The Best All-Inclusive Resort Hacks To Get The Absolute Most Out Of Your Trip

The best all-inclusive resorts offer guests a stress-free vacation filled with delicious food, plentiful activities, and relaxing amenities. Did someone say complimentary swim-up bar? Where do we sign? Whether you're hoping to bury your toes in the soft white sand of a Dominican Republic beach or ride horses at a Colorado dude ranch, the best all-inclusive resorts are dotted across the globe and offer plenty of fun things to do. We want to help you enjoy them to the fullest with the best all-inclusive resort hacks to get the most out of your trip. 


From packing cost-saving items like sunscreen to joining loyalty programs for extra perks and skipping long lines by choosing mealtimes wisely, this guide will help you become an all-inclusive pro. We drew upon our extensive experiences at all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and researched advice given by travel experts across the globe to determine the most important hacks to include on this list. 

Explore your options

With so many all-inclusive resorts on offer, choosing the best one for your vacation needs can be challenging. Do your research before booking accommodation to ensure the resort aligns with your dreams of an ideal holiday. Firstly, "make sure [the resort] offers the right environment for you to have the vacation experience you want," Dionne Evans told The American Society of Travel Advisors. Are you searching for an adults-only resort overflowing with romance? How about a kid-friendly hotel with a fab kids' club and endless activities? Scour online reviews and hotel websites to ensure you pick the perfect place for your vacation. 


Next, look closely at the resort's inclusions, and don't assume that everything is included at an all-inclusive resort. Does the package you're looking for cover all meals and activities? Inclusions vary by location, and some resorts sneak in hidden fees for things like premium liquor, certain restaurants, and activities that could come as a shock when the final bill arrives. If you're hoping to get more bang for your proverbial buck, choose a destination that includes excursions and tours. 

Book early and choose the off-season

The sooner you secure your all-inclusive resort, the better, say travel experts at Living With The Magic Vacations. "Booking as early as possible secures the best prices"  and "also ensures a wide range of resort options and room types," they mention on their blog. Some resorts offer money-saving packages and other perks to those who book their trips in advance. Rose Beaulieu, a consultant with TierOne Travel, recommends booking nine to 10 months in advance to ensure you "save time, money, and stress by getting exactly what you want." 


Another cost-saving tip is to choose the best time to book your stay at an all-inclusive resort. Depending on where you're headed, the most budget-friendly time to stay is usually during the fall. Palm Beach Travel president Annie Davis told USA Today that tourists "can see rates as low as 35% off" during September and early October. She also mentioned the possibility of receiving a fourth night free for those who stay three nights at one resort. 

Join the resort's loyalty program

There's no downside to joining a resort's complimentary loyalty program, and the benefits can be fruitful. From discounted room rates to upgraded accommodations to free spa treatments, the perks of being a resort member are worthwhile. Joining an incentive program means "that you can get items at no charge [and] you can reduce planned costs for your next vacation," say experts at The Excellence Collection. Generally, the more often you stay, the less you'll pay. And evoking your membership rights will help you get extra perks when you check into your hotel.


The pros at NerdWallet recommend researching loyalty plans before booking your stay, as not all incentive programs are alike. It's easier to earn points at some hotels than at others, for instance, and the ability to use your points for things like room upgrades or free nights varies by brand. Resort fees are another thing to consider. These extra charges are included for Hilton and Hyatt members, while Mariott Bonvoy subscribers will have to pay the fee despite having used points for their stay. 

Check the weather

Few things can ruin a vacation faster than bad weather. While many topical locales will experience quick, daily showers, traveling during a severe storm can upend your best-laid plans. That's why it's best to familiarize yourself with the area's weather before booking a holiday.  While there's no guarantee you'll have sunny skies and calm seas during your trip, you can easily reduce the risk of a major storm by traveling during a safer time of year. 


The Caribbean is packed with all-inclusive resorts varying in size and cost, making this a fabulous option for people hoping to vacation near the shores of a soft, sandy beach. This area is also at risk of being hit by hurricanes between June 1 and November 30. While it's safest to avoid traveling to these islands during this time, you'll find fewer crowds and better deals on everything from airfare to resorts. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao are three of the safest Caribbean islands for a stress-free vacation. They also sit outside the hurricane belt, so you'll be at lower risk of experiencing gale-force winds during a fall stay.  

Pack a swimsuit in your carry-on

Does your flight arrive in the morning? The chance of settling into your room on arrival is slim, especially during high season. While check-in time varies by resort, it's usually around 3 p.m., so you may have to occupy yourself until then. Luckily, most all-inclusive resorts have no problem storing your luggage, and staff will give you a wristband or other identifier so you can start enjoying the food, beverages, and amenities on offer. The concierge may even grant you access to facilities like a shower in the on-site spa while you wait.


If traveling from a cold climate to a warm one, you'll want to ditch the heavy layers and wriggle into something more comfortable. Packing your swimsuit, a warm-weather outfit (including extra undies), and sunscreen in a carry-on makes it easy to grab what you need quickly and change in the resort's bathroom. This way, you can take a dip as soon as you've ditched your bags with the bellhop. Plus, if you were unlucky enough to lose your checked bag, you've got at least one outfit and a swimsuit that fits. We also suggest packing a small, reusable tote bag to carry your passport and other valuables until you can access the room. 

Bring an insulated water bottle and sunscreen

Many all-inclusive resorts are set in warm climates, so it won't take long for your complimentary drinks to lose their chill. There's one household staple you should pack to avoid this hassle — an insulated water bottle. Bringing your favorite reusable tumbler makes it easy to stay refreshed and hydrated on even the hottest day. Since all-inclusive resorts often offer small, polystyrene cups to hold their drinks, having a tumbler can reduce your environmental impact and give you larger servings so you won't have to line up at the bar as often. You'll also be less likely to spill and better able to tell which drink is yours if it's in an identifiable container.


Sunscreen is another must-pack item for an enjoyable all-inclusive vacation. Resorts charge exorbitant fees for essentials like bug repellent and sunscreen, say experts at KP Travel Group. "Sunscreen will usually run you about $40/bottle if you have to buy it there," they explain. Talk about a rip-off! Save your hard-earned cash by packing sunblock. Also, make sure it's a reef-safe brand. Many tropical locales are banning ingredients like oxybenzone to protect marine life.

Check the resort's dress code

Before packing for your trip, check your resort's dress code. All-inclusive resorts boast multiple restaurants, and many have strict clothing policies, especially at dinnertime. While the term "resort casual" means more laid-back clothes like shorts, T-shirts, sarongs, and swimsuit coverups are generally accepted for breakfast and lunch, you'll have to step things up a notch when it comes time for dinner. 


Most often, guests are asked to dress in "resort evening wear," the Hyatt Vacation Club reports. This means men should wear long pants or dressy shorts and a collared shirt to dinner, while women are expected to wear a dress, pants, or a skirt with a nice top. Flip-flops aren't acceptable for anyone, so pack dress sandals or close-toed shoes that aren't sneakers. "Formal resort attire" is even more elegant and could include a suit jacket for men and long gowns for women, so check with the resort before you arrive to ensure you've packed the right clothes.

Ask for an upgrade

There's no downside to asking for an upgrade upon arrival at the resort. In the best-case scenario, you could score a beautiful, quiet, ocean-front room. The worst thing that could happen is you'll be directed to your originally booked room. Tourists are more likely to receive a complimentary upgrade if they're repeat customers, and those who have established a strong relationship with hotel staff are even likelier to be upgraded to a better room. "You'll have a much better chance of securing [an upgrade] (without any additional charges or fees) because of the relationship you've established with the on-site team,"  Guest Services Director of Illinois' Deer Path Inn, George Cook, told Fodor's.


Remember the loyalty programs we mentioned earlier? These can come in super handy when attempting to redeem an upgrade. Travelers with elite status have a higher chance of being boosted, especially if they have upgrade certificates from a chain like Hyatt or Marriott, say travel aficionados at The Points Guy. These experts also mention that nabbing an upgrade is easier during slower, off-season travel times. Another of their helpful tips is booking directly with the hotel, which gives you a chance to ask about perks like better rooms. 

Keep your eating and drinking in check

Gluttony is never sexy, especially when you're on vacation. While it's easy to say "yes" to pretty much everything when you aren't being charged extra at an all-inclusive resort, there's a lot to be said for practicing self-restraint on holiday. Nursing a hangover in tropical temperatures is less than ideal, no matter how good those piña coladas taste, and so too is suffering indigestion from overeating everything from sushi to steak. We have first-hand experience with these things, so trust us when we warn you not to ruin a fabulous vacation by making yourself sick. 


Instead, practice portion control. Vacation specialists at Sherman's Travel suggest sticking to one plate. Combine salad, an entrée, and anything else that tempts your appetite on this singular vessel. While it might feel difficult, resist the pull of the all-you-can-eat buffet by limiting yourself to one visit per meal. Yes, dining at an all-inclusive resort is an excellent opportunity to try new foods, but there's no need to go whole hog with the amount. Don't blow your health goals by overindulging on a trip. We want to return home from a vacation feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, not bloated and uncomfortable.

Tip well

Most all-inclusive resorts factor gratuity into the final rate. Despite this, we recommend tipping if the resort allows its staff to accept your kind gesture (some don't permit their workers to take a tip). Carry a few bills to the pool, restaurant, and bar to tip the friendly staff members who serve you. Paying a bit at the beginning of the day will do wonders to the level of service you receive, say travel experts (via Southern Living). Another helpful hack includes leaving a note by your mini fridge asking staff to replace the soda with beer (or another drink) along with a $2 to $5 tip, according to the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association)'s AMA Travel.


An Explore article about why and how you should tip at all-inclusive resorts suggests keeping $20 in singles accessible to thank those who go above and beyond to make your stay enjoyable. For a week-long stay, the CAA recommends spreading out $150 in tips throughout your holiday. They'll be greatly appreciated and improve your experience. However, be wary of overly friendly staff at all-inclusive resorts. They could be hunting for more tips or trying to upsell you on services (like spa treatments or excursions) that aren't part of your rate.

Make a dinner reservation

One of the most enduring reasons to stay at an all-inclusive resort is for its vast array of restaurants and variety of cuisines. From Asian fusion to French and Caribbean to Mexican, plenty of foods will tempt a tourist's palate no matter where they stay. While we know the importance of tempering our cravings, that doesn't mean we should miss out on the myriad fine dining on offer. The trouble is that many of the à la carte restaurants require advanced booking, so you'll need to plan ahead to ensure a spot. 


Depending on the resort, dining reservations can be organized online, over the phone, or directly with the concierge. However, despite having a reservation, lines can be long at prime times. At the Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana, we made online reservations one and two days in advance but still had to line up for 45 minutes for our 7:30 p.m. slot. When booking a table for the next two nights at 5:30 p.m., we waltzed into the popular restaurants and were seated immediately. We suggest organizing your meals as soon as you arrive and booking a restaurant for each night of your stay. That way, you'll enjoy a stress-free day knowing dinner is organized.

Leave the resort

There's much to be said about lounging by the pool at an all-inclusive resort. The free-flowing drinks, sun-drenched lounge chairs, and silky soft sand are natural stress relievers, and we're guessing you booked this type of vacation to relax. While we can get behind a day (or three) spent chillaxing, there's a whole world of fun and adventure awaiting visitors outside the grounds of their all-inclusive resorts. We're not saying you should spend every day of your holiday traipsing through jungles or riding ATVs through fields, but if you hope to make memories, off-site excursions are the way to go. 


The best way to get an authentic feel for a destination is through exploring its diverse locations, eating delicious meals, and meeting locals. Whether you hope to explore a beach on the other side of the island, tour historic ruins, or grab a bite in a local restaurant, take time to tour regions outside the resort's grounds. While excursions will likely incur an additional charge, spending time off property is worth the extra spend. Other ways to adventure outside the gates include renting a car, taking a taxi, or booking a guided tour online. 

Try everything

All-inclusive resorts boast a vast array of fun things to do, like paddleboarding, yoga, and beach volleyball. Many of these activities, and often any non-motorized water sports (such as kayaking and canoeing), are included in your rate, so make the most of them by hitting the waves, catching an evening show, or engaging in Pilates on the beach. You are paying for these privileges, after all. Be sure to check the activity schedule each day so you don't miss out on anything that sounds interesting. 


Cooking classes, dance lessons, and sunset sip and paint sessions are worthy ways to spend an hour or two away from the pool. Vacation is a brilliant opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and try something you haven't before. Beaches resorts are known for their complimentary scuba diving programs, while Club Med properties across the globe host flying trapeze sessions that will have you soaring high. 

Skip the timeshare presentation

It's easy to get sucked into a time-wasting timeshare presentation during your all-inclusive vacation, especially if you're visiting Mexico or the Caribbean. A friendly staff member will likely greet you upon arrival, smiling wide as they tempt you with offers of free excursions, a complimentary spa service, or cold hard cash. These temptations often won't include the words "timeshare" or "vacation club." Instead, the sales staff will use terms like "complimentary tour" or "free gift" to fool you into accepting. Then, the one-hour breakfast presentation they promised somehow turns into three hours of aggressive back and forth. While you stare dreamily at the bright sun shining through the windows, lyrics from "Hotel California" begin to feel real –  "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Do not fall for their ploys!


Many all-inclusive properties offer vacation clubs that members can join for a fee, which is often exorbitant, and the contracts are hard to cancel. Sales associates try hard to convince tourists to join and won't easily take your polite "no" for an answer. In our experience, the more you say "no," the longer you'll be stuck in their venue, waiting to claim your "reward." The sales reps will push, prod, and guilt you into joining the program, and they won't be nice about it. Don't be afraid to be strong and forceful when you decline. You can leave at any point, but you may have to abandon the freebie.