekeeping Staff: $2-3 each time they clean your room.
Room service: up to $5 per order.
Bartenders: I always leave a really good tip for my first round of drinks and have found that by doing so I get speedier service. From there I will tip $1-2 per round of drinks.
Pool or Beachside Waitstaff: I follow the same rule as above. If I’m ordering a pool or beachside lunch, then I will tip anywhere from $3-5.
Servers: $3-5 per person unless you are dining at an extravagant or specialty restaurant. Then consider what you’d tip back home and use your best judgment.
Spa workers: $5-10 per service.
Tour operators: For a full-day tour, I recommend tipping $5-10 per person. Don’t forget to tip the driver too, $1-3 per person.
As I have mentioned, one of the perks about an all inclusive vacation is that your dining is included- most of the time. Most often all inclusive resorts will have different types of a la carte restaurants featuring different cuisines, such as Italian, Mexican, and Japanese. They will also have buffet options and usually a coffee shop/café. Some resorts have an elevated dining experience with a Chef’s menu. There might even be a specialty restaurant with dining experiences that cost extra.
It’s important to read the fine print to really understand your meal plan and if dinner reservations are required for the a la carte restaurants. If dinner reservations are required at your resort, ask if you can make them prior to your arrival. Should you not be able to make them beforehand, make sure to secure dinner reservations when you are checking in at the resort. The best restaurants can fill up quickly.
Also, make sure to check the dress code. The restaurants should state if they require casual elegance, resort casual, or resort formal.
How to Pack for Your All Inclusive Vacation
Now for the fun part (well I think it is anyway) packing for your all inclusive trip! Of course, pack the obvious, bathing suit, coverups, flip flops, and resort wear. But let’s talk about some of the travel essentials and other unique things that you can pack to make your trip even better.
First and foremost, do not forget to pack sunscreen. Pack a lot of it, more than you think you will need. This is not an item to skimp on. You will need it, and if you run out, chances are you will have to buy it at the resort gift shop, and it will be ridiculously expensive. I’ve seen bottles of basic sunscreen selling for $50, and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather put $50 towards a massage than a bottle of sunscreen.
Also, please do not bring spray sunscreen, it is harmful to the ocean and many places are banning it. Pack something that is reef-safe and biodegradable. Make sure to take lip balm with SPF too.
Next up, don’t forget to pack your credit card. It’s good to have it with you in case of emergencies. Make sure that you are bringing one that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Foreign transaction fees are additional fees that some companies charge you for purchases made in other countries. If you don’t have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, consider getting one before you travel.
I also recommend taking towel clips. Use them to secure the towel on your beach or pool chair, this way you don’t have to deal with the annoyance of your towel slipping and falling all day. They are also helpful in saving your spot if you get up to take a swim.
Another must-have item for an all inclusive vacation is a beach bag. Before you pack one, see if the resort provides them for their guests. If one is not provided, make sure to take one. This way you have something that will carry everything you will need for your day at the beach or pool.
A tumbler might not be a necessity, but it sure does come in handy at the pool. I like to take insulated tumblers with me to the pool or beach and pour my drinks in them to make sure they stay nice and cold. If you are traveling with a group for a special occasion, like a destination wedding or birthday party, it would be a fun idea to have personalized tumblers made for everyone.
One of the most important tips I can give is to adjust your expectations. Yes, your all inclusive trip should be amazing and everything you dream of, and I am sure it will be. With that said, it’s important to be aware of a few things.
There is a good chance the beach will have sargassum on it. I mentioned it earlier in this post, but sargassum has become more and more of an issue in Cancun. Many resorts put up barriers in an effort to prevent it from encroaching on the beach, but these barriers can only do so much, and Mother Nature has a mind of her own. The resort staff will do the best they can to clean the beaches, but again there is only so much that can be done. Please remember this upon arrival and do your best to not be disappointed if the beach doesn’t look like the images online.
I will say the food has gotten so much better in recent years, especially at some of the newer 5-star resorts, like Atelier and Secrets Moxche. But remember you are dining at a resort that is preparing food for hundreds if not thousands of people, so the quality of food might not be what you’d get at a restaurant back home.
It’s also likely that your eating and drinking habits will be different and more indulgent than how they typically are back home. The food and beverages are included and, in most cases, unlimited. It’s important to stay hydrated and drink enough water, as well as fit in some food with nutritional value each day. Often upset stomachs occur because we’ve overindulged.
In terms of water, most of the water on the resort grounds will be purified and safe to drink. The tap water in your hotel room, might not be, so please use the bottled water that is provided for you.
You are spending a lot of money on your vacation, and it’s important that it is protected, so please get travel insurance. One thing we have learned over the past few years is to expect the unexpected. Hopefully, you won’t need to cancel your trip, but if you did have to cancel and you had insurance, you’d get your money back or get a credit, depending on your plan.
Also, the health insurance you have at home does not cover you when you are out of the country. Your travel insurance protects much more than the trip, it also covers you in case of an emergency during your trip.
Pack a Carry-on
If you are checking your bag at the airport, make sure you also take a carry-on. Pack your carry-on with important items you will need in case your checked bag gets lost. It’s a good idea to pack the following:
- A change of clothes for dinner
- Swimsuit, cover-up, and flip-flops.
- A few toiletry necessities and sunscreen in TSA-approved sizes.
- Chargers for your electronic devices
My last tip is something that you should avoid at all costs. Do not waste your time sitting through a timeshare presentation to get a free massage or anything else that is being offered. They will tell you it’s just an hour over breakfast, and that is not true. You will spend several hours listening to the presentation and then being sold different packages for the time share. It’s a waste of your precious vacation time. If you want a massage, book one and pay for it, but remember to check your vacation package and see if you get a discount.
Tips for All Inclusive Resorts in Mexico
I hope this helps you as you prepare for your first trip, or your next trip, to stay at an all inclusive resort in Mexico.
I’d love to hear about tips that you have please drop them in the comments section!
11 responses to “15 Tips for All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico Vacation”
Wonderful info and suggestions! As snow is already falling, Mexico sounds like a great destination!
This is interesting, I’ve seen many things about this but haven’t been to there physcially.
Great recommendations! Saved this article for our next trip.
These are amazing tips and recommendations! Sounds like an amazing place to visit!
This is very interesting and we will plan to go there next year with my partner. Great tips!
I have been begging my husband to go on an all inclusive vacation with me to Mexico. I know this blog post will help convince him that this is something we need to do! Thanks for all the great tips for all inclusive resorts in Mexico!