Q: I’m going on a holiday this fall and am planning to stay at an all-inclusive resort. I’ve never done this before—what do I need to know?
—Doreen McIsaac, Dartmouth, NS
A: Even though all-inclusive resorts are facilities where all your needs are taken care of, you need to do your research. Be sure to read travel books and brochures about your destination and the climate in different areas. Talk to people who have been to your destination, and use websites like TripAdvisor to compare accommodations. Check the travel advisories from the department of Foreign Affairs, make sure you have all recommended vaccinations, and consider taking a vaccine against traveller’s diarrhea such as Dukoral (or one of its naturopathic counterparts).
Safety is only a concern only if you leave the resort, which can be an excellent opportunity to experience local culture. You can do this either in an outing organized by the resort or on your own, but either way you need to do some research about the potential dangers. Talk to the staff at the resort, and if you take off on your own, consider hiring a local guide or driver. Kingston, Jamaica, for example, is a dangerous city to explore thanks to gang and turf wars most tourists aren’t aware of.
Most all-inclusive resorts have expansive buffets, but there are often restaurants on site as well. The restaurants usually require a reservation, but they provide you with a chance to have an à la carte meal instead of buffet items. If you know that it is safe to leave your resort you may also want to try local restaurants, but do your research and find out how clean these places are. And use good judgement when eating food from vendors on the streets or at the beach, they could be risky.
Tipping etiquette changes depending on what country you are in. Most all-inclusive resorts have a “no tipping required” policy, and when you stay at an all-inclusive resort, you are less likely to carry around cash with you. At resort bars and restaurants many people don’t tip, however you should definitely leave a tip for the hotel maids. It also is a good idea to tip your concierge to ensure that you are provided with efficient service during your stay, and make sure to tip in American dollars. Be aware, however, that there are some countries like Jamaica where staff can be fired for accepting tips or gifts from resort guests; make sure to ask the concierge about their policy.