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How I made an over $600 mistake while booking my first all-inclusive vacation

June 03, 2022
7 min read
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On the day before my family was set to leave for Montego Bay's Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, I went through my usual routine of last-minute preparations. I checked that our passports were tucked safely into my carry-on bag, I downloaded some playlists onto my phone for inflight listening and I logged into my Hilton account to confirm everything looked accurate for my reservation.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

The passports and the playlist were squared away swimmingly, but my double-check of the hotel reservation didn't go as well. While I had booked a room large enough to accommodate my entire family of five, my last-minute check of the reservation showed I had indicated there would only be one guest: me.

Telling my kids and husband I was leaving for vacation without them in less than 24 hours clearly wasn't an option, so I called up the hotel to see what it would take to get the rest of the family added to the booking.

It was quickly clear this trip was going to cost me a whole lot more than I had originally expected.

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Adding additional guests to the all-inclusive reservation

This was my first all-inclusive stay, and while I knew I needed to let the hotel know I wasn't going to be the only guest, I assumed (that's going to be a key word here) it wasn't a that big of a deal because I had made sure to book a room large enough to accommodate my family.

"That's going to change the rate significantly."

That's what I heard on the other end of the line after explaining to the front desk agent that we actually had five people in our party rather than just one.

Knowing that this was totally my fault, there was nothing I could do but accept fate and pony up whatever number she was about to speak into the phone.

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"How much?" I asked, nervously.

"The daily fee for extra guests in the room is $100 for adults and $70 for kids, so it'll be an additional $620 total," she replied.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

I began running through alternate scenarios in my head that might lessen the unexpected financial blow.

Could we get two standard connecting rooms rather than a suite? Should we say the baby was only 2 years old instead of 3 and sneak him fries under the table, since children 2 and younger stay free? I was a bit panicked and a little desperate.

Eventually, I told no lies and forked over my credit card number, surprised and slightly humiliated that I could make such a huge mistake. Sure, it was my first time at an all-inclusive resort, but it's my job to share my knowledge and help other travelers have the best possible vacation — and I was the one who had screwed up the booking.

Then I realized that I could make this a teachable moment by sharing my embarrassment with the world, using my own misfortune to save someone else from the same quandary.

(Screenshot from hilton.com)

If, like me, you're new to the world of all-inclusive resorts, know that your booking isn't just about occupancy limits. The booking price includes not only your accommodations, but also all of the "all-inclusive" elements of your stay such as food, drinks, a fully-stocked minibar, entertainment and activities, and beach, pool or water park access.

Given all of those inclusions, it should have come as no surprise that the cost of keeping one person fed and happy for two nights is going to be much less expensive than doing the same for five people.

The initial cost when I booked my room for one was $1,866.43 all-in. I don't know what the price would have been if I had entered the correct number of guests from the beginning, but it certainly would have affected my search if there were better-priced dates than others.

Since our dates were set, with our flights leaving the next morning, my (new) total cost with the additional guests came out to $2,486.43.

It is likely that I could have saved some money had I entered the information correctly when I booked my room and picked my dates based on pricing. For example, looking at a two-night stay on Aug. 9-11, the cost for one adult in the same room type I booked is $1,837.52 total. For five guests, the price goes up to $2,362.04, which is still a real increase, but a slightly less painful one. There are also sometimes kids stay free promos run by some all-inclusive properties, so obviously if you can time a family trip with that offer, you'll come out better financially.

The number of guests changes the award rates, too

It's not just when booking with cash that you need to be careful when pricing out all-inclusive stays.

The rate varies on points, too, especially once you go over double occupancy. At the Hilton Rose Hall, the same Oceanfront King Suite I stayed in runs 185,000 points per night from Aug. 9-11 for one guest and 302,000 points per night for five guests.

That's a difference of 117,000 points — or 58,500 points per night — when using points. Sometimes you can pay for additional guests on an award stay with cash instead of points if that's your preference — but either way, it's going to cost you more.

With the World of Hyatt, for example, the award rates for all-inclusive resorts are posted for double occupancy,- even at family-friendly resorts. If you book a room for two adults and two kids at one of the Hyatt all-inclusive resorts it will likely cost you double the number of points than it would just for two adults, even if you all stay in the same room.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

All-inclusive resorts can be a great way to know your all-in vacation price all at once — and not have to worry about the "extras" or add-on costs for everything from breakfast to a beer once you get there. However, the easy budgeting that comes with this book-it-and-forget-it approach only works if you enter the correct number of guests on the reservation from the beginning.

Making such a costly mistake while booking my first all-inclusive vacation was not an easy lesson to learn.

(Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)

The Red Stripe my husband handed me at the airport may have been what finally calmed my nerves — but I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my experience regardless.

Featured image by (Photo by Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees