Insider Tips for All-inclusive Resorts
You finally decided to book an all-inclusive resort vacation. Did you know that there are insider tips for all-inclusive resorts? But you’re already booked you say? Not to fret. You can still benefit even after you have arrived.
Sandals is an award-winning all-inclusive resort company dedicated to providing couples with an amazing time, while in the Caribbean. With a wide range of luxurious inclusions to make your Caribbean vacation simply unforgettable, it is no surprise that resorts under the Sandals umbrella continue to grow in popularity for couples around the world. Sandals resorts offer a unique romantic experience that is second to none. If you’re planning on booking or have already booked your Sandals vacation, here are some tips to make the most of your time there.
Tips and tricks AFTER booking your Sandals vacation
Go to tips & tricks BEFORE booking, if you didn’t book yet.
Book restaurants on arrival
If you want to get into the best restaurants at your resort, book early. Find out what’s available online, so when you get there, you have a rough idea where you want to eat. The staff at the resort will help you make reservations, which are important especially during peak season travel from the month of December until April. Early restaurant bookings mean you won’t have to be disappointed by fully booked restaurants on nights that you really want to go there. Check the opening times of your favorite restaurants, as some are only open for breakfast and dinner, while others are open only for lunch.
Don’t worry about not being able to get anything to eat during your stay, if you don’t make reservations. There are plenty of options available without needing any prior arrangements, it’s just the most popular restaurants that require reservations.
Find more information on opening times and dress codes of the restaurants at your resort here: Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals Negril, Sandals South Coast, Sandals Ochi, Sandals Royal Plantation (all in Jamaica), Sandals Royal Bahamian, Sandals Emerald Bay (both in the Bahamas), Sandals Regency La Toc, Sandals Grande St. Lucian, Sandals Halcyon Beach (all in Saint Lucia), Sandals Grande Antigua, Sandals Grenada, Sandals Barbados, Sandals Royal Barbados.
Bring evening attire for the restaurants
If you’re on your way to vacation at any Sandals property, bring clothing for all occasions. Some restaurants have dress codes, and you’re going to want to be properly attired for this purpose. Every night at Sandals is ‘date night’ after all! Swimsuits with cover-ups are fine during the day, but there’s plenty of reason to dress up for dinner when you’re staying at a resort as elegant as Sandals.
Bonus Tip: Dress up nicely and have the photographer take professional photos of you on the most romantic spots of the resort. A great memory to frame on the wall once back home!
Book excursions in advance
It’s the most amazing feeling in the world to get to your vacation destination and not have to worry about booking any excursions because you’re ahead of the game and did that far in advance. Booking tours ahead means you won’t have to worry about not getting to do the things that are at the top of your list because they’re overbooked, especially in the peak season. Do yourself a favor and plan accordingly, your vacation self will thank you. Add a little adventure to your stay!
Bring a reusable straw and loads of sunscreen (optional)
Spending your days lazing around at the swim-up bar is one of the favorite things to do for many guests. Sandals Resorts recently replaced their plastic straws with paper straws, in order to reduce its environmental footprint. Although most guests aren’t bothered by the paper straws, the straws might bend if they are left in your drink for too long. You can simply request a new straw at the bar, or bring your own reusable straw made of sillicone/metal. Some guests even bring their own reusable Yeti-cups to keep their drinks cold for longer periods of time!
Spending most of your time in the sun, make sure to bring loads of sunscreen to protect yourself from getting sunburned. It’s possible to buy sunscreen on location as well.
Ask for double portions if needed
Over the years the portion sizes of some all-inclusive properties have been modified in an effort to reduce wastage. Sandals is no exception. Though guests report the portion sizes to be satisfying, if you want a bit more feel free to ask. In fact, you can order two or three appetizers or entrees if you like, and even try two restaurants in one night if you feel like having something extra. It’s vacation after all!
Take advantage of the mini-fridge and room service (it’s included)
While some people would rather not use the mini fridge within their hotel or resort, you won’t have to think twice about this at Sandals. All rooms have a stacked mini fridge, which is free to use 24-hours a day! Sandals also offers unlimited top-notch Robert Mondavi Twin Oaks® wines as part of their all-inclusive experience. Free room-service is available for Club level and Butler level rooms, not for Luxury level rooms.
Bring some cash for optional extras (US Dollars will do)
Spending extra money is optional and completely up to you during an all-inclusive vacation. There are a few things you might want to spend some extra on during your stay, and for that reason it’s worth bringing along some cash. Things like spa treatments, cabana rentals on privileged locations, souvenirs and photo packages come with an added cost. Although tips are included regarding staff at the resort, you may want to bring cash along to tip tour guides during excursions if you venture out of the resort.
Golf and scuba diving are two other things that come with an added cost; you’ll need to pay to get PADI® certified if you aren’t already. After that, the rest of your dives at the resort will be free, including professional equipment. For golf, while green fees are included, a caddy and a golf cart come with an added cost and are both required. Caddy 9 holes: $15 USD, 18 holes: $20 USD. Golf cart 9 holes: $25 USD, 18 holes: $40 USD.
Scuba diving trips are included (max. two tanks a day, taking into account availability) for PADI® certified guests. However, an expense that might come as a surprise is the ‘scuba review’ course that is available at 80 USD. This once-off course is not required, but highly recommended for guests that haven’t dived in a while. This 1 – 2 hour course will refresh your knowledge and build confidence for your coming dives.
Bonus tip: Book your dives at arrival to make sure there’s availability. Especially during peak season.
Keep in mind that tipping is included, with the exception of the butlers
Sandals staff are known for their amazing service, so it is to be expected that many people have questions about how much to tip, or whether tipping is encouraged within the resort. You’ll be happy to know that except for butlers; tipping is included, and you won’t need to shell out any money for tips while on vacation. The resort handles the tipping, and you’re free to enjoy your vacay. If you think your butler went the extra mile and offered exceptional service, you can choose to tip your butler – but this is entirely up to you.
Make use of the front-desk
The staff at the front-desk (and the entire resort generally) are always friendly and willing to help with anything you may need. The front-desk staff are trained to be of direct assistance to guests, and when it’s busy it’s more effective to go to them for help, compared to flagging down staff who are passing by on their way to help another guest. Besides the usual check-in and check-out times, the front desk staff are normally not busy and eager to give full attention to your needs.
You don’t have to worry about this when you booked a butler suite, which comes with a phone that summons your butler to you whenever you need assistance.
Tips and tricks BEFORE booking your Sandals vacation
All Sandals Resorts are adults-only
Sandals resorts cater to adults looking to have a romantic vacation on a tropical island. The adult-only theme means that everything is designed with couples in mind, and that you’ll bask in the sophistication of that concept throughout the duration of your vacation. Enjoy the perks of this specialized resort by taking advantage of all the amenities created just for couples that are sure to set your love on fire!
If you’re looking for a family-oriented all-inclusive resort, consider booking Beaches Resorts, the sister resort of Sandals which includes an amazing waterpark the kids will love!
Make use of discounts
Check the Sandals specials page on a regular occasion to potentially cut the cost of your vacation, or enjoy other free resort incentives. From time to time you’ll often find opportunities to book a free couples massage, get a free catamaran cruise or resort credit, save money by booking more nights, and other savings. If you’re looking to cut costs, it might be more effective to book outside of peak season, which takes place around mid-December to mid-April. Outside this period, you will find more availability and lower room rates. That takes us to our next point…
Keep the season in mind
Before making a booking, decide for yourself what sort of experience you’re looking for out of a romantic Caribbean vacation. People wanting to travel at a time when the islands and the resorts are most upbeat, will find what they crave for during peak season (mid-December until mid-April), though as with everything else there are pros and cons associated with travelling during this season. More people travel during the peak season, so you can expect the beaches, swimming pools and restaurants to be more populated. Certain tours may be harder to secure if you don’t book them in advance. The low season is a little calmer, which is ideal for people who just want some peace and quiet. Either way, Sandals caters to couples who want to travel during any of those seasons.
Choose the resort that suits you as a couple
Each Sandals Resort has a distinct character. Although Sandals makes a point of ensuring first-class experiences across the board, the resort chain is known for its diverse offerings to suite any couple looking for a romantic getaway!
Looking forward to socialise and party with other couples? Sandals Ochi and Sandals Montego Bay are the place to be! Looking for a more quiet and intimate experience? Sandals Royal Plantation and Sandals Halcyon Beach might be a better match. Love golf? You don’t want to miss out on Norman Greg’s Championship course at Sandals Emerald Bay. This golf course comes with stunning views over Exuma’s turquoise waters! Sandals Royal Bahamian and Sandals Royal Caribbean even come with a private offshore island.
Each resort has a personality of its own, so it’s worth taking the time to determine which resort is best for you before booking. Read our ‘Which Sandals Resort Is Best For You’ post which will help match you up with the perfect Sandals resort!
Check if your Sandals resort is close to another Sandals resort
Sandals has a very compelling incentive – their exchange program makes it possible for guests to stay at one Sandals all-inclusive resort and enjoy the amenities of other Sandals properties located nearby. This includes all restaurants and bars!
For instance, you can stay at any of the three Sandals resorts in Saint Lucia and get access to all three, including free transfers. This gives you access to a total of 27 (!) restaurants, all included in your stay.
- From Sandals Grande St. Lucian to Sandals Regency La Toc: 45-minute drive.
- From Sandals Regency La Toc to Sandals Halcyon Beach: 20-minute drive.
- From Sandals Halcyon Beach to Sandals Grande St. Lucian: 30-minute drive.
In Jamaica, guests of Sandals Montego Bay can make use of all amenities at Sandals Royal Caribbean, and vice versa. The distance between the two resorts is a 10-minute ride (transfers included). This gives guests access to 20 restaurants and a private offshore island.
Guests of Sandals Royal Plantation get access to Sandals Ochi (adults-only, transfers included) and Beaches Ocho Rios (family friendly, transfers not included). Guests of Sandals Ochi get access to Beaches Ocho Rios (transfers not included).
- From Sandals Royal Plantation to Sandals Ochi: 10-minute walk / 2-minute drive.
- From Sandals Royal Plantation to Beaches Ocho Rios: 15-minute drive.
- From Sandals Ochi to Beaches Ocho Rios: 15-minute drive.
Last but not least, the latest additions to the Sandals family – the luxurious all-inclusive resorts in Barbados: Sandals Barbados and Sandals Royal Barbados can basically be seen as one big property. Guests of both resorts can make use of all amenities in the other resort. This gives guests access to a total of 18 restaurants.
The room matters more than you might think
There are two kinds of Sandals guests: the guests that always book a room with the lowest rate (the inclusions are the same after all, and how much time are you really gonna spend in your room anyway?) and the Sandals guests who understands each room comes with a different experience and service level.
You’d be surprised at the difference the room can make. Each suite comes with its own service level: Luxury, Club Level and Butler Elite.
Luxury is where it all starts at Sandals, you will get access to all resort amenities, a mini-fridge stocked with local beers and Robert Mondavi wines among other (soft) drinks, in-room Wifi and airport transfers.
Club Level is one step up from Luxury. You will get access to all resort amenities, free room service, a mini-fridge stocked with local beer, Robert Mondavi wines and a variety of other liquors among other (soft) drinks, in-room Wifi, airport transfers and concierge service.
Butler Elite is the highest level of service. You will get access to all resort amenities, personal butler service, a fully stocked in-room bar, in-room Wifi and private luxury airport transfers at select resorts. At arrival you will be welcomed by your butler and get handed over a butler phone, so you can summon your butler whenever you want! Let your butler handle all your restaurant reservations, serve you your favorite drinks and food right at the pool and beach, reserve your favorite cabana in the morning and much more!
Want to arrive in style? The top-tier suites at Sandals Royal Bahamian and Sandals Royal Barbados will be picked up at the airport in a Rolls Royce! The top-tier suites at Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals South Coast include a private airport transfer in a luxurious BMW or Mercedes. Find out more.
Besides the difference in service, top-tier suites are often located in prime locations and add to the luxury experience. Go for a romantic swim in the evening, right from your room with Sandals swim-up suites. Get away from it all in the luxurious overwater bungalows. Enjoy your stay at a private Millionaire Villa Suite in the mountains at Sandals Regency La Toc or enjoy the view from the private infinity pool that comes with your Skypool Suite. Find more unique suites to celebrate your love at Sandals Signature Suites.
Keep surrounding area in mind
Figuring out what attractions are near the Sandals resort you’re considering, can help you decide which resort, and which Caribbean island is best suites you. Although you won’t be bored at the resorts, most guests recommend to spend at least half a day out of the resort during your stay. It helps if the things you’re most interested in seeing or doing are nearby. Do some research to find out which tours and points of interest are located near the resorts.
You can book excursions at the Island Routes office at the resort, or choose to book online in advance to ensure availability (recommended).
Invest in a travel protection plan
Looking into a travel protection plan ahead of your vacation is highly recommended, especially if you will be travelling during the off-season. These plans will help you secure your expenses in the event that your vacation dates need to be changed, or if your travel plans change in some way. Travel protection plans cover costs associated with your trip being interrupted, baggage, medical expenses, tour refunds and emergency evacuations. You can simply purchase your plan while booking your Sandals vacation online. Cancelation of your trip for a covered reason will grant you a full refund for unused parts of your stay, otherwise you’ll get a travel certificate that you can use later. The travel protection plan is non-refundable and will be included in the total cost of your vacation, if you choose to add it.
Check airport transfer times
Airport transfer times vary from country to country, and it helps to find out about these in advance, so you know what to expect. Looking for a quick Caribbean getaway and don’t want to waste too much time driving from and to the airport? There are several Sandals resorts with short airport transfer times (under 20 minutes). These include Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals Royal Bahamian, Sandals Emerald Bay, Sandals Grenada, Sandals Grande Antigua and both Sandals resorts in Barbados. All costs associated with airport transfers are included in your package.
That’s it in a nutshell… Have fun!
Now that you’ve got all these useful tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’re well equipped to enjoy a one-of-a-kind all-inclusive vacation at Sandals like an expert. Enjoy your stay!