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Travel Not so all-inclusive: Here’s how to decide when resort upcharges make sense

20:36  11 july  2021
20:36  11 july  2021 Source:   thepointsguy.com

TPG’s picks for where to travel right now

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Prix fixe tasting room dining concepts helmed (at least on paper) by Michelin-starred chefs. Access to private pools and beach areas, designated restaurants and 24/7 lounges stocked with food and beverages. Upcharges for premium spirits and wines. Seems like the term “all-inclusive” doesn’t really mean the same thing these days.

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Before you even get to the add-ons, there are already a dizzying array of room categories to choose from at many all-inclusive resorts, from a double-double garden-view to a sprawling oceanfront swim-up suite. Some are now offering in-room and on-property perks available only to guests who book a designated concierge-level or VIP room.

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Guests staying in one of the Concierge Collection suites (prices not yet available) at the upcoming O2 Beach Club & Spa on Barbados’ south coast come with niceties like in-room check-in, a concierge phone, bottle of Champagne, $125 spa credit per adult, golf, one 45-minute lesson in a topic like cooking or steel pan drumming, and unlimited access to sister property Sea Breeze Beach House.

For those not looking to shell out for these luxury options, guests often have the option to purchase add-ons or upcharges to their all-inclusive experience. Here are some areas in which you may encounter options for higher-end experiences, and for which type of traveler they make sense.

Upgraded resort access

Guests at the Level at Mélia Braco Village in Jamaica (pricing at $648/night in November for an oceanfront room) can head to a private lounge for express check-in and check-out, which also houses a restaurant, top-shelf drinks, all-day snacks, and internet; perks extend to private beaches, pools, bars and restaurants, reserved sunbeds, and room luxuries like a pillow menu, minibar and premium bath amenities. The Exclusive Collection space at Club Med Cancun (pricing at $554/night in October for an Exclusive Collection Space Deluxe Room — Garden View) and Club Med Punta Cana offers dedicated pools and poolside bars, luxury cabanas, room and concierge service.

Best Hyatt hotels for suite redemptions

  Best Hyatt hotels for suite redemptions I wanted to make this a great post on Hyatt suite upgrades. Whether it’s booking a suite with points, using a suite upgrade award on a paid stay, or using a suite upgrade award on a points stay, this post will help you find the best Hyatt suite redemptions. I decided to make a chart […]I decided to make a chart of all the Hyatt hotels with the suites you get with upgrades and their estimated value (except Hyatt Place and Hyatt House and ineligible hotels for suite upgrades). If you’ve got a couple of the best Chase credit cards, all of these options are extremely easy to achieve, as many of them earn Hyatt points, directly or indirectly.

Best for: Those who crave more personalized attention or aren’t fans of crowds when swimming, eating or relaxing.

Related: Open for business: What to know about getting to Jamaica on points this summer

Reservable cabanas or pool/beach beds

At some all-inclusive resorts, a too-high guest-to-lounge chair ratio means that couples or families wanting to snag seats need to take a pre-breakfast trek to the pool or beach well before breakfast and set out towels, then endure side-eye from chair-less guests hours later when they finally return to use them. A cabana or pool or beach bed provides your personal spot in the sun (or shade) and other amenities like cold towels, misters, a television, fans, and chair-side food and beverage service; since it’s usually reserved for the entire day, you and your brood can come and go as you please.

Royalton CHIC Suites Cancun ups the ante with Level 18, Cancun’s only rooftop cabana lounge, where you can book an elegant cabana at the rooftop pool eighteen stories above the city’s famed Strip, or reserve a cabana or Bali bed downstairs at the main pool (rooms start at $393/night based on double occupancy; rooftop cabana packages start at $150, while those on the main level start at $99). Each of the partially-sharded, luxe poolside cabanas at Royalton Blue Waters in Jamaica actually comes with its own plunge pool (rooms start at $350/night for double occupancy; cabana rentals are $200/day.)

Save points by booking all-inclusive resorts through your credit card portal

  Save points by booking all-inclusive resorts through your credit card portal Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. Here at TPG, we’re all about maximizing your rewards, which is why we do everything from providing monthly points valuations to writing guides showing you how to stretch your points. We often suggest using transferable points to get outsized value on your redemptions, but sometimes …Here at TPG, we’re all about maximizing your rewards, which is why we do everything from providing monthly points valuations to writing guides showing you how to stretch your points. We often suggest using transferable points to get outsized value on your redemptions, but sometimes that doesn’t make sense.

Best for: Those who don’t like to play the lounge chair game or want a guaranteed respite from the sun.


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High-end restaurants

Depending on the size of an all-inclusive resort, there can be anywhere from a handful to a few dozen dining options, from breakfast buffets and beach shacks to Japanese steakhouses and concepts reflective of regional or local cuisine. There may also be one or several restaurants not included in the base price. Generally, ones that showcase elevated gastronomy or multi-course menus or are affiliated with renowned chefs.

Among the 12 restaurants at Hotel Xcaret Mexico in the Riviera Maya are two that require an upcharge: Há, a tasting menu experience created by Michelin-starred chef Carlos Gaytán paired with Mexican wines, and an over-the-top Sunday brunch at Xpiral with a raw bar, sushi bar, authentic Mexican street food and craft cocktails (rooms start at $630/night based on double occupancy; dinner and wine pairings at Há is $150/person, exclusive of gratuity). Lumière, the French fine-dining restaurant at the duo of adults-only Le Blanc Spa Resorts in Los Cabos and Cancun, offers a 13-course dinner with 22 dishes, each paired with organic and biodynamic French wines (rooms starting at $742 and $746 per night for two adults, respectively; dinner is $150/person). The multi-course wine pairing dinner at Bogie & Bacall’s is included for guests staying at Bungalows Key Largo four nights or longer but incurs a surcharge for shorter sojourns (bungalows start at $1,189/night based on double-occupancy; dinner at Bogie & Bacall’s for guests staying less than four nights costs $300, inclusive of house wine).

TPG’s guide to the best all-inclusive points resorts

  TPG’s guide to the best all-inclusive points resorts All-inclusive resorts make vacationing easy. You book your lodging, show up and practically everything is included. You can have as much or as little food and drink as your heart desires — without signing the check at every meal. For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter. In …You book your lodging, show up and practically everything is included. You can have as much or as little food and drink as your heart desires — without signing the check at every meal.

Best for: Epicureans who believe a truly memorable meal is an integral part of any vacation.

Related: 13 mistakes to avoid at all-inclusive resorts

Top-shelf Beverages

Wine, beer, and spirits flow freely at all-inclusives: in the lobby, at the restaurants, by (or even in) the pool. But if you have a penchant for a particular brand of rum to float in your Pina Colada, or would rather sip Champagne or Bordeaux instead of Prosecco or the house wine, it might cost you; when requesting a certain drink, it’s best to ask.

Oenophiles will feel at home upgrading from a regular room to a Butler Suite at Sonesta Ocean Point Resort in St Maarten because it comes with an in-room wine fridge stocked with up to five of their favorites from a curated list before they arrive, set at three perfect temperatures (Butler Suites start at $509/night). However, there are resorts that pride themselves on including premium beverage offerings to all guests, like Dreams Curaçao Resort, Spa & Casino, whose promise of “Unlimited-Luxury” includes top-shelf options (rooms start at $153/night/person, inclusive of top-shelf beverages).

Best for: Anyone loyal to specific distilleries, wineries or breweries who wants something above and beyond mainstream drink options.

Related: How to Pack for an All-Inclusive Resort Vacation

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Above & beyond experiences

Guest experience coordinators often plan free daily activities at resorts from AM beach yoga to kids’ crafts to water Zumba, and oceanfront properties often come with the disclaimer about use of “non-motorized water sports” like kayaks and SUPs available free of charge. At the other extreme are over-the-top activities that most decidedly incur an extra fee.

Angama Mara, an all-inclusive luxury safari lodge in Kenya (and its newly-opened exclusive-use sister property Angama Safari Camp) offers an hour-long sunrise hot air balloon experience over the Maasai Mara that ends with a Champagne breakfast in the middle of nowhere (rooms at Angama Mara start at $1250/person/night; hot air balloon ride starts at $470/person). Emerald Maldives Resort & Spa is considered a deluxe-all inclusive with included activities like two guided snorkeling tours and one boat excursion per week; guests can choose to add-on experiences like a one-hour cooking class and wine tasting (villas start at $700/night; cooking class and wine tasting starts at $100/person, romantic dinner or picnic on the sandbank starts at $400/couple, private movie on the beach starts at $250). Private island resort Petit St. Vincent is home to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Dive Center; beginners can take intro SCUBA courses, while certified covers can embark on one or two tank expeditions or advance their training with night diving and nitrox (one-bedroom villas start at $1350/night, based on double occupancy; SCUBA excursions start at $105 for a one-tank dive). The Gourmet Cenote experience at Grand Velas Riviera Maya includes a three-course lunch and ancestral drink tasting 60 feet underground in a cenote (rooms start at $633/person/night; Gourmet Cenote experience cost $8,000 for up to 8 people.)

The zero-cost vacation: How to use points to book all-inclusive resorts

  The zero-cost vacation: How to use points to book all-inclusive resorts All-inclusive resorts are a great, cost-effective vacation option for families and groups of friends. As the name implies, the rate includes your room and your meals, drinks and activities, allowing for a truly worry-free vacation. Booking these stays with points is especially attractive because it means that your “free” vacation can actually be free. In …While the major hotel programs historically haven’t offered many all-inclusive properties, that’s changed in recent years. In particular, chains like Marriott, Choice and Hyatt have been making moves to add more all-inclusives to their portfolios.

Best for: Travelers who have their hearts set on an experience that’s unique to the property or destination.

Related: Why all-inclusive resorts are more attractive than ever following the pandemic

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The best adults-only hotels and resorts in Europe .
With travel slowly reopening, it’s time to start thinking about your next vacation — whenever that may be. Whether you’d like to leave the kids at home, take a romantic getaway with your partner or sip cocktails beachfront with your friends, adults-only resorts are a great way to relax and rejuvenate without the squeals and …It’s important to note that all-inclusive is not simultaneous with adults-only, especially in Europe. While there are a few options on this list that offer all-inclusive options, adults-only simply means that young children aren’t allowed at the hotel or resort, whether it be a massive international brand or a small boutique spot.

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