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How To Avoid Disaster on All-Inclusive Vacations

Knowing how to avoid disaster on an all-inclusive vacation is the only way to guarantee a break from the winter doldrums. Here’s how you can steer clear of the most common all-inclusive nightmare scenarios.

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How to Avoid Disaster on All-Inclusive Vacations

How do you avoid disaster on holiday? Booking an all-inclusive vacation with airfare, accommodations and meals taken care of, there’s nothing left to worry about, right? Not quite.

Sometimes surprises like bad weather, the “wrong” resort, and other downers can put a dent on your vacation high. Fortunately, a bit of upfront research can cut the risk of this happening. Here are 5 all-inclusive disasters, and how to avoid them.

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How to Avoid Disaster: You Picked the Wrong Resort

How do you avoid disaster when it comes to picking your travel destination?

There’s nothing worse than expecting a thriving party scene, only to find your resort turns into a ghost town by 11PM, because everyone has gone to bed. Unless of course, you need quiet nights so you can wake up at dawn to explore, and are kept up by midnight pool parties and rowdy neighbours.

What to do?

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How to Avoid Disaster: How to Choose the Right Resort

• “Seek out credible traveller reviews and photos before you book your trip,” says Jennifer Callegaro, Senior Marketing Manager, of Expedia Canada when asked about avoiding disasters. Filter for reviews by travellers like yourself: families, business travellers, couples, or students etc. Top review sites include Expedia.ca for verified traveller reviews, and TripAdvisor.com

• Do a quick scan of the resort website to see if it’s family-friendly (family pools, kids’ programs, babysitting) or avowedly adults-only.

• Unsure about fit? “Double check with customer service agents if you have any unanswered questions,” advises Callegaro.

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Avoiding Disaster: You’ve Got a Lousy Room

You thought you did your homework: you found a great package, went to the resort website and review sites to check it out. In photos, every room looked spacious and bright, with modern furnishings and million-dollar ocean views. You thought disaster was averted. So why does your teensy circa-1980s-design room have a view of the parking lot? 

What to do?

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Avoiding Disaster by Choosing the Right Room:

• Escape vacation disasters by reading the fine print. What room are you getting for a specific all-inclusive deal? Not every room is a Deluxe, Superior or Luxury (more on this later). The cheaper your package, the more likely it’s a Standard room with a smaller footprint and less-than-stellar view. After renovations, resort management typically put “new” photos online, even if certain blocks of rooms (ie. the budget rooms) have yet to see their extreme makeovers.

• Contact the resort if you need help figuring out room-category verbiage, which can be confusing, as marketing executives will re-name room categories to sound better. Ask the agent to list the different room categories from entry-level, moderate to top-of-the-line, and ask when the rooms were last renovated.

• Finally, remember: you get what you pay for. Free upgrades are the travellers’ Holy Grail, but they are a privilege, not a right. If you need a better room, pay to upgrade upfront when you book.

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Escaping Catastrophe: The Food Stinks

Escaping food problems is a key component to a perfect vacation. Your idea of lousy food and my idea of lousy food may not be the same. One of us may expect prime rib, burgers and fries, five different salads and multiple custom-made pastas, while the other may wish to to be surprised by the seafood catch of the day, and whatever veggies and carbs were at the market this morning. But neither of us wants food poisoning.

What to do?

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Escaping Catastrophe: Good Food for the Soul

• Educate yourself in order to avoid disappointment. Again, the website’s descriptions of their menu offerings (American style? Continental? Asian-French fusion? Local cuisine? Casual? Gourmet?), and browse online reviews.

• Cut to the chase by searching for resorts with only the highest customer ratings. “Expedia.ca publishes an annual Expedia Insider Select list of top hotels worldwide, based on more than 500,000 customer reviews submitted by travellers who have stayed in those properties, insight from local Expedia.ca experts on the ground and a value rating that compares hotel properties to others within the same star-rating,” says Expedia Canada’s Calligaro. That’ll whittle you down to the best of the best, and reduce the chance of food poisoning caused by unprofessional kitchen practices.

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Saving Yourself From Vacation NIghtmares: Weather

Nothing can ruin a holiday like a hurricane blowing trees across the resort property, and you’re stuck in a conference room playing Monopoly because the power in your room went out and there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go.

What to do?

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How to Avert Vacation Failure: Know the Season

• Number one in avoiding nightmare vacation stories: keep in mind that many beach destinations have a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical storm season. You can find solid savings during these times of year, but there can be risk involved. Research what months fall into this season and Google for historical occurrences (or visit the US National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center for US landings), so you can see how theoretical the risk has been in recent years.

• Look for all-inclusives offering a “Hurricane Insurance” or “Hurricane Promise” guarantee. Read the fine print to see what’s covered: will you get full credit towards a new vacation at a later date – or simply customer assistance and extra help getting back home?

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How to Ward Off Calamity: Astronomical Additional Costs

This is a surefire route to vacation turmoil: You and your partner saved up for a $1,500 per person, all-inclusive getaway package. And then the big checkout surprise: you’re on the hook for another $1,000 in costs!

What to do?

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How to Escape a Nightmare: Read the Fine Print

• Rid yourself of stress by reading the package details, paying attention to included meals. Some all-inclusives are misnomers, with no meals (European Plan: all meals are a la carte), or Modified American Plan (breakfast, plus lunch or dinner – not both), as opposed to the traditional three-meals-per-day American Plan.

• Read the finer print too. Travellers often assume an all-inclusive deal includes all the dining options at a resort, but this is not always the case. Your package may limit you to certain restaurants, with premium restaurant meals subject to a la carte charges.

• Keep an eye open for fees that are presumed to be included, but may not be:

– Transportation between the airport and resort.

– Certain beverages whether alcoholic and non-; see if beverages are included 24 hours or only part of the day/night.

– Premium activities like entertainment, tours, kids’ activities, babysitting, water sports (kayaks, scuba diving, snorkeling equipment, etc).

– Finally, be frugal with spa treatments, off-resort tours, pay-per-view TV, phone calls home, and taxis if you want to avoid any pricey surprises when you check out.

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