17 Tips when vacationing to an all-inclusive

IMG_8688Oh Mexico, how I love you. You’ve given me suntans, a love for Corona and lime, lots of laughs with my guy, my first scuba diving experience, as well as helped me read a book in its entirety… something that doesn’t happen often. I have have found rest and life-giving conversations on your beaches, and I am forever grateful.

The first time Drew and I traveled to Mexico was for our honeymoon. This was the trip where I broke out into some “jungle rash” (what we were calling it at the time), and had the resort nurse come to our room to stick me in the booty with a steroid shot. It took care of the rash, but the steroid also left me feeling quite emotional. Drew, poor guy, was just trying to eat a brownie when the sound of his spoon hitting the plate woke me up, causing me to bawl my eyes out and continue to ask my new husband, “Why would you do that?!” He just stared at me. In the years to come, we would discover and rename my “jungle rash” to “sunscreen allergy.” We have vacationed to Mexico 3 times now and needless to say, we’ve learned quite a bit each trip- what we like, what we don’t like, what to pack, etc.

We have been to several resorts, but the ones that we can recommend are Secrets Maroma Beach and Secrets Playa Mujeres. Here are some pics from our last trip to Mexico at Maroma beach! I’ve linked some good beach finds below as well. My white bathing suit is sold out, but I found the same suit in coral.

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Below is the list we compiled of tips we found useful when vacationing, specifically to Mexico/an all-inclusive resort. Keep in mind these are things that we value/fit our family culture so take what is useful to you!

1.Expectations– Before you go, make up in your mind about what it looks like to have a good time and what things are secondary. That way you aren’t hit in the face with unmet expectations every step of the way. Our definition of having a good time was spending time together and having intentional conversation; so when the forecast said it would thunderstorm every day (which it didn’t), or the show we were looking forward to got canceled due to rain, or our restaurant of choice was closed for some reason, we could still meet our expectations of having a good time. While it barely rained, we still came prepared for cozy days in with cards, movies on Drew’s computer, plans to order room service; but because of the minimal rain we spent most of our days outside reading, talking, walking on the beach. Still, we were prepared and our expectations were in check!

2. Adults-only- We made the mistake of not picking an adults-only resort on one of our vacations. I love kids, I have my own, but it drastically changes the mood/feel and over-all experience at the resort. We ended up transferring to a different resort and immediately felt more calm and relaxed when we pulled in. If you find an awesome resort that isn’t necessarily adults-only, I would recommend making sure they have adult-only areas.

3. Transportation– Set up transportation before you get there. Most of the time you can set up a service through your resort that will pick you up and drop you back at the airport. Specifically for arrivals into Mexico, there will be a multitude of sales people trying to catch you as you head to exit the airport trying to sell transportation. Keep walking. Your transportation people are outside the airport (as they aren’t allowed inside the airport itself) waiting for you there. 

4. Bring cash– Most places you will be able to get by just fine without it. However, a lot of resorts will have a night where they allow local vendors to set up shop and sell their handmade items to resort guest. This is where cash will come in handy. We wanted to get the kiddos some trinkets and the resort had an atm, but it would have been more convenient to have had it with us already. If you plan to venture out from the resort and experience local restaurants, cash is also a good thing to have on hand here. 

5. Pack a carry on-  We learned this the hard way. When you arrive to your resort, most will have a concierge service take your bags and deliver them to your room once your room is ready. This is awesome, but we found that often we would arrive before our room was ready. Most people fly in early so they can get the most out of every day they’re there. The first time we vacationed to an all-inclusive, we didn’t travel wearing suits or sunscreen (cause that’s uncomfortable) and our bags had been taken and we had to wait for them until our room was ready to go and change. The next time we traveled we packed our suits, sandals, cover ups, sunglasses and small sunscreen in a carry on/beach bag that we kept with us when our bags were taken. We changed when we got there and went right down to the beach and started enjoying our time. Our room wouldn’t be ready till 3:00pm and we had arrived at noon, but we still got to jump right into relaxing! Side note on packing: pack a sweater! This isn’t intuitive because you will be in a warm, sunny place. However, at night it can get cooler, especially by the water. I loved having a sweater, especially if we took evening walks on the beach.

6. Set an alarm– This may sound super weird to you, but trust me. Setting an alarm doesn’t mean you can’t sleep in, but it helps to ensure you don’t sleep the day away, in your bed, inside… when you can do plenty of that outside with the sound of the ocean, and food, and drinks. You didn’t come all this way to sleep in a bed like you can at home. Sleep where it counts, by the ocean with people bringing you whatever you ask for. We found that setting an alarm made us feel like we weren’t wasting any of our resort experience. We also found that most people vacationing get a late start to the day so by getting out to the pool earlier (and by earlier I mean like 9:45/10am), we were able to get our favorite spots secured every time as well as scoop up a pool float for us both. 

7. Apply sunscreen often- I think there is this urgency when you get to paradise of “Must. Get. Sun.” But you have a whole trip to work on that tan, and there is nothing worse than getting sunburned right out the gate. If you get burned the first day, you are now trying to avoid getting more of a burn the rest of your stay and can feel limited to how long you’re outside/what you’re doing outside. A sunburn is also uncomfortable as well as peeling like crazy. Trust me, you can still get a tan with sunscreen + this is way healthier for your skin. Apply often! Pro Tip: We learned that lotion trumped spray in coverage and strength against the sun.

8. Bring a hat- It wasn’t till my most recent trip that I finally remembered and felt the importance of packing a sun hat! I love a good a tan. I especially love that sun kissed face look. However, in my ripe old age of 29 (almost 30 lol), I have learned some key things about the sun and skin. The sun is the number one most aging thing for your skin, sun damage is really hard to undo and shows up nicely on your face before anywhere else, and the skin on your face is more sensitive. It is inevitable that you will leave with a tan on your face, but wearing a hat for most of the time really helped keep my face and skin happy and healthy looking.

9. Lime- Do not get lime juice on your skin and then go in the sun!!! Like for real, beware!!!! I had no idea this was a thing until this last trip when I had a drink (didn’t use a straw) with lime. I had squeezed it in and then it got on my upper lip as drinks often do when you drink them. I then went out in the sun and got a really bad blister on my lip that took a good two weeks to go away. Luckily it was small and not as bad as it could have been (according to the kind lady that worked there and told me what was happening to my lip ha). I was even wearing sunscreen, but the citrus juice mixed with the sun will burn your skin. Use a straw and just be aware of where your lime juice might touch! I had one friend get lime juice on her leg and that blistered as well!

10. Take pictures– You may not post these pictures anywhere, but I am a hard core believer in documenting memories. We treasure and love to look back on all our traveling pictures. I know our babies will love looking back at them as well. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were looking through pictures of my parents and hearing stories about them. You may not think much of it in the present moment to document you and your boo standing on the beach or the room you stayed in, but trust me, you will be so grateful you are able to look back and savor the time that was spent; especially when it’s winter and the sun feels like a distant memory ha. 

11. Room service– We loved the option of room service and naturally, it’s free if you’re staying at an all-inclusive. We mostly took advantage of room service for breakfast. Most resorts will have a buffet-type thing in the morning at one location where everyone will be for breakfast. We enjoyed skipping out on the crowd and eating breakfast in our room, in our robes, overlooking our view of the ocean! We did this every morning except one, because we wanted to experience the buffet at least one morning. We also learned if there is something you want, but don’t see it on the menu, you can ask for it and they will most likely have it! Drew also loved room service for late night dessert lol.

12. Pool- So there are usually several pools scattered around to choose from, the one closest/overlooking the ocean being the top choice for most people (hence getting there earlier to secure a spot). However, you may think to yourself, “This spot by this cool swim-up bar will do the trick.” False. It will not do the trick. This swim up bar is where people like to sit around in the pool enjoying beverage after beverage and having lively conversation with their friends. So two things- It won’t be the quietest place to relax and, while I would like to think the best of each responsible adult intaking that much fluid during the day, I can’t help but think that not all of them get up out of the pool to relieve themselves, and I am not into swimming in close proximity to that if ya feel me.  

13. Earbuds- The resort will often have music playing over speakers scattered around. Sometimes I liked the playlist, sometimes I didn’t. Either way, I could always just pop in my earbuds and choose music specific to my relaxation/ drown out any nearby conversations. I also like to work out on vacation, so ear buds were a must-have item to pack!

14. Bring a book- This is the perfect time to get reading in! I’m not a huge reader, but there is something about laying by an ocean as long as you want that brings out the reader in me. I often times have started the book before I leave. For some reason, being a few chapters in already is more motivation once I’m there to read.  Drew and I have also picked out a book we would like to read together and take turns reading aloud. 

15. Don’t feel pressure- Don’t put pressure on yourself to do anything extravagant while there. You don’t have to swim with dolphins, go scuba diving, go into town, or anything really if you don’t want to! You can just do nothing and that’s okay. Excursions are super fun, and we usually do one when we go, but we always tell ourselves that doing nothing is an acceptable thing to do. We aren’t missing out on anything when we choose to spend time with one another!

16. Pace food intake- One of the many beautiful things about staying at an all-inclusive is that food is free and you can have as much of it as you want! You probably chose to go on vacation because you are in much need of some time away to rest and relax… because resting is healthy. When at home, I never just eat and eat and eat and think, “Man, I feel great.” I usually feel gross and overfed if I do that. Why then would I go on vacation, something I’m doing to take care of myself, and eat myself into a tizzy. I also learned this the hard way. I’m not saying you shouldn’t enjoy! I had my fill of desserts and french fries this last trip and left feeling amazing. But I learned that just because the entrees are free doesn’t mean I need to eat three to completion ha. And just because adding a side of fries is free doesn’t mean I need to add them to every meal. The first time we went to an all-inclusive, we over-did it and felt sick from all the food and by the end of the week we didn’t even want to order or explore the menu. There is plenty of time to eat and enjoy and try new things, just don’t over due it! Be kind to your body and allow it to rest and relax while enjoying food, but without over feeding it! It’s a good feeling getting back from vacation feeling refreshed instead of feeling like you need to get back on track.

17. Find home– What I mean by this is find the things that you do for self-care at home and continue some of them while your on vacation. Again, vacation itself is self-care and you want to continue doing those things that bring you life especially on vacation! For me, those things are working out, taking my supplements (holla Plexus), spending time in the Word, and washing my face.  

I hope you find some of these tips useful! Are there things you have found useful when vacationing? I would love to hear and put them to good use as well! Happy travels friends.

much love,

Kathryn

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