Before Michael and I got married, I fancied myself something of a travel snob. Not in a five-star kind of way, but in a the taxi driver dropped us off three blocks away from our hotel in Paris because the neighborhood was so sketchy, but oh isn’t it so authentic kind of way. Akin to Meg’s approach to morning rituals, I think I bought into the idea that a vacation is not worth the money if you’re not in pain at the end of the day (it’s possible I never fully internalized the concept of relaxation). So when Michael suggested that we look into an all-inclusive resort for our (much delayed) honeymoon, I initially balked at the idea. All-inclusive resorts were where my parents vacationed—not hip, young, recently married couples like us. Surely our honeymoon should involved more… suffering? Work? Unexpected twin mattresses?
Except, by the time our belated honeymoon rolled around, I was so overworked and undervacationed, that anything even resembling one of our normal getaways would have probably left me for dead. Instead, thanks to Michael, I spent ten blissful days drinking hand-delivered cocktails on a private beach, downloading books to my Kindle by way of magic, and trying to figure out how to take a nap on a bed suspended over a pool. I basically only had to get up to pee. So when we heard that an all new, adults-only Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort was opening in the very town where Michael and I stayed, I thought I’d use it as inspiration to share my best, unfiltered tips for the all-inclusive uninitiated. Because there’s a bit of a science to vacationing in the lap of luxury:
Do: Channel Beyoncé and upgrade ya. When Michael’s friend suggested we might want to upgrade our package, I was all, “Why would you need/want to upgrade something that calls itself unlimited luxury?!” Then I rolled up to our premium suite with a bottle of champagne waiting for us, and then skipped off to our private beach and was hooked. So no, an upgrade isn’t necessary for a good all-inclusive vacation; it’s more like those line-hopper passes you can get at Disney, in that once you have one, you won’t know how you lived without it. Most all-inclusive resorts have honeymoon (or regular) specials if you stay for a minimum number of nights. Typically the honeymoon specials are complimentary with your minimum stay, but even on top of that, the preferred club upgrades are actually worth the extra cash. Think: exclusive concierge services, private pools and beaches, breakfast in your special VIP lounge and your daily paper delivered to your door.
Don’t: Imbibe the entire contents of your upgrade in the first night. Being a couple of broke kids on their honeymoon, Michael and I got a little… carried away with our complimentary champagne and free mini bar. So while I spent our first night relaxing on billion-threadcount sheets, watching crappy romance movies, Michael spent his getting intimately acquainted with our five-star bathroom. So just remember: all-inclusive also means unlimited. The amenities (cough, and mini-bar) aren’t going anywhere. So pace yourself.
Do: Your research. Every all-inclusive resort has its own hook. Some are for adults only, some are more family friendly. And even within the adults-only resorts, there are some destinations that cater to younger singles and couples, while others are specifically designed for married couples looking at getting away. Know your crowd. We ended up at a really tame honeymoon-oriented all-inclusive resort where the only other people who had upgraded their packages were couples in their late fifties and early sixties. And it was awesome. Most days, we had a private beach all to ourselves, and it was quiet enough that I could read even with a solid piña colada buzz.
Don’t: Go for the scenery. While plenty of resorts offer daily getaways for local sightseeing, an authentic experience in a foreign country is not what you’re going to get with an all-inclusive package, and you’re missing the point if that’s what you’re there for anyway (plus it’s just wasting your money if you don’t take advantage of the unlimited food and drink, and the not having to get up except to pee that I mentioned above). But you are paying for the weather, so make sure you don’t book a package for the middle of hurricane season or your destination’s rainy season.
Do: Take advantage of the on-site attractions. We did jet-skiing (terrifying), archery (amazing), and even saw an up-close magic show (bizarre). One of the cooler things on offer from our resort was a cigar-tasting class (the good stuff, too). On the day-of, nobody else had signed up for the class, so we got a private lesson in where cigars come from, what the different parts of a cigar are, and which rums go best with Cubans. As much as I enjoy spending all day sitting on a beach doing nothing, mixing it up with a nightly activity gave me the false sense of productivity, just what an overachiever needs during her relaxing vacation.
Don’t: Try and light a cigar on a windy beach, just because you think it will be romantic. It won’t work, and you’ll find yourself crouched behind a beach chair with a pack of matches trying to light one like your life depends on it. This is not romantic.
Do: Research the restaurants at the resort you’re looking into. The dining is half the reason to go to an all-inclusive resort, and restaurants will vary by location, so if a taco bar or hibachi grill is what gets your engine revved, choose a resort that has one (or both) of those things.
Don’t: Neglect the swim-up bar. For obvious reasons.
When Michael and I got married, we told ourselves we only really cared about the honeymoon. The wedding was for everyone else. And while that still sort of netted out to be true (the wedding was much bigger and important than we ever expected it to be, but it wasn’t exclusively ours), the honeymoon was not what we expected at all. We thought we wanted adventure: the original plan was a cross-country road trip, which we’re still planning, but for another day. It turns out, we just wanted a nap. Because planning a wedding is work. And it’s perfectly acceptable if you just want to relax when it’s all over. Preferably with a Mai Tai from your new best friend who works at the bar.
From now until November 30th, head to the Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Facebook page and enter to win your own Unlimited-Luxury wedding at the brand-new resort. Also: from now until December 31st, the first 50 couples to book their wedding at the all-new Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa will be instantly treated to $500 towards premium wedding day add-ons of their choice, like live entertainment (fire dancers, y’all), fireworks, drone videography, or above-and-beyond style and decor, like exotic tropical flowers. Click here to request more information about hosting your wedding at Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa.
This post was sponsored by Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort, opening November 15, 2014. Set along an intimate, white-sand beach, the 424-suite Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort offers adults and couples an Unlimited-Luxury escape where everything is included. Thank you Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort for helping make the APW mission possible!