You will likely hear at some point that all-inclusive resorts "don't count" as real travel. Fair enough, right?
I disagree, and I want to explain why I don't think you should dismiss the unique experience that is an all-inclusive resort.
Don't Dismiss Vacation Packages
Especially When You're Young
In 2012, I had just been brutally tossed from a six-year relationship, had moved into my mother's basement, had failed not one but two of my university classes, and needed to high tail it someplace tropical before I lost my damn mind. Money was tight, time was limited, and sanity was running low. Fortunately, my friend in law school was in a similar position (time and money wise, anyway).
After discussing Italy, French Polynesia, and all kinds of luxurious destinations and boutique AirBnbs, we booked an all-inclusive trip to Ocho Rios, Jamaica with SunWing vacations for a little under $1,300.00 a piece. That week-long trip remains to be one of the most fun vacations I have ever taken, and despite the flack from my travel-snooty friends (I'm guilty of this, too), I would go again in a heartbeat.
5 Tips for Embracing a Packaged Vacation Without Neglecting the Culture
1. Get to know the staff
Many of the staff at these resorts are locals who are really happy to get you know you on a deeper level than that of tourist/server. The staff-member friends that we made at the resort are people that I still connect with on Facebook from time to time., and the best part about making friends with the staff is that they are often excited to take you off of the resort and show you around town, which brings me to my next point.
2. Leave the resort
And I don't mean on one of the resort-organized excursions (though those are fun, too). Go to a bar, to a restaurant, or just for a walk off of the resort. You will see lots of tourists that aren't on a resort, lots of friendly locals, and you'll get a real picture of the culture you're in.
3. Get to know the other tourists
The greatest part about all-inclusives, in my opinion, is the sense of community. They're almost hostel-like in the level of friendliness amongst everyone staying there. Head to one of the pools, bars, or restaurants, and say hello! As with the staff we got to know, we made many other friends in our stay that we keep in touch with.
4. Be lazy (or, stay on the resort)
Life is easy, luxurious, and lazy on the resort. Take advantage of that. The food and drinks at least feel free (at the time), which is a feeling I have found to be pretty much unique to packaged vacations, and it is gooood.
5. Be open
The worst part about all-inclusives, in my opinion, is that they can try to scare you into staying on the resort, scare you away from the culture, and scare you into complacency. Yes, Jamaica can be dangerous, but so can your local supermarket. I have found that, apart from petty theft, touristy towns feel incredibly safe. I can't stress this point enough - be open to the culture and to leaving the safety of the resort.