Tips To Make Your All Inclusive Vacation Go Better and Setting Expectations

You’ve been dreaming of this vacation forever! Counting down the days, preparing your suitcases, packing, unpacking and packing again.

And now it’s here! Everything is going great and you’re ready to check in until there it is! A line!!! That looks more than 2 people deep! Getting in the way of you and the beach! What will you do?

For some people, stupid incidents and distractions like this can put the funk on an otherwise great vacation.

I love to read TripAdvisor negative reviews because it’s always so amazing to me how little it takes to set someone off, or send them on a tirade that seems to go way downhill from there.

Usually it’s all because of a single incident that could probably have been avoided by knowing just a couple of secrets and setting just a few expectations.

Keep reading to find some tips on getting the most of your vacation time and forgetting about stupid distractions and annoyances.

Find Your Vibe

You spent 10 minutes getting your lounge chair set up, putting on sunscreen, getting your book out and you’re ready for some quiet relaxation!

When all of a sudden the party shows up and now there’s smoke in your face and a bluetooth speaker in your ear!

Did you set up at the main pool? Hint – if there’s a bar – especially one you can swim up to, you’re at the “main pool”.

Every Couples resort tries to create different areas where people can participate in activities without bumping into and bothering each other.

Mineral Pool

At Sans Souci, the mineral pool area and the massage/spa area are kept quiet at all times of the day. There is also no bar. In this area, you will be politely asked to turn off your speaker and if you are too loud – especially at night, you may be asked to leave the area.

At Tower Island, the quiet area is just outside the Patio restaurant while the main pool is out by the ocean and pier.

Tower Island also has the “Buddha Pool” – part of the spa – where you can go to if you need the ultimate in quiet tranquility.

This even extends into the Au Natural areas where the quiet area on Tower Island is to the right while the swim up bar and pool are to your left. Interestingly, both areas will fill up just as quickly.

At SSB – the quiet area is to your right as well where the palapas are located. This area is very large so it’s easy to get a nice quiet spot for just two.

This doesn’t guarantee you won’t encounter a rude and noisy guest but you can’t expect people to stop doing Bob Marley shots at the swim up bar so you can read either.

Obviously, if you haven’t guessed by now – if you’re looking to party – find the swim up bar – naked or not!

Not Another Line! I hate waiting!

You won’t wait in lines much at Couples, but sometimes it does happen. You may have a question for water sports, need to make a reservation, or you might be waiting for a bus/taxi.

When this happens, don’t just stand there and stare at the other guests back waiting…

Turn around! There’s an amazing view all around you! This is vacation time too, don’t waste it! The person behind you will tell you when to move anyway so suck it all up!

Flower in water garden at the lobby.

Waiting for the bus?

The lobby’s are beautiful but looking at them gets old quickly.

Instead, walk outside! There’s usually a nice garden just outside the lobby areas – including a fabulous water garden at Sans Souci filled with amazing flowers and orchids. Go outside and take a look – you’ll be the first to know the bus is here anyway.

At Tower Island there is a fountain, beautiful trees and benches to sit.

Flower blooming near the main beach.

Slow Service?

Waitress taking a bit too long? Food not coming fast enough?

Did you book your reservation when the restaurant first opened?

If so, there’s not much you can do because when all the restaurants first open at an all inclusive resort they will experience a mini-rush.

Make your reservations for later…

Make your reservations for at least 30 minutes after the restaurant opens to avoid the mini-rush and any line that may form.

At this time things have smoothed out and everything and everyone should be flowing at 100%.

Note that at Couples Resorts, they rarely run out of items. Unlike at other all inclusive resorts, getting to a restaurant early is not necessary to insure you get a certain meal (like lobster on lobster night!).

Bella Vista / Beach Grill

If you’re starving, make sure to seek out some snacks (popcorn, ice cream, fries!) around 4:00 so you can make it to 7:00ish or later.

If it’s later in the evening, then it’s OK to ask the waitresses or waiter to speed things up if you desire. They assume you’d like to spend a nice relaxing evening with your significant other so they may be timing your courses. If you’d rather hurry up and get back to your room to sleep, just ask.

I’m Starving! Now!

You should never have a problem finding something to eat as Couples keeps one restaurant open at all times (mostly) at each resort for early and late night snacking. Usually the Beach Grill. There’s also a self-service popcorn machine and other places (like the Veggie Bar) to find snacks.

However, every once in a while you will encounter a line or two and it’s at a time that you’re starving!

This can happen a lot at the Beach Grill or when a non reservation restaurant first opens.

The problem is at some of the resorts, the Beach Grill is very front and center with many people wandering in straight from the beach and settling in the first place they find. This can cause a small line/rush – especially when they first open – and if you’re starving, may not be the best choice.

Meanwhile – there is always a full service restaurant that is not as crowded waiting near by.

At Sans Souci – this is Pallazina. I can remember many times walking by the Beach Grill seeing a small line only to walk over to Pallazina to find very few people, no waiting and air conditioning!

The best part is Pallazina has a pizza station and a delicious salad buffet that is just waiting for you to walk up and enjoy! No lines, no waiting – just delicious food fast!

And if you still want the Jerk Chicken from the Beach Grill – just stop by after the rush has subsided.

Food Variety

Some have complained about the variety of food at all inclusive resorts. Couples counters this problem with a few gems that may not be obvious to the first time guest.

Breakfast

This is the meal that may start to become repetitive if you’re staying more than a week. All Couples resorts puts out the same (very nice!) breakfast buffet spread that includes eggs, bacon, sausages, some kind of breakfast potato or vegetable dish and other rotating hot items.

They also have European favorites like smoked salmon and meats as well as a large selection of breads, yogurt and fresh fruit so finding something should not be a problem.

However, when that starts to get boring – and it does after a few days – head on over to the omelette station! This is where you can get fresh made omelettes, eggs and other goodies like pancakes.

Ask for eggs “Jamaican Style” to put on a slice of toast for an egg sandwich.

Lunch

There are always at least two restaurants open during lunch at all Couples resorts.

All of them include some form of the “Beach Grill”. The Beach Grill features American classics with a handful of Jamaican items thrown in (Jerk chicken, Jerk Burgers and patties).

Jerk Burger!

The Beach Grill is great and the food is delicious (My wife loves the Veggie Burger) but it doesn’t change much from day to day. They will rotate items in/out but not much and the menu is kept pretty simple and basic for reasons.

If the Beach Grill is the only place you eat lunch at Couples then I can see why one would complain about food variety.

At each Couples resort, there is always at least one other option for lunch.

Don’t forget the Veggie/Smoothie Bar!

At each resort there is some kind of Veggie / Smoothie bar that features great alternatives and quick snacks, chips and really great smoothies where you can pick out your ingredients.

Smoothies!

Popcorn, Nachos & Ice Cream

At each resort there are also Self Serve Soft Ice Cream machines, Popcorn machines and usually a nacho station. You just have to seek them out as they may be hidden in the game room, off to the side of a restaurant or near a bar. They may also only be available during certain hours.

Dinner

Dinner is a lot easier! With several restaurants at each resort you should never run out of things to try and should find a lot of options for specific diets or allergies/issues.

I follow a strictly Vegan/Paleo/Low-Carb/Dukan/Atkins/Zone Diet!

My wife is a vegetarian. This is not a problem at Couples because they always provide a vegetarian option/entree at every restaurant!

However, she doesn’t always like what a given restaurant is serving that night.

This is not a problem either though since all the Couples restaurants will post their menus out the day of dinner service. This gives you the chance to preview the menus and make a choice of what you want to eat that night.

In addition, some restaurants have a Pasta Bar and/or Pizza station where you can get very customized dishes very easily.

I’m allergic to Gluten, Fish, Peanuts and Pickles…

If you have an allergy, ask to talk to the Chef when you arrive – they will give you a call to discuss and understand your specific allergy to insure that they prepare each meal safely.

They will also tell you what dishes to avoid.

You Don’t have to eat in one restaurant!

You previewed all the menus and Uh Oh! You can’t agree on which restaurant to go to!

This is OK!

I’m not suggesting you go to several restaurants and eat multiple entrees and pig out. (Although you can do this if you really feel the need)

But if your partner really wants to try an entree at one restaurant and you really want something at another – you can go and sit through both dinners – no problem.

If a restaurant doesn’t require a reservation – just go to the 2nd right after you get out of your reservation.

We’ve been known to go to Pallazina for lunch to grab a quick salad and some slices of pizza, then walk over to the Beach Grill for some Jerk Chicken.

My wife loves the pasta bar at Pallazina! We’ve been eating at Bella Vista when she decided to sneak over and grab a bowl of pasta! We thought we were being sneaky but realized – they don’t care…

We’re not being wasteful when we do these things as she skipped the entree that night at Bella Vista – we’re just finding ways to get the variety we desire at an all inclusive which can be necessary over a 14 night trip.

They Didn’t stock my mini-bar!

Oh no! You came back to your room expecting to find a nice cold Sprite in your mini-bar only to find they forgot it and only put in the basic stuff!

Did you remember to fill out the form and put it on the door the night before? If not, then this is your fault.

The mini-bar guys work solely off the little cards. They only fill things based on the next night so if you really care about having something specific in your mini-bar – make sure you put the form out – every night.

If they really did forget something. No worries – a quick call to the front desk should get it sorted out although if it’s late in the evening or early morning it might not come fast.

OMG! There’s naked people!

Every once in a while someone will post a TripAdviser review and they will be shocked or surprised because they saw one too many moons on their vacation!

Know that Au Natural sun bathing is allowed at Couples Negril, Tower Island and Sans Souci.

At Tower Island and Couples Negril – the nude sections are visible to people using the main beach.

At Couples Negril, the area is off to the left side and at Tower Island, the Island is the main thing you see when looking out into the ocean from the resort.

You will probably see a full moon or two, but the area is far enough away that you shouldn’t see much details.

At Sans Souci, the nudist area is called Sunset Beach and it is separate from the main beach and cannot be seen in any way from the resort areas as it is behind a closed gate.

Until… Clothing Optional hour!??!

At 5:00pm SSB becomes “Clothing Optional”. Or at least that’s the rumor.

This does not mean people who are there need to get dressed at that time and if you’re already nude, you will not be asked to get dressed at 5:00.

However, coming over for sunset is still a must when the weather is nice and you will see more than one full moon if you visit.

In the past what this meant is at 5:00 – the “textiles” would invade to gawk at the nudists.

However, more recently an interesting thing has started to happen.

Thinking about giving it a try? But not your partner?

At 5:00 now we will see a lot of first time/unsure nudists visit SSB.

Remember that to participate in any Couples nudist activities during the day, both spouses must come together, and both spouses must be fully nude.

But at 5:00 – the beach opens up to anyone to participate however they choose. So now, you will see Couples come out where one partner will get fully nude, while the other stays dressed. Or you may see a woman only topless while her husband fully participates.

This is a great change as it’s clearly a way for those who are uncertain to give it a try without any pressure.

Don’t Plan too much!

Many people spend hours creating a plan for each day at the resort. This is a mistake as it creates an unreal expectation that you will end up doing everything on your list.

In addition, things like snorkeling, catamaran cruises and diving will fill up a couple of days in advance so you will need to sign up as soon as you get to the resort if you want to go a couple of days later.

Instead, just create a list of things you’d like to do – note the day’s those activities are available and just go with the flow. You might get to the resort and realize you don’t want to, or can’t do all or any of those activities for various reasons. For example – water sports may be cancelled during the Windy Season.

In addition, some excursions are only available on certain days so it’s best just to go with the flow.

Day 2 Blues are Real!

The first couple of days you should plan to do nothing! This is because of the “Day 2 Blues.”

All the planning, waking up early to travel, excitement, drinking while getting there and all the pressures of making this trip happen all come crashing down on Day 2.

You will feel like crap! Both physically and mentally on Day 2.

If you plan to do too much, or force yourself you will also pay for it on day 3, and maybe even day 4 too.

Thus, just let “Sand Gravity” take over and just let Day 2 happen. Don’t set an alarm. Don’t get mad when you wake up at noon. Just let the day happen with no plans and no concerns! Just relax and everything will be OK.

Day 2 is a great day to sort out excursions, reservations and sign up for stuff – just don’t force yourself to get up at 7:00am to make the yoga class!

But I really want to….

If there is something you really, really want to do on your vacation then you should do you homework ahead of time to find out what it will cost, **how much time it will take, and who/where to arrange it with as arranging some things at the last minute may not work out well.

**Can’t emphasize this point enough – How Much time will it take?

You should find out how much time an excursion will take – For example – If you’re staying in Ocho Rios you might want to see the Bob Marley Museum. But you may not realize that this is a 1.5+ hour – one way bus ride into the mountains – the entire tour takes 8+ hours – on a bus! That’s an entire day away from the resort.

Now, in fairness – the Bob Marley tour was an amazing experience – but the bus ride was not so amazing; I would hire a private driver if I were to go back.

Most of the included/free excursion only take a couple of hours and you will be back within a few hours and by lunch time.

Sand Gravity?

Yes, it’s real and why you shouldn’t plan much.

Once you plant yourself on any of those lovely beaches you WILL NOT want to get up at all!

All those excursions you planned? Seems like such a hassle now…

All those activities you so carefully wrote down so you wouldn’t miss them? Meh… They don’t sound as good as sitting here with my drink on the beach!

Thus, you will end up not doing most of your plans as the Sand Gravity will suck you in…

Reserving Chairs?

No need to at Couples Resorts as there are plenty of chairs, floats and shade available at all the resorts.

You will occasionally see people doing this but it really isn’t necessary and they may come out to find their stuff has been moved/confiscated.

You’re so Wrong! I can’t find a chair!

On the odd chance that you come out late in the morning and cannot find a chair then talk to Water Sports. They will find you chairs or get more out (they keep extras in storage) and will even set them up in a shady spot for you!

No need to bother other guests who might be selfishly using four (or five!) as Water Sports will take care of it and collect empty chairs for you.

The stairs at Sans Souci

A lot of people complain about the stairs at Sans Souci. Yes, there are a lot of stairs and if you have very serious mobility issues, then you might want to consider a different resort.

They can accomodate you, but you will want to stay in A or B Block and you may need them to call the resort van to take you up and down the hills.

Stairs to D Block from the mineral pool/spa

However, if you’re at least in moderate shape then this should be of no concern.

The stairs are not like flights and flights like you would expect in an office building.

Instead, they are tucked in and around the resort. One section might be 5 steps, then a long ramp, followed by 8 steps another landing etc… So you get a rest in between.

If stairs are the problem, but ramps are OK – look around you – there are several ways to go everywhere around the resort and there is almost always an alternative path with a slight incline and/or few stairs near by.

The view from the top is worth the climb!

Personally, I am a huge fan of the stairs because unlike most resorts – Sans Souci was originally townhomes built in and around the cliffs to preserve the natural landscape and beauty and this pays off with long distance, amazing views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.

I Smell Marijuana!

You will smell it as it has been decriminalized in Jamaica and quite frankly there are people who come to Jamaica just for this reason.

You can openly smoke marijuana – just heed the NO SMOKING signs and rules.

What, NO SMOKING!??!

Yes – they have strict NO Smoking laws in Jamaica and there should be no smoking of ANY kind in rooms and all of the restaurants and bars (even the outside swim up bars but people still do).

Smoking is NOT allowed on balconies, but you will still have guests that will ignore this rule. You should let management know if another guests smoking is bothering you in your room as they will handle the situation for you.

People also still smoke in and around the pools and beaches but as they have started setting up the smoking sections, most people are polite and move.

If you are a smoker – don’t worry as there are several designated spots near everything including in the Au Natural areas so it’s not like you have to walk all over just to smoke.

The beaches are also big enough at every resort that you can find a place to smoke alone where you won’t bother anyone.

Some martini bars that are completely outside will allow smoking.

At Tower Island we just climb the tower take in the amazing view!

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