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mar 30

7 Questions to Ask Before You Book an All–Inclusive Vacation

A gorgeous view of the Caribbean from an all–inclusive resort in Cozumel. (Courtesy strackfamily/myBudgetTravel)

What does "all–inclusive" mean to you? One price that covers your hotel, meals, taxes, tips and maybe activities and alcohol if you're lucky—right?

Not so fast. You might want to clarify exactly what is included in that "all–inclusive" package before you whip out your credit card. A friend of mine recently booked a hotel in Costa Rica that touted itself as an "all–inclusive" only to arrive and discover that the only thing that was included in the rate was breakfast. If she wanted to include the rest of her meals in the plan she was going to have to pay more.

Needless to say, she was frustrated. Fortunately, the booking engine she used to reserve the hotel listened to her complaints and refunded her money in full on the spot (lesson: never be afraid to speak up if you feel that you're not be treated fairly). She then took her business to a nearby hotel (not an all–inclusive), where she ended up spending less money overall by purchasing meals, hotel, and activities separately.

My friend was lucky twice—first, that she was able to get her money back and second, she was able to find an even better deal. But her predicament reminded me of how important it is to read the fine print before you book, especially when you're considering package deals. All–inclusives can be a bargain and a great stress–reliever (no foreign currency to worry about! No tips to calculate!), but before you book make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.

Of course you want to ask what the rate includes, but it never hurts to be more specific. Here some additional questions it's smart to ask:

1) How many meals are included?

2) What times are meals served?

3) What are your meal choices? (If there are sit–down restaurants, you might want to ask if reservations are accepted and how far in advance folks need to reserve to ensure a seat.)

4) Are tips included?

5) Is alcohol included?

6) Which activities, if any, are included in the cost? Which activities are available for an additional fee?

7) What kind of entertainment is there in the evening?

Are there other questions you recommend travelers ask? Have you ever been disappointed by an all–inclusive? Tell us below.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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