Resorts, especially all-inclusive resorts, offer one of the most hassle-free ways to enjoy a vacation. However, if you’ve never booked a resort before, you can quickly become bogged down in the details. Today we’ll give you a quick and easy guide on how to book and enjoy your first resort vacation.

Only Book from Reputable Sites

There are many resort booking sites out there, and sadly, some are straight up fake. You can save money on a resort vacation with sites like Vacations To Go, but before you give your personal details and credit card number, always check to ensure the site is genuine. Vacation websites like WestJet Vacations, Sunwing, Expedia, and Air Transat offer discounts and packages and are always a safe bet.

It’s important to book directly through sites like Sunwing or AirTransat because they have dedicated staff at each resort. These staff members meet you on arrival, help you book excursions, alert you of any dangers (weather, unscrupulous sellers, non-approved excursions), and help you get home quickly if an emergency cuts your vacation short.

Not All Resorts are the Same

Not all resorts are all-inclusive. Some have accommodation-only plans, some have full meal plans, and some have a combination of both (like three free dinners but you pay for the rest). Not all resorts are on a beach. Some are located right in the city. Some resorts are adult only. Very few resorts have separate but adjoining suites. Unless you are willing to pay a lot extra, expect to be sharing a room with your children. Don’t book just on price: make a list of must-haves and then search by those first. A cheap resort gets very expensive if you have to pay for meals, drinks and snacks.

Fun in the sun at Viva Wyndham Maya Resort. Photo Nerissa McNaughton

Fun in the sun at Viva Wyndham Maya Resort. Photo Nerissa McNaughton

The Review Rabbit Hole

Every resort has a mix of positive and negative reviews, so read them with an open mind but don’t get confused by the thousands of opinions. If the resort is starred 3.5+ and the reviews are 3+ overall, it’s likely a good bet. To be sure, book with recognised chains that have a good reputation, like the Wyndham or Sandals.

Buy the Insurance

When you book, you will be offered travel insurance. Take the trip interruption and trip cancellation insurance. You don’t want to lose thousands of dollars if someone falls ill and you can’t get on the plane. You also need medical travel insurance. Your work benefits may cover this (you’ll have a number to call and a card to carry; keep these in a safe place as you travel). Alternately, you can quickly get medical travel insurance online from sites like Manulife. Don’t rely on the medical insurance attached to the credit card you used to book the trip. Credit card medical travel insurance is underwritten after an incident, making it much easier for your claim to be denied.

Getting There is Not Always Half the Fun

Travel companies like Air Transat and Sunwing have dedicated flights to resort cities, and this can mean flying from one airport to another (like Edmonton to Calgary) and then sitting for an hour to do a crew change. You cannot get off the plane during this time, even though you are at a gate on the tarmac. Bring a tablet loaded with games and movies and bring books, snacks and water to keep yourself occupied on the trip down and back.

Transfer Safely

If you booked your resort through a reputable vacation site, it’s likely your transfers are included. This means the company has its own comfortable bus or minivan to take you from the airport to the resort. If you don’t have transfers included, do your research ahead of time so you know which taxi services are approved by the airport, or how the public transportation works.

Plan to Tip

In most resort locations, tipping is part of the culture. Plan ahead and bring local currency (or American dollars) in small amounts so you can tip your drivers, housekeepers, tour guides, and people you meet on excursions. For example, in Mexico, some excursions take you to see villagers choosing a traditional way of life. They may feed you a meal. Your tips offset the expenses they have in entertaining and feeding your group.

Tummy Trouble

The Curse of Montezuma is not real, but travellers diarrhea certainly is. Your tummy may not adjust quickly to new foods and water. In some places, bottled water is always recommended. This is normal. Pack a bottle of Pepto Bismol or some Immodium and all will be well in a few days. You’ll likely experience a little tummy trouble when you return too, as your system readjusts to North American foods and your local water. Of course, you want to avoid food that has been sitting in the sun or not been prepared properly, but for the most part, the food at resorts is not only safe to eat, but it’s also a highlight of the vacation!

a traditional meal in Mexico

A traditional meal in Mexico. Photo Nerissa McNaughton


There is plenty to do on the resort. Kids clubs, live entertainment, fun and games on the beach, arts and crafts, and dance lesson, to name a few. Resorts make it so you never have to leave the grounds. However, for the adventure seekers, you can book excursions. These can be anything from shopping trips to rafting down a river to visiting ruins. Be on time for your excursion transport. They will leave without you if you sleep in! Listen to your tour guide. He or she is trying to keep you safe. If unfamiliar with the area, explore via excursions – not on your own. For example, if you are not in a tour group at the Coba ruins in Mexico, would you know that there are trees along the walking paths that are poisonous to the touch?

Ruins at Coba. Photo Nerissa McNaughton

Ruins at Coba

Food, Sun and Fun!

Resorts are a feast for all the senses. You are steps away from natural beauty, beaches, entertainment, shopping – all under the tropical sun. The food at resorts is legendary, with daily buffets along with reservation-only restaurants. You can stay on the resort, or you can take excursions to see more of the country. When you plan ahead and take the necessary precautions, you’ll quickly become hooked on the ease and fun of resort vacations.