Skip to main content

Consider a private tour when booking an off-resort tour to Tulum in Mexico, for example.Domini Clark/The Globe and Mail

A friend's destination wedding in Cancun last week meant I finally experienced an all-inclusive vacation. As someone used to travelling independently, it was, in certain ways, actually rather stressful. Some things I prepared for (such as avoiding the chaos of mass check-in) but other issues were unexpected (who knew it would be so hard to satisfy midafternoon munchies?).

For vacationers of all stripes, here are some tips to get the most relaxation out of your package getaway.

Pack sunscreen

Most all-inclusive packages include a checked bag, so toss in a full-size bottle. Sure, you could buy it at the resort gift shop – but you'll likely end up forking over $25.

Unpack half your outfits

You'll end up spending most days in your bathing suit.

Get small bills

Be prepared to tip. And tip and tip and tip. Request smaller denominations when you hit up the currency exchange.

Upgrade your seat

As my friends scrambled to get seats together after checking in for the outbound flight, I remained chill.

My upgrade to Air Transat's Option Plus service meant I had already secured my preferred seats. I also got to speed through bag drop-off, boarded early (allowing me to squeeze in two in-flight movies), received a complimentary drink and meal before most other passengers and avoided a lengthy wait at the baggage carousel since my suitcase was tagged "priority."

Money well spent.

Arrange a private transfer

Bus to the resort included? If you love waiting around then by all means wait around for it to fill up, then wait as dozens of other people arrive at check-in at once and then wait for countless bags to be delivered to rooms.

Or, spend a bit and have a personal driver meet you with cold drinks, refreshing towels and beat the crowd.

For Mexico, I can recommend Canada Transfers.

Stock up on snacks

I wish I had taken advantage of the option to stop at a grocery store en route to the resort. While food was always available through room service or a small café in the main lobby, I missed having nibbles – chips, nuts, granola bars, cheese and crackers – at hand between meals.

Set up your schedule

The temptation to rush to the pool or beach will be strong, but if you need to make any reservations – for dinners, spa, tours – upon arrival, do so right after check-in to avoid disappointment. Slots fill up fast.

Research your excursions

Part of the appeal of all-inclusive vacations is that they're simple: The work is done for you. Likewise, if you want an excursion off the resort grounds, it's easy enough to grab a glossy pamphlet in the lobby and have the concierge arrange it for you. But odds are you will get a much richer experience if you research and book your own.

My private tour to a cenote (a cavernous swimming hole) and to Tulum (also done through Canada Transfers) allowed me to go at my own pace and focus on my particular interests, whereas the package trip to Isla Mujeres I did with other members of my group was basically a mobile resort experience.

A smaller, more personal trip would have cost about half as much and delivered far more.

Find the "secret pool"

You see that pool on the resort map that seems like such a far walk from the rooms? Go there. People tend to set up camp at the first one they see.

Put your legs to work and you might just be rewarded with a more chill atmosphere and more attentive service.