How to Pack for an All-Inclusive Resort Vacation
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Savvy travelers know an all-inclusive resort can easily be a bargain when you do it right. Part of getting your money's worth is not blowing your wad once you are at your destination on ancillary items that are guaranteed to be cosmically more expensive than what they would cost if purchased at home. A smart packing job in the right suitcase (for any stay, not just at an all-inclusive) will not only save you money that can be used for future trips, but will make your hard-earned vacation that much sweeter.
The good news for those of you who pack according to the KonMari Method is that none of the items on this list should take up too much space, meaning you'll have plenty of room for all those vacation clothes (some of which you'll probably never even wear).
Without further ado, here's what to pack so you can live your best life at an all-inclusive resort:
Credit cards are gold around these parts but it's still a good idea to bring cash along when you travel, even on an all-inclusive vacation. While you won't be paying for meals or drinks, it's a good idea to make friends with your bartender at the beginning of the trip by leaving a tip up front. You should also plan on following basic hotel guidelines for bellhops, housekeeping and any guest services staff who go above and beyond. A good way to confirm a resort's gratuity policy is to call ahead and ask. (For more on this topic, read up on what every traveler should know about tipping on all-inclusive vacations.)
A Portable Speaker
Chances are your vacation will involve a significant amount of relaxing. Whether you're hanging by the pool during the day or enjoying the view from your balcony in the evening, a suitcase-friendly portable speaker playing your favorite tunes is always a good idea, especially if you find yourself in close proximity to rowdy neighbors or partiers at the pool. (Just remember: Don't Be That Guy. As universal as your Bon Jovi playlist may seem, keeping the volume in check is a must.) We recommend something like the JBL Flip 4 Bluetooth Portable Stereo Speaker ($75). It's ranked #1 on Amazon in terms of customer reviews for portable speakers $75 or under, wirelessly connects up to two smartphones or tablets, will get you up to 12 hours or playtime, is waterproof and weighs in at just above 1 pound.
Insulated Cups and/or Koozies
If your travels are taking you somewhere warm, an insulated cup and/or a koozie will be your new best friend. Something similar to this 30-ounce stainless steel insulated YETI tumbler ($35) will keep your margaritas cool far longer than any plastic cup. (For packing efficiency, you can even roll up your swimsuit or other small article of clothing and tuck it inside.) Even easier to cram into a bulging suitcase, koozies are easy to transport and will help keep your beer cold in the hot sun (plus, there's a good chance you already have a few around the house somewhere). While we're on the topic of beverages, it's also a good idea to pack a reusable water bottle for staying hydrated in between cocktails, during any outdoor activities and when you hit the gym (hey, you packed your sneakers so you might as well put them to good use).
A One-Size-Fits-All Bag
Probably the most strategic packing decision that can be made is to find yourself a one-size-fits-all bag that checks all the boxes: is durable, works as a carry-on and subs as a day bag once your arrive at your destination. An Amazon customer favorite is the Luisport 35L foldable packable ($18). This cost-effective bag is extremely lightweight (0.67 pounds) but made of sturdy waterproof nylon, so your laptop won't get banged up in the airport or wet if you're working at the pool.
Toiletries & Medicine
Sure, chances are you can buy any forgotten essentials somewhere on the property but if you're reading this site, it's because you want to spend less of your hard-earned money on vacation, not more. Sunscreen and/or bug spray are musts just about anywhere you're headed. Temperature aside, if you'll be out in the sun, it's always a good idea to protect yourself from UV rays. (Pro tip: TPG Travel Editor Melanie Lieberman recommends opting for an aerosol sunscreen with a handle, so you can "spray it on your back upside down.")
Given that a large part of the all-inclusive experience is eating and drinking, also do yourself a favor by throwing in some ibuprofen and some antidiarrheal medicine. If physical activity is on the agenda (no judgment if it's not) or if you've packed a pair of never-been-worn sandals, having a few Band-Aids on hand will keep a blister from ruining your vacation vibe.
Why do you need to pack snacks if your hotel covers food already? Well, if you're traveling with kids or with someone who has dietary restrictions, a few energy bars at the ready can come in handy. Personal preference will dictate whether you're Team RXBAR, Team KIND bar or Team Clif Bar, but these TSA-friendly items are easy to transport, easy to eat and easy on the stomach. They can be a great option if sitting down for a full meal is not on the agenda or for a quick pick-me-up between meals.
There is more to vacation than swimsuits and cover-ups. We're talking here about the clothes you'll need to not only hit the pool but also get into any restaurants with dress codes or certain cultural attractions. Collared shirts or close-toed shoes may be required for fancier dining options, and a day excursion to temples or other religious sites in a place such as Bali means covering your arms and shoulders. The good news is that many all-inclusives offer laundry service for guests, so you can re-wear these types of items throughout your vacation.
A Few More Tips for Your Next All-Inclusive Experience
As mentioned, none of these things should take up too much space, but if you still find yourself traveling with more luggage than you're used to, it helps to have cards such as the Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, which will waive checked bag fees for card holders and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation, or The Platinum Card® from American Express, which provides card holders with up to a $200 annual airline fee credit to cover incidentals like checked bag fees (enrollment required). It also pays to book your stay with a card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which will net you 2x and 3x, respectively, on travel and offer trip protection should anything happen during your stay.
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