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all-inclusive resort honeymoons… | jen mcken, photographer

By April 21, 2012 3 Comments

It’s going to be a long one…I’m sorry!!!  BUT some of my past/ future brides tell me that planning the honeymoon was just as stressful as planning the wedding!  You want to make sure you pick the perfect place, but it’s sight unsceen and you don’t know what to ask, what to bring, what would make your life/planning just a LEEEETLE bit easier.

All inclusive resorts tend to be popular among newly weds due to their relaxed atmosphere, beach, sun, unlimited mixed drinks and it can be romantic!!  Right before I left to go on vacation with my family, I had several of my brides email me to ask advice on booking their honeymoon at an all inclusive resort. If you’ve ever stayed at one of these “all inclusive” resorts, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about but for those of you who’ve never booked a vacation like that, it can be a little daunting and you’ll have NO IDEA what to look out for so that you can get the most out of your stay. Greg and I have stayed in a bunch of different ones throughout Mexico, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (which isn’t an all inclusive but can fall into a lot of similarities). This blog is to help those of you who may be trying to book a honeymoon, a babymoon or just a get away. Because I like to babble, I know I may be leaving out a few things and if there’s anything you’d like to add, feel free to leave a little note in the comment section below.

This post isn’t going to tell you WHERE to stay, but rather some tips to keep in mind when you’re choosing the perfect resort for YOU…and a few other random tips I’ve learned along the way! Here are a few things I’ve noted during out trip to Punta Cana, that I thought would be great for those of you who may be traveling to a resort soon-particularly all you honeymooners. In complete and utter randomness (remember, it’s how my brain works)! LOL

All Images shot with my Iphone….I’ll upload my “fancy camera” pictures later in the week! 🙂

*How to figure out what it’s going to cost. If you’re trying to plan TOO far in advance, keep in mind that airfare rates sometimes are not available until about 300 days prior. If you are planning ahead more than  11months, you can still find resort rates, but not rates with air. If you want a ballpark rate, just put in dates within 11 months. Then you’ll have, at least, an estimate of the air cost.

*Timeshares. When getting off of the plane, don’t fall victim to the time share scams. They will try to rush you over to a desk by making it appear that you MUST go there to fill out paperwork or they act like it’s something you are SUPPOSED to do when you get off the plane……beware. Unless you want to give up an afternoon or even a whole day, don’t get suckered into the time shares. I’m hip to their game now and it doesn’t phase me, but if you’ve ever been suckered into doing a time share, you can thank me later!

*For the love of god, find out how many rooms are in your resort. I’ll tell you why. We arrived at our beautiful resort during this past vacation and found that the resort had actually stacked their resorts one behind the other. SO what that meant was there was no “short walk” to the beach. You had to trolley through 4 other resorts to get to the water. THEN when we finally made it to the beach, people were elbow to elbow, chairs pulled right up to the water and there was literally no open sand for Mallory to play. I’m not exaggerating. We decided at that moment-we were switching resorts. We had been terribly mislead. I later found out that the resort had a total of 3,000 rooms which meant that at any given time the resort was holding 6,000-10,000 people all fighting for their little spot on the designated area they had on the beach-not cool. So we switched the very next day to a resort that had only 800 rooms with the same size beach……this mean LOTS of sand, no elbow to elbow- which meant more private space and it felt more like a vacation. So trust me….ask how many rooms are available on the resort….we learned that the hard way!

*Speaking of water…..also ask how many pools are available for the resort. Sometimes it can suck trying to find chairs if there is only one pool…..a resort that has several is often less crowded unless you end up in the kitty pool area….

*Which brings me to my next point. Is it a family friendly resort? I don’t know about you but if I was on my honeymoon, the last thing I’d want is to hear little Sally and Johnny fighting over their pool toys. If you want a romantic get away, maybe choose a resort that’s not so “family friendly”.

*How many restaurant reservations can you make. Typically (and I say typically) per one week stay (with a minimum of a 4 night stay) you are allowed to make 2 restaurant reservations per room. Sometimes when upgrading your room, they will give you more….but finding out could mean less buffet and more sit down romantic dinners. Also, if you booked a honeymoon deal, you often get dinner on the beach…..how romantic. Just as a side note, it’s best to make your reservations the day you arrive…..they tend to get booked up very quickly.

*Men…bring long pants. I know you’re thinking…long pants? It’s the beach! Well, almost all of the restaurants will require you to wear long pants to dinner. Ladies there’s really not a huge dress code other than no swimsuits, but wearing a nice dress is encouraged. But for the men….no long pants can mean no service!

*This will probably NOT be an issue for you if you are going on your honeymoon–but check ahead of time to see if internet is included or is available AT ALL. Like I said, if you are on your honeymoon, this may not be an issue, but for me being self employed it’s very important that I have access to internet at least once a day or once every other day. Some resorts will inclue the internet into your fee, some will have you pay an additional fee and some just don’t have it available at all.  Luckily, we were able to find mifi available for $40 for up to 7 days. We could take it will us to the beach or use it in our room. We were told that there were only 15 mifi’s available on the whole resort…..the others were for in-room only. We got lucky I guess.

*Upgrading. So you’ve booked your package and maybe you didn’t get all the bells and whistles when you booked because it was a great deal THEN you get to the resort and they present you an awesome offer to upgrade your room-you may be skeptical….I know I was the first time BUT sometimes it can be WAY worth it considering all the perks. For example, this past vacation, for $300 extra we upgraded to what they called your “platinum membership”. For us, this included a room suite closer to the beach, free HUGE bottles of alcohol in the room daily (everyone else had to get it at the bar), a special platinum center where we could go for drinks/snacks/concierge services/internet center/etc., a special spot on the beach designated with soft beds, special seating in all of the restaurants, unlimited dinner reservations (most others only got 2 reservations), 2 free 30 minute massages, a special pool for platinum members only….so as you can see-$300 was well worth it. So consider what you will be getting if you upgrade. Ask to see a room before committing….but it can give you VIP access to the resort!

*Let an expert help you! We always book through a travel agency when going on an all-inclusive resort. It costs nothing extra and we have the comfort of knowing we have sometime to check in with. The internet has made finding and booking that luxury honeymoon  easier and you might want to do it all yourself. But it’s always worth remembering that there are experts out there who can help. It’s a once in a lifetime holiday you’re planning, so using a travel agent or a consultant from a luxury resort might be worthwhile. AND, if you’re struggling with co-ordinating flight and hotel bookings with excursions and honeymoon activities, get professional advice to take some of the pressure off.

*Learn some basic Spanish..or in my case “Spanglish”. Our country is always griping about people not learning the English language, so let’s give other countries the same respect. Although some members of the staff are bi-lingual, some of them speak no English at all. Knowing simple words can get you what you want faster.

*Don’t forget EXTRA sunscreen. If you think you have packed enough sun screen….pack one more bottle. We thought we packed enough for the entire week for all three of us…..but we were wrong and had to purchase some at the resort. We paid a whooping $44. No, I’m not kidding! All extra toiletries are VERY expensive. A travel size bottle of shaving cream was $15…luckily Greg packed enough of that!

*Beware of the men/women selling items on the beach. They will often walk up and down the beach with their merchandise for you to buy-and they can make really awesome souvenirs…..but a few things to keep in mind. The wooden carvings they are selling are sometimes rubbed in gasoline (or a chemical similar) to help shine them up and the US customs will not let you bring them back. The same holds true with the woven hats made from palm leaves. US customs will not take the chance that you are bringing back tropical bugs. Also the silver is not silver and do not pay cash for excursions from the folks at the beach. One of the men staying at our resort, paid $900 plus for a charter boat to take him and his family out deep sea fishing. No one ever showed up at the resort the next day to take him…he was scammed! So just beware what you buy…….and don’t forget to barter. One of our travel representatives once told me, whatever the price is……you can buy it for at least 1/3 of the price if you barter. It worked like a charm when we paid $9 for a $45 necklace! 🙂

*Is the safe included with the room. I know this sounds silly, but the first resort we stayed at (before we switched) wanted to charge us an additional $8.00 per day to have access to the safe in our room. At the second resort during our last day…it was free and included with the room. They wanted to charge an additional fee but had signs up everywhere that said they weren’t responsible for lost or stolen merchandise……how clever!

*This is almost a given at all of the resorts now…but make sure they have some sort of transportation (trolley, golf carts, etc.) that will take you from one end of the resort to the other. The resorts can be VERY large and if you have to walk from one end to the other 3 times a day in order to eat, you’ll appreciate having some form of transportation. They often run every 3 minutes and will have a specific route. Find out what the route is when you first get there…it will save you a lot of time aimlessly walking around! haa!

*Take an insulated cup. All of the mixed drinks and alcohol are typically included during your stay. But they will give them to you in a regular cup so if you are wanting to just float in the pool or take it to the beach it will get warm fast. One thing we have learned is to take an insulated cup with you and it will stay cold for much longer! 🙂

*CASH. Make sure you have enough cash for your stay…..and lots of $1 bills. Although your tipping is generally included in with your package, things like the bell boys, maid services or the waiters/waitresses at the “fancy” restaurants, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you want to tip but don’t have $1 bills. Bring them with you because it’s hard to get them when you get there. The ATM machines will dispense pesos’s only. Most of the foreign countries don’t have American Banks within their countries, so the only money they have coming in is the money WE bring-so it’s difficult to get change for a 10 at the drop of a dime. With that said, sometimes the bell boys around mid afternoon will be able to make change for you…….sometimes!

* Also know your exchange rate when traveling. When you use your credit card, they will most likely charge you in foreign currency. Make sure the exchange is correct before you sign. Some of the small businesses-particularly, the ones selling souvenirs are known to charge you more for your purchase. You don’t realize it until you get home and figure out the conversion……The resort does not own the (in most cases) the little stores that are set up within….so just be smart and know the exchange rate before going.

*Make sure your credit card is actually accepted in the country you are traveling to! With that said, make sure that you let your credit card and your bank know that you will be going out of the country. Nothing sucks more when the fraud department shuts off your card because of suspicious activity from out of the country when you really NEED it. I speak from experience!

*If you’ve had your passport for some time, make sure your passport will not expire within 6 months of your travel date. Your passport will not be valid if it will expire in 6 months….so plan accordingly if you need to get a passport renewal. Mine is up for renewal so I had to beware of this myself!

*Give yourself at LEAST a day or two when you return to unwind before going back to work. Going back to work the day after you return sucks……..ask Greg, he’ll tell you!!

*The MOST IMPORTANT……TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES!!! You’ve paid a fortune for a honeymoon of a lifetime – don’t forget to document it..even if it is just with your iphone! Take lots and lots of photographs. Don’t be afraid to ask other people to take photographs of you together (or hire me to follow you around –i keed i keed-kinda!) – you’ll cherish these when you look back on your honeymoon together. Gal’s don’t be like me and not have a lot of images of yourself because you’re always BEHIND the camera!

*Ohhh and I forgot to mention, wake up early enough to see the sunrise! It’s soooo worth it!!!

 

Have a great time……bow chica wow wow!!!!! 🙂

 

 

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3 Comments

  • Kristin says:

    Jen, I totally agree with everything except the passport thing. I know for a fact bc we just went to Punta Cana this summer. My husband, one year old daughter and I had one room and my parents were staying in another. Two weeks before we were to leave, my husband’s grandparents wanted to join us…..but their passports expired 2 days after we would return (we left 8/6, returned 8/13 and their passports expired 8/15). Keep in mind these are 80 year old +++ adults. Our travel agent did not want to book them because of this reason. I called the United States immigration AND passport offices to ask if any such requirements from the US side existed and even after telling them the conversation would be recorded (in case We had any problems later) and they said NO such requirement existed, nor could I find any requirement on any of the passport requirement sites.

    Likewise, I made the same calls to the Dominican Republic embassy and they said the same thing….there is no such requirement for the Dominican Republic.

    As long as your passport is still valid the day you return to the country, by the official rules/regulations of both countries, it doesn’t matter the expiration date.

    However, my husband’s grandparents were aware of the risk/logistical nightmare if a hurricane delayed return, they had a heart attack/injury/etc that delayed their return, etc but that was a risk they were willing to take.

    I have personal experience in Europe that I know you don’t need extra time before expiration as my passport expired 29 days after I returned from Italy and I called US Passport and Italian embassy to verify no such requirements existed. They suggest having 3-6 months left but do not have requirements.

    You just have to check with the country you are traveling to as there are some that want you to have extra time from your return to passport expiration.

  • jen mcken says:

    Thanks so much Kristin! I could possibly be completely wrong (it happens often) but I could swear that when we applied for Mallory’s passport 3 weeks ago the guy told us that it was “a new” requirement that was recently passed. It stuck out to me because mine expires in one year…so he told me to get it renewed at least 6 months prior or they will not allow me into our out of the country. Either way…I think it would be good to all the officials prior to traveling…..just to be safe! Being stuck in a foreign country could suck…or worse yet…NOT being able to leave on your expensive vacation would suck! haha!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi Jen,
    We took a trip to Jamaica last year… before we left, we realized that the resort we had originally booked was similar in nature, long ways from the beach. We booked another resort and it was cheaper and we saved more. One of the nice perks of saving some money, though, was that it allowed us to get private transportation from the airport to the resort…So no shuttles for us! We were greeted by our personal driver in a nice town car. He drove us straight to the resort and then picked us up for our return. This being our first trip, I didn’t realize that the airport shuttles stop along the way at each resort to drop off guests. We learned this from other guests later on. This would have taken us longer to arrive to our destination, which was about 1 hour away.

    We booked through an online service and had an representative from that company each at the airport and at the resort. Great service and someone who helped us book and plan our excursions!! I’ll be happy to share the name of the company if you’d like.

    Overall, great post!! You mentioned some things that I hadn’t thought about doing before and I can remember for our anniversary trip next year.

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