Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Good, the Bad, the Excellenté - Part 6

Planning your own vacation to a resort

Having only been on more adventuresome vacations - couchsurfing in Italy, driving across the country, hiking in Hawaii, I was a little apprehensive about a resort vacation. Is it too expensive? Will I be bored? Will I get restless staying in one location for the entire trip? Not only would I answer "no" to all those questions, but I would even consider another resort vacation in the future. Considering all we got at the resort, plus the discount we received by booking through www.cheapcaribbean.com, I think the vacation was reasonably priced. Yes, it was more expensive than some other vacations, but I usually find free accommodations (i.e. my car). Paying for a closet to hang my clothes and a comfy bed to collapse on was part of the experience. Surprisingly, I wasn't bored at all - I adjusted very well to just lying around. It gave me lots of time to enjoy reading a couple books, something I normally don't have as much time for as I'd like. It also gave me time to just completely enjoy Nick's company. Our place was so lovely, I completely enjoyed every moment I spent there. In fact, it was a relief to wake up each morning and know I didn't need to drive or catch a bus or make the first train out. So, yeah, I would stay at a resort again. It is truly a relaxing vacation, in every sense of the word, and sometimes that's exactly what you need.

Here are some tips for planning your own resort vacation:
ü  Pick a resort that's right for you. 
o   I chose a resort in a location where there wasn't much I wanted to see nearby. I could never stay in a resort in Costa Rica or Spain - I would want to explore the country - wander the streets, eat at local restaurants, etc. (Although I know most resorts offer day trips to the surrounding area.) Plus, I was paying so much to be at this resort, I wanted to BE at this resort!
o   I also chose a resort that was adults-only. I love kids, but had no inclination to be around their screaming and splashing and running and general obnoxiousness (I exaggerate). And I must say, it was rather pleasant.
o   Don't forget about airfare. Flights are pretty cheap between Texas and Mexico, so it was logical to choose Mexico as our destination. A different location might save you money on airfare.
o   Food is a big part of my travel experience, so I wanted to choose a resort that had lots of good dining options. Honestly, there are probably resorts with better food, but I also think they're even more expensive. Some resorts require reservations for dinner. We purposely chose a resort with no reservations because we wanted the flexibility to eat when and where we wanted.
o   Check out reviews online. We chose the Excellence not only because it was recommended by a friend, but also because the reviews online were consistently good compared to some of the other resorts we were considering.

ü  Plan when to travel. We learned that the week before Christmas (the week we stayed), our resort was at 50% capacity. We never had to worry about finding a place to lounge (although sometimes it was difficult snagging one of the few hammocks in the late afternoon).  It was never a problem getting seated right away for dinner, either. After Christmas, capacity goes up to 90% and stays that way throughout the high season (I'm not sure when that ends). So, if you have flexibility in when you travel, it might be worth visiting a resort during the low season.

ü  Determine how long you'd like to stay. This may partly depend on your budget. We stayed for five nights, but decided we'd only stay for four nights when we go to a resort again. By the end of the fourth day, we began getting restless.

ü  Consider arranging a shuttle to and from the airport prior to your travel. Your resort will most likely work with a couple different shuttle companies, and you'll probably be able to make arrangements when you book your room. A shuttle is convenient, and it's cheaper than paying for a taxi.

ü  Pack thoughtfully.
o   Bring your own toiletries. At least at my resort, I found the shampoo and conditioner very low quality. I was happy I brought my own.
o   What I brought and what I actually wore are two different things. Here's what I wore:
§  3 swimsuits
§  1 cover-up
§  1 skirt and tank top
§  Dress for each night with nicer shoes
§  2 pairs of flip flops
§  Traveling outfit
§  Sweater/cardigan/zippered hoodie
§  That's it! Needless to say, I spent most of my time in a swimsuit. Usually, we'd eat breakfast and lunch in our swimsuits (I covered up with a dress and Nick just threw on a t-shirt).
o   Consider bringing $1 bills for tipping. We brought about $80 worth of one dollar bills, and this was plenty to cover the occasional tip. Since we weren't doing any shopping, we wanted to have change available to us.
If you're traveling internationally, you'll be able to check one bag for free. (At least we could. I would double-check this with your airline.) Use this to carry copious amounts of sunscreen. You'll need it!

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