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

Jun 3, 2022

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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 of Hilton booking site
(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.

“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 of Hilton booking site
(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 of Hilton booking site
(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.

Man holding two bottles of beer
(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 Tarah Chieffi/The Points Guy.

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