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Five reasons to reconsider that all-inclusive vacation you’re planning

Weezie and I like to travel and we’ve managed a foreign vacation each year that we’ve been together. Until this year, our vacations were highbrow European tours that saturated us with language, culture and architecture. This year we were after something completely different, a vacation that was lower stress, required fewer decisions, and resulted in less jet lag. At the recommendation of a friend, we decided to try an all-inclusive beachside resort in the Dominican Republic, Excellence Punta Cana.

excellence punta cana

Our most stressful decision each day was “beach or pool?” (the answer was always “beach”). I’m a reluctant consumer of luxury, so it took a few days to really get the hang of all-inclusive pampering. Before leaving, I wasn’t really sure of what to expect. So, if you’re considering an all-inclusive vacation in your future, here are a few reasons you might want to reconsider:

You don’t drink.

Because when you get right down to it, for most folks, “all-inclusive” translates to: “I’ve prepaid for 500 drinks this week and I’ll be damned if I leave this place and haven’t had 501.” Barely 30 seconds elapsed from the time we arrived at the resort until we had champagne glasses thrust into our hands. And by day three, it didn’t seem strange to see people sipping cocktails out of coconuts at 8:30 in the morning. Given the daily restocks of the in-room mini-bar, the ten bars and endless drinks at meals, it’s kind of a miracle that the place hasn’t been burned down yet. Even the poolside wait staff plays along:

Waiter: “Would you like another drink, sir?”

Me: “No thanks, I’m fine for now.”

Waiter: “What, are you working tomorrow?”

Me: “Good point. Another mai-tai for me and pina colada for the missus.”

coconut drink

You suffer from middle class guilt.

95% of the other vacationers at the resort were, like us, American, white, and solidly middle-class. The Dominican staff is mainly dark-skinned, of Dominican or Haitian descent, and, presumably, poor. The class distinctions are overt. You’re left wondering what the staff thinks of Americans based on what they observe at the resort. I’ll bet “loud”, “large”, and “entitled” are among their conclusions. Given this, the they were remarkably good-natured and helpful, and we left with very positive impressions of the people of the Dominican Republic.

dominican beach

Bros.

You know the type: aggressively masculine, misogynistic, frequently drunk and determined to let you know it. Formerly isolated to the frat house, somehow bro culture has achieved cultural acceptability in mainstream society. The bro is in his natural habitat at an all-inclusive resort: there’s beach, booze, babes and most importantly, lots of other bros. The most “bro” moment of the week was when a group of said bros started a tribal chant urging the wait staff to bring them a pizza at the pool. Pure class.

palm tree beach

You’re on a diet.

By the second or third day at the resort, we realized that you didn’t have to eat three courses at every meal. Portions were epic and sometimes desserts or appetizers showed up even when you didn’t order them. Mountains of bacon at the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet set the tone each day, and 24-7 room service meant that food was never more than a phone call away.

dominican flower

Tipping makes you uncomfortable.

Turns out there are two very different points-of-view with regard to tipping at all-inclusive resorts. The first is that you should take the phrase “all-inclusive” at face value: you paid for everything, including gratuities, before you arrived and you don’t owe a penny more. The second approach is, “What’s another hundred bucks over the course of the week? The staff works hard, and it’ll benefit them more than it will me.” I started out in the first camp, but my guilty conscience quickly forced me into the second after witnessing several people leaving tips after meals. Since you don’t pay for anything at the resort, there’s no basis for determining the proper amount to tip. We settled on $1-$5 each time someone helped us out, depending on their helpfulness and attitude.

palapa

Would we vacation this way again? Maybe someday, but we’d go in the winter and take friends. For now, we’re satisfied to cross “go to an all-inclusive resort” off our bucket list and look forward to our next opportunity to travel abroad.

p.s. – For those of you who have requested more people photos on the blog, the reason they appear so infrequently is because this is what happens when we try to take a romantic selfie:

bad kiss

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anonymous #

    Love…even the selfie!

    May 21, 2014
  2. Jan Irwin #

    Great post – thanks for the chuckles. I guess there’s more to life than home renovations, right?

    May 21, 2014
    • jrh #

      There has to be, or I’d go crazy! Sometimes when I’m hyper-focused on a project, it’s helpful to recalibrate my perspective by exploring the huge world out there.

      May 22, 2014
  3. chris highley #

    The romantic selfie is exactly why there should be more people photos. Happy to hear you guys had a good time.

    May 22, 2014
    • jrh #

      You should know that when I wrote “we’d take friends”, I actually meant you and Elvira. We remarked several times how it would have been fun to have you guys there. Someday!

      May 22, 2014
  4. Laura Connally #

    We went with your parents and another Air Force couple to our first “all inclusive” vacation in Cayman in 1976. Cayman was not a real tourist spot at the time. Your dad had heard of this remote island and little hotel called the Tortuga Club. It was all inclusive only in that it was too far to go anywhere else to eat so you just stayed there. It rained 6 of the seven days however, we all had such a blast. traveling with friends is a real plus!

    June 22, 2014

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