Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dreaming about a resort vacations? 5 things to consider

Bathing machine! circa 1910
It is easy to overlook the obvious when browsing through wonderful presentations of enticing destinations. Searching for a resort is unlike that of searching for an hotel as you will be spending most of your time within the resort. So,facilities, amenities and services are more important than location. After you have looked at the pretty pictures and read the glorious descriptions, get down to business, go through your own checklist of expectations and minimum requirements and consider the following five points:



#1 - What makes a resort more than a hotel?


Facilities and activities to keep you entertained without leaving the property. This is especially important if the property is in a remote location or on an island. A swimming pool and a spa does not make a resort even when some hotels title themselves “resort”. There has to be enough choices to last for the duration of your vacations. When browsing a resort, make a calendar and fill in the days with the available activities and facilities you like, minus any excursion days you plan to do outside. Not that you need a calendar while on vacations, but only to see if this resort’s offering could satisfy you for the duration of your vacations. If you come up short, move on to the next choice. And watch out for activities available only once a week, it’s not vacations when you have to keep track of appointments.

#2 - The hidden costs of staying in a resort.


Aside from meals, you still need things: a can of beer or soda, munchies, candy, etc., the stuff typically found in convenience stores. Problem is that, generally, the only conveniently located convenience store near the resort is the resort’s own tiny shop offering a very limited selection with prices matching those of your room’s minibar! You can usually take a resort shuttle to civilization to do your convenience shopping, but the reality is that you would have to put some clothes on and take a couple hours from your precious vacations to do that, so you are not going to and you just need to factor in these hidden costs in your budget.

#3 - All inclusive: What is NOT included?


The point of all-inclusive is that you don’t have to deal with money or worry about your tab at check-out time. It is not cheaper, simply more convenient and worry-free as your vacation should be. But you do have to watch for what is NOT included as “all-inclusive” rarely means “all”. There are big differences between resort chains and even between individual resorts. While most resorts do include beer and wine, some resorts use the cruise ship model where alcohol is not included and drinks prices can be stiff! Some resorts include bar drinks throughout the day, many do not. They may have specialty restaurants which require booking and in some cases they are not included in the all-inclusive deal: You pay twice!

A fair deal should include the specialty restaurants and wine and beer with meals. A better deal includes all bar drinks, except premium, and pool snacks.

You also have to consider the location of the resort. All-inclusive deals are most common in remote locations where there are few or even no option to eat out. But if the resort is located in or near a tourist area with restaurants and shops, then after a couple days at the resort, you will increasingly eat out for a change in flavor and setting. Obviously all-inclusive is not a good deal in that situation.

#4 -  Dreaming about a private villa with your very own secluded pool?


It’s a lover’s dream indeed, under the stars and candlelights … but before you rush to book this super premium option, there is a small detail you need to be aware about: Even in subtropical resorts, the water is cold! Yes, it’s a shock when you first dip your foot “how can that be?”. Two reasons: first, a small pool deep enough to enjoy more than just splashing your feet does not have enough surface for the sun to heat the water through and the second reason is the shade caused by the privacy walls or shrubbery which further reduce the number of hours the sun can reach your pool. A few, very few, resorts feature heated private pools for that very reason, usually with a small solar water heater on the roof that is enough to make the difference between cold and comfortable.

#5 - Adult-only resorts and adult resorts, they are not at all the same thing!


On vacations without the kids, you may appreciate a resort environment of grown-ups, without kids having a joyful time splashing around the pool. There are many adult-only resorts; ClubMed, for example, features 17 “couples” resorts around the world. The difference with other resorts is there are no kids there with the age limit being generally set at 16 years of age. Everything else is pretty much the same.

Adult resorts are an entirely different type of resorts, where the age limit is usually 18 or 21. Partial or full nudity is either optional or mandatory and social activity may, or may not, include the kind of stuff people normally keep behind close doors. The better known adult resorts are located in Jamaica, Mexico and France.

One last consideration: if you are planning on total relaxation, being lazy with no plan to get out, then the location is not all that important assuming its climate and temperature is within your comfort zone. Your ideal resort may lead you to an unexpected part of the world!

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