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How To Stay at An All-Inclusive and Still Call Yourself a Traveler

Where: Various Hotels
January 9, 2013 at 12:05 PM | by | ()

We often have debates with people on the road and in the travel industry about all-inclusive resorts. Some people hate them, others love them, and, in our opinion, it breaks down into a fight of travelers versus vacationers. Some people’s idea of a good time is backpacking through Asia (travelers), and some like to post up by the pool and drink for six days (vacationers). Many are right down the middle and think margaritas make local Mexican history more interesting.

The latter is an approach we find to make sense for a majority of the population. There will always be the extremes on both sides, but for the most part, people just want to relax and have fun. Yes, you can take advantage of the amenities of an all-inclusive and not hide behind the walls of the resort all day and night Here are five ways for vacationers and travelers to meet in the middle while staying at all-inclusive resorts:

Rent a Car or Hop a Bus: Many all-inclusives offer free parking for rental cars and some even have services right on site. Getting behind the wheel is a great way to get involved, especially when you're the one navigating. You're immersed in the roads and begin to interact with the destination, not just let it pass you by as you look out the window. You begin reading the signs, noticing your location in a more in-depth way. Last time we were in Cabo, we followed a dirt road to a waterfall as if we knew the local secrets (shown in the photo). Who knows what you'll come across?

Buses are essentially free (you can ride buses in Mexico for under a dollar), and it's an even more intense immersion than a rental. You have to have a better plan about where you want to go and where the routes take you, but learning the system sure makes you much more than a poolside dweller.

Fuel Up Before You Venture Out: Hey, we get it. You're afraid Montezuma will come calling if you tackle too many street tacos. People are picky when it comes to their food. It's also a large part of what you're paying for when staying at an all-inclusive, so we won't say anything if you have no interest in dining out. But many resorts are getting creative with their menus, looking to appeal to the more adventurous eater. Or, you can schedule your off-resort explorations for mid morning or late afternoon between meals so you don't get caught hungry in an unfamiliar place. Hungry people are cranky people, and cranky people complain. Complaining kills!

Stay Out After Dark: Whether it's by design (ambiance), the result of tourism (tacky resort shows), or a lack of bodies (off-season vacancies), many resorts don't offer much that would keep you up past midnight. This is the time to venture out and see the local nightlife guilt free, as your mind isn't focused on the free drinks being served on property. Or, get a flask and fill 'er up before going out.

Practice the Local Language On-Site: If there's any place you shouldn't have to worry about making a fool of yourself, it's when on a resort property. Hotel staff have seen it all, and you shouldn't be afraid to attempt the local language. In our experience, learning a few words and trying your best with staff members goes a long way towards earning some street cred. And when you've got street cred, good things happen. Best part is you can practice over and over and over again by ordering drinks. Motivation, we find, is key, and you'll be better for the experience.

Learn a Lesson in Resourcefulness: Going off resort doesn't mean you can't take advantage of your resources and feel like you're getting your money's worth. We're not suggesting you act disrespectfully, but there's nothing wrong with using what's given to you. Many all-inclusive hotels stock the room fridges with bottled water, beers, juices, and snacks, and they all fit great inside a day-pack. When you stumble across that private beach or reach the beautiful overlook, you will be happy that you have some supplies. This is an important concept understood by any traveler.

One last tip -- and something we always have to remind ourselves of -- RELAX! Despite an all-inclusive's mega activity program, you can't do it all in one day and you can't do everything everyone thinks you should or has told you to do. Step out at least once and discover something new, then kick off your shoes with some serious poolside service.

[Photos: Hotel Chatter]

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