People often ask me for the “cheapest vacation.”
My natural response is to ask “do you want the cheapest vacation or the best priced vacation?”
There is an enormous difference between the two.
The lowest price vacation can seem so tempting and I am the first person to empathize. Sometimes there is the necessity to simply escape the cold and get away to the nearest beach.
But there are many factors that can ruin a vacation, if the only deciding factor was price. If the lowest price itself was the only consideration, disappointment is almost always going to be experienced. Like all things, you get what you pay for. Your vacation may have the beach and a palm tree, but there is nothing worse than arriving to your dream getaway and wishing you were back home due to your musty room, inoperable phones, and missing towels or toiletries.
Every search for a vacation begins with taking price into account and prices can be misleading. This is because rates are often attached to star ratings and they themselves are very “by the books”. I suspect official star ratings as we know them will eventually be disregarded because social media, online reviews and resort chains focusing on specific offerings mean that star ratings no longer fit everyone in the same way. There are now enough resort options to fit each of us like a glove.
In the online search world, hundreds of options will arise and everything starts to look the same eventually. This is one of the most prominent comments I receive from travellers, that they just can’t seem to make sense of the endless options out there. Specific details like 10 dining options, 4 pools, 500 rooms, Jr. Suites with tropical vs. sea views, would, by all appearances make it seem like it’s a 5 star, but this is not always the case. A dedicated travel agent who has been to a lot of properties will be the one to speak to because they/we understand the intricacies and nuances of each resort and let you know when not all is at is seems.
For those resorts labelled a 5 Star, (but miss the mark upon arrival), I use a term called the “good on paper properties”. This is because they tick all the right boxes, but fail to deliver in the real world and day to day experience. Here is where dedicated and professional travel agents are so valuable to your spending dollars; we can decipher the noise and find exactly where the real bang for buck is. We do this by knowing the All-Inclusive market inside and out, traveling many times a year to inspect, visit and retreat to all the favorite vacation spots.
Here is an example of where a vacation investment can only be trusted to a Travel Agent.
“What if a resort is labelled a 5 –star and is priced at $1499 + tax per person and….”
• You still need to line up to make reservations for dinner and must dine at set times, plus being restricted to 4 gourmet meals per week? This is very inconvenient when you are poolside at 5 pm and have to leave to get ready for your 6:00 pm dinner appointment
• What if the rooms are musty and in need of renovations? This is never in the brochure
• What if there is no WiFi or it’s restricted to an hour in the lobby? The WiFi symbol has a $ sign and no further information
• Requires wristbands, towel cards, sign ins and outs for every amenity?
• The beach doesn’t look like the brochure?
What if there is a 4 star listed at $1599 + tax and….
• Includes unlimted WiFi in the rooms, poolside and all public areas.
• Requires no reservations for any dining options and also includes 24 hour rooms service at no charge. This is what a perfect vacation would look like for me. A day of beachside lounging might just call for late night eats and room service treats
• Has an incredible ocean view lounge, poolside and beach side service. There is nothing more relaxing than a drink after dinner to watch the sun go down
• Has a beach goes on forever in each direction?
• No wristbands
These two scenarios are great examples that going by star rating alone can be very misleading and only someone who has been there can know the difference.
Here is another aspect of the All-Inclusive world that is rarely ever clear: Many properties have upgraded “sections” that require you to pay more to receive a truly luxurious experience. If we look at alternatives, It is not always visible, but there are actually many softer reviewed properties that include luxuries like unlimited dining, 24 hour rooms service, no wristbands in all of their room types. Their lead in rooms (with everything needed to make a vacation perfect) are automatic, whereas many resorts (often under a 5 Star listing) make you pay more to receive these very features. It’s all about value for dollar.
Going by star rating alone can be very misleading and only someone who has been there can know the difference.
Another consideration is the duration of your trip. Almost everyone’s inclination is to travel for long periods of time. In my experience, there is real bang for buck in shorter trips as well.
Why not try a true 5-star for 5 days as opposed to a 3 or 4-star for 7, 10 or 14 days?
I would rather miss a place and long to go back with the fond memories I’d formed because the experience was so incredible, than be somewhere where I just wanted to come home and not return.
People will always remember what they paid when things go wrong and always forget what they paid when it was the vacation of a lifetime.
Bonus tip: So often I find people choosing the lowest price resort and adding on things like upgraded seats on the plane, priority check in, private transfers to feel a sense of luxury. I like to recommend the opposite, spend that extra money on a fantastic resort and go without the extra add-ons for the flights. I’ll endure cramped legroom and back of the plane seats to ensure when I arrive, I know I am going to a fabulous resort. My suggestion to people is to put all of the focus into the property, everything else is secondary, except for Travel insurance. Never ever forget travel insurance, more on that soon.
Speaking of ways to save travel dollars so you can splurge on that 5 Star: stay tuned for my next blog post on how to pack for a 7 night luxury vacation with just carry-on to avoid the baggage fees.