The Cheap All-Inclusive Resort Experience

April 27, 2021

Ever wonder what you get when book a cheap all-inclusive resort? Is it worth the savings? Time to find out!

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I'm kathryn potter!

I'm an ocean-obsessed Midwesterner with a travel agency specializing in all-inclusive resort vacations & destination weddings.

My signature accessory is dog hair. My love language is witty sarcasm. I could eat Chipotle every day. I listen to Guns n Roses while decorating the Christmas tree because Welcome to the Jungle works in any situation. Try as I might, I just can’t quit the Real Housewives.

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Cheap all-inclusive resort review

Raise your hand if you like to get a great deal & save money. ✋✋

Of course you’re raising your hand. Everyone wants a good deal! However, it is very important to understand the difference between getting a great value and just plain being cheap.

So let’s just say you do end up booking the cheap all-inclusive resort. Those random people on TripAdvisor said it was awesome! What is your experience going to be like?

I’m so glad you asked, because earlier this year I did my research. I stayed at one of these cheaper all-inclusive resorts in Riviera Maya, Mexico. I’m not going to name the resort, because this isn’t about bashing them. It’s about showing you the difference between the cheap resorts and their more expensive competitors.

First, some basic info:

  • There’s cheap & then there’s really cheap. This resort was just cheap. I shudder to think about what those REALLY cheap resorts are like. Ew.
  • This resort is listed as a 4-star resort on Expedia & other online booking engines.
  •  It has a 4.6 rating on Google and a 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor.

In other words, on paper this resort seems like a pretty great choice, right?? You’d probably feel pretty confident booking this resort.

So are you ready to find out what you’re really getting yourself into?

Let’s start the review! BTW, you can check out my Instagram stories of this experience for the full visual.


When we arrived at the resort there was nobody to greet us. No welcome drink, no refreshing cold towel.

And here’s the kicker….we stayed here in February 2021. COVID-19 protocols were in place everywhere else we went. I’m talking super-security to get into the doors of any resort. Temperature checks, hand sanitizer, feet sanitizing, luggage was whisked away for sanitizing, etc.

But here? Absolutely nothing. We just walked our happy butts right into the lobby, dragging our luggage with us and approached the check-in desk.

Oh, and that lobby? Not air conditioned. It wasn’t that uncomfortable in February, but just imagine waiting in line to check in during the suffocating Summer months. NOT the best way to get your vacation started.

We go through the check-in process & the first thing on our minds is grabbing lunch. Our rooms aren’t ready yet, so we drag our bags outside & search for a bellman to leave them with and ask for directions to an open restaurant. We’re told to walk down those stairs & wait for a golf cart.

Before I regale you with our lunch story, my friend & I turned to each other after dragging our luggage through the lobby twice and having to track down the bellman & both had the exact same thought. This is too much work. You’re not supposed to WORK on vacation. You’re supposed to be pampered & feel relaxed. We’re both used to nicer resorts where we’re greeted with champagne and check-in takes place in a comfortable lounge where we’re seated…not in a hot lobby where we have to stand in line like we’re checking into a motel.


So, back to waiting for that golf cart to take us closer to the beach where we’re told lunch is being served.

We wait. And we wait. And we wait. We finally give up & start the loooong walk to find an open restaurant. We find the beach buffet & it’s scary. This is the only resort we’ve been to where everything is self-serve. Thanks to COVID, most resorts are doing assisted buffets, which means employees serve you. But not here! It’s a free-for-all and people’s grubby hands are touching everything.

Nope. Definitely not eating that. So we find the only other option, which is the coffee shop. 

I approach the counter in the coffee shop & have a staredown with the employees. I keep waiting for them to greet me & take my order, but all I get is a dead stare. I finally ask if I can get a sandwich & a cupcake. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I’m starving, so whatever.

I was served my sandwich & cupcake on plastic plates. I grabbed them from the counter & went back to my table. At this point I realized I had no napkins so I went back to the counter for another staredown to ask for napkins. 

Again, this just seems like WORK instead of a vacation. I don’t like trudging around the resort looking for something I can eat that won’t potentially make me sick. I don’t like the feeling that I’m being a bother by asking for a cupcake. I just don’t feel that welcome hospitality that I’m used to at nicer resorts. And I certainly don’t feel like I’m on an enjoyable vacation.


I “splurged” and booked myself the nicest room this resort has to offer. It has the words Oceanfront in the title. But there are no ocean views from my balcony. Um, OK.

There are very few bathroom amenities, just some dispensers attached to the wall. There is also a teeny tiny hairdryer from 1984 that will take about 45 minutes to dry my thick hair.

My room is on the 4th floor. I wait and wait and wait for the elevator to take me down to the ground floor. It never comes so I take the stairs.

Oh, that’s why it never came. This would have been good info to have up by my room.


Yay, it’s finally time to head to the beach & get some drinks. We check out a couple towels & hit up the bar by the pool for some margaritas. Then we head to the beach for some relaxation.

All is good until 15 minutes later when my drink is gone. That’s when I realize there’s no wait service at the beach or the pools at this resort. Which means I have to make the long walk back to the pool bar to get another drink. Dislike. Not pampering or relaxing.

Speaking of drinks, don’t expect any good booze at a cheap resort. At every bar we asked about their tequila selection. Um….it was bad. We also asked every bartender which tequila he would choose. The answer was always a laugh & “I would not drink any of these.” That’s not a good endorsement in Mexico.

Another weird drink moment was the next morning when I was back in my favorite, friendly coffee shop. My coffee was served in a plastic cup. Is steaming hot BPA a good idea??


Our sandwiches and cupcakes just weren’t cutting it, so we found the larger buffet that was open during the day. I saw children grabbing food with their bare hands & then putting it back in the serving trays. This is not OK at any time, but certainly not during a global pandemic. Again, few resorts even had buffets open during this time & those that did made sure employees were the only people touching serveware.

We sat & waited until a brand new tray of food was put out & then ran in so we knew we were the first people touching it.

You may sense a theme here, but does this sound like we’re enjoying a relaxing, pampering vacation?

In all seriousness, by this point I think my traveling companion had asked me 3 times if we could just check out & go somewhere else. I kept saying we needed to suck it up because this was important research. But on the inside….I also wanted to leave.

Now just imagine you had spent thousands of dollars on this vacation experience. You’ve been looking forward to it for months. You finally arrive in paradise and ……you just want to leave?? 

Don’t let this happen to you. The next day I did a price comparison of this resort with some others that offer a stellar experience. The difference was about $20/day. TWENTY dollars! That would get you a champagne check-in, a beautiful ocean view room with tons of nice amenities, beach and pool wait service, top shelf liquor, a clean environment, happy employees and delicious food.

As a travel agent that specializes in booking all-inclusive resorts, my #1 goal is to always get my clients the best VALUE, which is very different than just booking the cheapest resort.

I’ve been to 150 resorts, ranging from budget to luxury. I have first hand experience and pass this valuable knowledge on to my clients so they know exactly what they’re paying for.

If you’re ready for a great all-inclusive vacation with no surprises, then let’s chat! Just schedule your free consult call here:

I look forward to helping you find an amazing resort that you’ll never want to leave!!

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  1. Kathylynne says:

    Great article! Way to take one for the team. $20/day is worth every ounce you get to upgrade from a “cheap” resort to one that your advisor knows and recommends!

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I'm Kathryn, travel advisor & owner of KP Travel Group 

I’m your boots-on-the-ground, been-there-seen-that resort expert. In an age where the right angle and Instagram filter can turn a pigsty into a palace, I'll help you plan a vacation that really delivers on that picture-perfect promise.

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