Thursday, August 6, 2020

Can We Drink Dom Perignon? Separating Fact From Fiction

What is All Inclusive?

What do we think of when we hear the words "All Inclusive" now add the word.... Resort.....Soooo?

A Little Story...

When I visited my first ever all inclusive resort in the Caribbean it was for my honeymoon. Eons ago. We are talking merely out of College, which to me was nearly 30 years ago. Times were different then. 

Being the type of person that I am, (Class A personality here...) I researched by visiting my local travel agency. Back then, unlike you have it, we didn't have the great WWW to do any research ourselves on anything at all past telnet-ting stuff. If we had a friend or a friend of a friend that had "Been there or Done that before" we might be able to gain some insight but it still could have been biased insight too. For not every person is the same or has the same wants and needs. That's just the way it was and to some degree still is comparable.. 

So I would walk in the travel agency and get brochures and fliers in order to conduct my research, review available prices and sales. I'd take the eye-catching brochures home, pour through them and admire all the glorious beach photos, beautiful sunsets, stunning room ideas and read about what was "included".  Admirably so, I was SOLD and knew I wanted to visit one for our honeymoon and my future husband to be was also excited.

Not a lot was explained in what was "not included" however.  Back then I didn't realize that not all all-inclusives were the same. I didn't realize that there were different price points and WHY. Just a lot I didn't know being a very new "all inclusive resort traveler". I had just traveled a lot for business and educational purposes prior to this and of course wide-range domestically. Yeah, yeah everyone wants to focus on the positive right? They aren't interested in telling you straight up, unbiased, simply in a brochure. They aren't going to scream at you out loud in their brochures saying "Bud Lite Beer is not served here". Go figure. You think you just assume. We didn't know this then! And heck you may not know this now....

After settling on some photos / brochures I liked, I went back to the travel agency and sat down with my travel agent to talk. Just talk. I was not opening my wallet just yet. It wasn't because of the travel agent itself as it was I still felt I had no idea what I was doing and I wanted a professionals opinion. I was having a terrible time making up my mind. My travel agent was very open with me, honest, and kind about the world of all inclusives. Plus, she had some great tips about the countries I was interested in (back then I didn't know which country I wanted or why I just knew I was sold on the idea of an all inclusive). After talking a bit about what I desired to see and do, what I envisioned my honeymoon to be like, she originally suggested Costa Rica. Heck what I did not know until very much later (like as a travel agent) there are not that many all inclusive resorts in Costa Rica and there still aren't today!  She was basing this much upon my desires and explanations (I would not learn this until much later becoming a travel advisor myself that not only does picking an all inclusive or not matter but the country we wish to visit!). The woman simply knew more than I did. The whole idea of just selecting a country blew my mind right out of the water. I just wanted to select an all inclusive and be done with it. I'll just leave it at that for now. 

What really shocked me was she did not use a brochure to explain why she picked that country. Instead, against her advice, we ended up settling on Sandals Royal Caribbean resort in Jamaica simply because we liked the photos of the resort! She agreed it was also a good choice (having been there herself and knowing of other travel agents who had been too). The brochures did the job and SOLD me on the resort IMMEDIATELY.  I didn't care about the rest. Not the country, not the little details. It never crossed my mind that there were "little details". Brochures had and still have the power to do such things as control your mind so gloriously. If it did not, it would not be advertising!! 

After the honeymoon, and although we had a fabulous time, we really wondered if we had gotten our money's worth. Are all all-inclusive resorts the same? What did we miss out on? Was that the absolutely BEST out there? Did our choice exceed our expectations? 

We spent approximately $6000 on our honeymoon. And although we enjoyed what we got (not then knowing any better) the curious inside of me just wondered - Did my Travel Agent know something I did not know? The amount we spent just hung in my mind and it was a quarter of what we spent on the wedding itself. I knew I wanted us to have a FABULOUS wedding and honeymoon. That's all I knew at the time. And who doesn't?! 

I was hooked from then on concerning all-inclusive resorts. Who can deny the beauty of an ocean front sunset as you open your double balcony doors?  Listen to the surf from afar and the palm trees gently swaying just beyond our reach. I'm telling you, it's the little things we couldn't deny...

Changes but No Changes....

Today, we have the internet, still those same gorgeous photos beckoning us and we can look without ever getting in our cars, driving into town and walking into a travel agency for a brochure.  One thing is the same though. From all inclusive to all inclusive, one thing remains constant. What's included and what isn't is a question in our minds. It can be what does or does not exceed our expectations. Not all all inclusives are the same. Not all all inclusives are "all included" either. What's "all included" is a mindset for us really and is so different than the words "all inclusive". We have our ultimate expectation. The definition of all inclusion varies. All you know when you start out is.... your meals, drinks, your entertainment, your room are all included for one set price. It's all paid up front for your convenience.  And sometimes those all inclusive packages will include flights too. This is true.

We aren't looking at the miniscule here. We are looking at the base, the overall general idea of what an all inclusive resort is SUPPOSED to be.  I think it's worth it to understand the miniscule when it comes to money and value for your money. For, as I would learn later, many, many all inclusive resort visits later, it's IMPORTANT in matching what we think of as "just an ok vacation" to "wow I couldn't have picked a better vacation". Get the gist?  Only a travel advisor will know unless you too have been to many of them yourself. It's far more important than you could ever know when it comes to getting the very best and making you the very happiest possible during your time away.  It is no different than what it should be - like buying a car or a house in a way. (maybe a lot less daunting and just more fun). 

Our vacation is an investment. An investment for memories, love, family, our own sanity and I'm sure a whole lot more than what I'm thinking of right this moment. You get the idea, right?

What we now know....

As a travel advisor myself now I can appreciate that each experience I have had at each all inclusive resort or brand of all inclusive resorts I have ever visited has been different. I walked away from each with something and memories that I will forever cherish. There have been resorts that have totally just made me go WOW and there have been resorts that have made me wonder why they are even still an all inclusive resort. Like -- really?! With each visit I observe "the right fit" clientele. I observe "the offerings" and take an in depth look at the reality. However, those visits I have made I have experienced. Not just visited.  It is I think what has made me an expert to all inclusive resorts in my field. (and so much more). I "get" now why I should have listened to a travel advisor eons ago. While my gut instinct MAY have been real and something to follow, having an open mind to the inclinations of my travel advisor could have opened a whole new world to me and explained "what I did not already know". 

You've just gotta open the door and explain "what's your top priority" in a resort. And what's your "don't want" in a resort. You can't hold anything....back!

Even today many all inclusive resort visits later to different resorts, I am mildly surprised to learn I don't know everything there is to know still.  I, like all other travel advisors, are still learning. We learn even from you. Yet we have each other in an unbiased view of the world that you can't find on the internet, and certainly not in any magazine or brochure. Painted images just don't do an all inclusive resort enough justice sometimes and sometimes they do far more than the reality! One of the fantastic reasons why we can justify having a travel agent in our back pocket. (and yet, for so many other reasons not explained here).

Getting down to details...

We want to pay careful and close attention to words like "premium" - premium liquors, "Luxury" - luxury all inclusive resort, "ocean view" - ocean view room, "ocean front" - ocean front room" , "fine dining" - restaurants and more. Even just the word "all inclusive luxury resort" can be equal to buying a lamborghini or simply buying a Lexus. It can be equal to buying either a Ford or a Chevrolet as well.Then once we choose we have to consider the base model, and upgraded models and then add ons. All inclusive resorts? Not a lot different!  There's an all inclusive for nearly every budget over a certain expected amount. Your travel agent can tell you the minimum you can expect to pay for any type of all inclusive resort but that doesn't necessarily mean if you pay for said resort, you will come home happy! 

There are reasons for these words and yet sometimes they can be all fluff!

Great Questions to ask yourself....

What kind of All Inclusive do you dream of visiting? 

How much do you have to spend? Is even going to any kind of all inclusive a possibility?

What kinds of restaurants do you like eating at? What kinds of hotels do you enjoy staying in when visiting anywhere else?

See, so many questions we might ask you but there's a reason. I CARE about where you go. I CARE if you have a good time and if your expectations are exceeding or merely met.  What I can offer you no different than you can offer yourself is your opinion when you return too. We all have a different opinion about something too.

Don't trust your vacation to your own devices and research. You may still not get the clear picture....

So what do you think classifies an all inclusive? Tell us the all inclusives you've visited and WHY or WHY YOU DID NOT have a good time? It's all relevant and all important.