With the school holidays in full swing I’m sure lots of you are jetting off to foreign climes for the annual all-inclusive chillfest. I’m jealous. Despite initially being a snob about them, I’ve done a fair few of these holidays and whilst it is a joy to go into that deep relaxation mode, there are a few tips I picked up which can make the time go much more swimmingly.
So here are my top 10 survival tips for all-inclusive breaks.
- How remote is the place you’re staying?
The hotel might look brand spanking new on the website, with perfect pool and views out to sea. That could be because it is literally in the middle of nowhere.
Seclusion isn’t a bad thing if you have a fully stocked kindle and sun lounger with your name on it, however, if you do want to experience a bit more of your surroundings, you have just booked yourself into a five star Tenko.
It only takes a few minutes to Google Map your chosen destination to see how far the nearest spot with actual people is. I’d recommend it, particularly for smaller properties. It can get claustrophobic otherwise.
- Are there other properties you can use?
Sometimes if you’re going to a far flung destination you might not feel the most comfortable going off site so it’s worthwhile checking if there are other properties you can go to. In Mexico there were three hotels all next to each other and you could move freely around. Wristbands weren’t interchangeable so if you wanted to eat and drink, you had to go back to your hotel, but it was a nice break to see different faces after a few days round the pool.
- But do go out if you feel like you can
Some hotels have great entertainment at night and if that’s your bag, fair play to you. I’m still scarred from Miss Mambo in the Dominican Republic where a poor old gent was hauled out of the audience to be given lapdances by fellow guests and we all had to cheer who was best. The kids must’ve been so proud when Mom dropped her halter neck top. I’m not even sure she won now I come to think of it.
If you can tear yourself away from that family entertainment, it is nice to see where you’ve flown all that way to visit. It’s also good to burst the bubble of eat, sleep, repeat, it makes you appreciate it on those ultra-lazy days. We had a great time exploring the Medina in Marrakesh or bathing in a waterfall in St Lucia. Sadly we had to cancel our excursions in Egypt due to suspected terrorist activity on the edge of town but let’s not go into that.
- Make meals at the restaurant rather than a bit of everything
One of the best things about all-inclusive is the fact that you can eat when and wherever you like but it can get monotonous if you don’t put a bit of thought in.
In Mexico, it was great, each night they had a different theme so the thinking was done for you. Perfect, who wants to do thinking on holiday?
My first foray into the self-service world of all-inclusive was in a small hotel in Lanzarote and the food was pretty much the same every night. I’d gone at the buffet like rationing was coming in tomorrow so my plates of a “bit (read lot) of everything” started looking very similar by day three. Nowadays I tend to make up a sensible meal each day so that you can vary it up a bit and not get bored.
- How many A La Carte restaurants are there?
Taking this food boredom theme a bit further, most all-inclusive hotels have at least one a la carte restaurant. These are great after a few days waiting in line, full of anxiety that the spring rolls are going to run out. I would recommend booking before you go and stagger them as much as you can. The thing about super resorts, in much the same way as regular holidays, it is your responsibility to keep it interesting.
- If they get up early, you get up earlier
Is it an urban myth that sun loungers are valuable commodities on holiday? No sadly it’s not. Depending on the guest: lounger ratio, be prepared to do battle with your fellow sun worshippers. What makes it worse are hotels that have barely any parasols. Then we are in Game of Thrones territory.
I’d always vowed I would never get involved in these shenanigans but after a day hugging the wall for shade like a Kafkaesque lizard, I set my alarm for 6am and slunk out, armed with two towels and a cloud of shame. My friend conveniently couldn’t share this duty as it would involve her putting her contact lenses in. Hmmmm I was set up there methinks.
I don’t blame guests for resorting to these measures, I blame the hotels. They should provide enough loungers and parasols so that this isn’t a necessity.
- Avoid the aquarobics area
Hotels see it as their duty to offer all sorts of activities to keep that variety going and kid yourself that you won’t put any weight on. Gym, tennis, horse riding, you name it and good for anyone who wants to get involved. I have my Kindle and absolutely no desire to participate. That’s why I identify where the aquarobics area is in the pool and avoid like the plague.
Once and only once we made the mistake of getting loungers right by this area of torture, I’d obviously overslept and it was slim pickings. The sun was beating down on me, my book was gripping and I was lazily contemplating if 9.30 is too early for a Mojito. Suddenly happy hardcore starts booming out of the speakers above and a gang of “entertainers” launch into a high octane conga around our beds, cajoling us to participate in this questionable activity.
A few death stares later and they wisely left us alone, but soon a posse of victims were in the pool, splashing around like Jaws himself was amongst them. I decided that the Mojito was well overdue and duly stomped to the bar.
- Avoid kids klub area as well
For the same reasons as above, avoid the kid’s pool. Yes it’s cute to see the little darlings running around the pool, having the time of their lives. By day three and copious amounts of ice cream, fizzy pop and sunshine they have turned into demons.
- An adult pool is good if you can get it
This is even better. I’m not against kids please don’t get me wrong but I am keen to avoid when I’m relaxing. Our hotel in St Lucia had a family section and an adults section. The adults section was an oasis of calm with snacks and drinks served to you on loungers which could be rotated to follow the sun. The pool had barely a ripple and the conversation was a soft lull. Heaven.
- Slides aren’t just for kids
One good thing about having a child friendly hotel though are water slides. They aren’t just for kids and don’t be too quick to dismiss how much fun it can be. For once, I was winning at being a bit chubby. All the skinny people were getting stuck halfway down whereas I went down like a bullet out of a gun.
It’s unlikely at my ripe old age that I would take a trip to a waterpark when I’m on holiday so having a quick whizz down the slide or float on the lazy river takes you back to childhood and is a great addition to a holiday.
So there you have it and before I get hounded for being mean about kids on holiday, it’s just a bit of fun….honest. If you’re heading for the free bar and loungers this summer, I hope you have a fab time. I’m resting my wristband this year for a different kind of trip but will be back in the saddle in 2019 I’m sure.
Let me know of any tips or stories from your all-inclusives, leave me a comment or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.