Friday, April 6, 2018

All-Inclusive Resort Booking Tips

"There are no beds for the kids," announces my client, calling my cell phone late Sunday.
"What do you mean, there are no beds for the kids? I booked you into a room with bedding for 4."
"Well, we upgraded our room upon arrival to the Club class to get the better view, and it just has a king bed."
"Did the room you gave up have 2 double beds?"
"Yes, but we can't sleep in a double bed."

Oh, it would have been good to know that. She says she told me last time I booked her at a resort, but despite several cruise bookings, it's her first resort booking with me. So, there they are, a young couple at a higher end resort in Cancun (thanks to a friend planning her wedding there), with just a king bed to share with their young children (3 and 5), having given up their double double room. In the end, the resort went above and beyond, hauling sofa beds into the king room, and all is well. But it could have turned out differently.

This recent scenario brings me to mind a few things I have learned about booking clients into all-inclusive resorts, so thought I would take a few minutes to share a few:

The price went up - yes, the quote I gave you yesterday was based on the rates at the moment I quoted you. Tomorrow, it could be more, it could be less, or it could be gone. I don't know. But if I do tell you it's selling fast and there are only a few rooms left at a rate, it's because the live inventory tells me that. I want you to be happy. I don't want you to be unhappy tomorrow when it's more. If you find the property you like, at a price that fits your budget, book it. And stop looking (there's no sense depressing or second guessing yourself).

I saw it less online - of course you did. And you probably did. I actually believe you. If you wanted the red eye flights, a 12 hour layover, a crappier room type, or a with a carrier that doesn't seat selection. Or baggage. Or transfers. Or the resort as 'room only', rather than 'all-inclusive'. The choices you make impact your experience and your price. When I work with clients, my goal is to help them find the best value for their vacation, balancing out all factors. When you have to sleep overnight in a connecting airport, or have to check-out of your room at noon for a 3:00 am departure the next morning, you might not find it was worth saving a couple hundred dollars.

I want a king bed - if the room description says "1 King Bed or 2 Double Beds", it means just that, you'll get a king bed, or 2 double beds, period. No guarantees. You can request a king, or you can request 2 doubles, but if a room type includes both possibilities, you could end up with either. If you absolutely must have a king bed, book a room type that only features a king bed. The lesson here is to be clear on what is "nice to have" and what is "must have".

I want a room away from the ice machine - yes, you can request a quiet room, spare cots for the kids, a ground floor room, rooms near each other, etc... but they are just that: requests. While these are nearly always reasonable requests, and the resort will do their best to accommodate your request, they cannot guarantee you'll get it. Nor can I. Granted, as a travel agent I may have tools that will increase your chances of getting your request, but it's still a request. You can't turn up and be mad that the resort didn't have room that was shaded by the pineapple tree. Keep your expectations low and be delighted if you get what you want.

I want to be sure they aren't renovating my resort - renovations do happen (how else do you expect that beautiful resort to have the best features and stay beautiful?), but there are things you can do to avoid them. Booking with a travel agent is probably your best bet, but you can also read the resort's website and read recent reviews. Renovations are one of the things I watch for when I help clients book a getaway (agents get warnings during the booking process), but people often miss if they are booking themselves online (this is 1 of 13 things on a recent list of things resorts won't tell you).

I have to go to Jamaica for a wedding - you may be delighted for your sister, cousin or friend to be getting married, and you may even look forward to the ceremony, but depending on your travel plans and budget, you may very well have mixed feelings when you get an invitation for the lovebirds to tie the knot on the beach. Can you book it yourself for less than the travel agent the bride is using? Perhaps. But know that booking 1 room and 2 airline seats is different than booking 12 rooms and 24 seats, the happy couple will be getting perks based on how many people book as part of their group, and if you don't book with the group, you may have to pay a fee to attend the ceremony and reception. Definitely expect this if you book at the competing resort down the road for less. It's your prerogative, of course, but be aware that sometimes it's in your best interest to just go with the flow.

Related Resources
New Club Med Openings: Sicily, the Great Wall, and More - Frommer's
All-Inclusive Vacations: The 7 Essential Questions Every Traveler Must Ask - Budget Travel
13 Things All-Inclusive Resorts Won’t Tell You (But Should) - Reader's Digest
The Hidden Fee That Could Make Your Next Vacation More Expensive - Travel + Leisure
23 Europe All-inclusive resort destinations - Price of Travel

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