All Inclusive

Just Say “No” to Staycations

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We get it. Staycations are a great way to save on money and cut down on travel time. During the tough times of the economy, staycations were a necessity as people counted their pennies and cut financial corners where they could. But good news! Those days are behind us and the economy is at its healthiest in a long time. There’s no need to stay at home when a beach vacation is an option again.

So why would anyone opt for a staycation? There’s plenty of rationalizations we can make for staying behind, but with a few of the most common ones debunked, you’ll be packing your bags for the beach quicker than you can say “what should we do this weekend?”

Myth #1: Staycations let you learn about your hometown.

The thinking goes: You can act like a tourist in your hometown and try things you never get around to doing. You can eat at that great new restaurant, or make time to relax at your local spa.

Reality: That sounds great but what if your town doesn’t have a spa (or a decent quality one, at least)? Or worse, there’s not a whole lot to do? It’s not like those restaurants, parks, or museums are going anywhere. You live in this city. You can check them out over the course of a few weekends on your own time rather than packed together in some arbitrarily chosen schedule.

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And one thing that happens on staycations is that your regular life seeps back in. You’re out trying to enjoy your local museum, but then you remember that you have to run by the office to pick something up. Or you notice that your floor needs a quick sweep and mop. Or, gee, my books really need reorganizing. Suddenly, you’re doing chores at home. Not exactly a vacation!

It’s better to go somewhere where you know there’s a spa, like Secrets Aura Cozumel and there’s no chance of accidentally cleaning out your garage.

Myth #2: We'll save money. 

The thinking goes: If I stay at home and do the touristy things here, I’ll save on all that travel money.

Reality: Being a tourist in your hometown may not be quite the money saver you’d expect. If you take in a ballgame, for example, the drinks, food, and tickets will still cost you. Museums charge for entry, and fancy dinners tend to be pricey no matter the location. In the end you’ll pay a lot more during a staycation than you initially thought.

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However, if you book an all-inclusive deal like the one available at Villa del Palmar Cancun Luxury Beach Resort & Spa, the price of food, drinks, and entertainment are built into the overall price. You’ll get the ticket and forget about having to carry your wallet around with you everywhere you go! The price is fixed and you’ll have a clear idea of your vacation budget.

Myth #3: Vacation planning takes a lot of work.

The thinking goes: Visiting a new place means having to research, plan, and travel. No thanks!

Reality: Well, there’s no sugarcoating air travel. But that’s hardly a reason to never see the world. Having to take your shoes off in a security line may be a tad annoying, but it’s just a tiny bump in the road toward a real vacation filled with new experiences and memories. And doesn’t your city have awful traffic, anyway? That’s no vacation!

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The good news is we’re willing to simplify the planning part. If you take advantage of our Seas the Deal offer, you’ll get a 4-5 sun-rated resort at a 3-4 sun-rated price and we’ll handle all the details. You sit back and get ready to take advantage of a top-notch all-inclusive resort, as we work hard to solidify the perfect option for you. Does it get any better than that?

So, a staycation every once in a while sounds good . . . but not as good as a margarita on a sunny beach! Don't you agree?

Brittany Innes is Manager of Social Media at CheapCaribbean.com. She's a travel junkie with a passion for trying new things and being spontaneous. 

Beach Foodie Favorites & Top Resort Chefs

Vacations are meant to be a time where you can indulge and live the good life. This often means hours spent hanging poolside, swimming in the ocean, relaxing at the resort spa and of course, eating. Your dining options often times are a deciding factor when planning your perfect getaway, especially if you’re considering an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean or Mexico. So we’ll make it easy for you – here’s a handful of top-of-the-line resorts that are known to have it all, including fabulous, well-known dining options.

Paradisus Playa Del Carmen, La Perla 

Playa del Carmen is known for having some of the clearest waters and softest sands in Mexico. And the 5-star Paradisus Playa del Carmen, La Perla is the perfect accessory to this incredible Mexico destination. Located near Playa del Carmen’s famous 5th Avenue, this adults-only resort offers a total of 11 restaurants and nine bars, including the full access you have at its sister resort, Paradisus La Esmeralda - so your options are limitless.

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In addition to the four swimming pools and beachfront location with a beautiful, swimmable beach, Paradisus La Perla has been made famous by Spanish, 7-Michelin-star winner, Martin Berasategui’s restaurant, Passion. With a touch of retro accompanied by elegant signature cuisine and dramatically decadent desserts, Passion is Berasategui’s interpretation of the perfect romantic evening for you and your special someone.

After a dinner you could only dream of, head over to the chic M Bar, with its stellar wine selection and martini menu. And end the night in your Royal Service Suite with an in-room aromatherapy treatment or a soak in your Jacuzzi. Don’t worry - your personal butler is on hand, should you need anything at all.

Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, you can expect to find a lot of luxury resorts with an array of dining options and featured chefs. One of our top picks can be found at Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza. This resort straddles the Condado Peninsula giving you a view of both the Atlantic and Condado Lagoon, as well as boasting a saltwater pool, freshwater pool, lap pool and two spa Jacuzzis. You’ll have no problem soaking up the rays at any of these water options or at the swim-up bar.

Conrad San Juan Puerto Rico Vacation from CheapCaribbean.com

And when the sun sinks behind the Puerto Rican horizon, slip into something a little more elegant and prepare yourself for a meal that can be described as “a fusion of exotic ingredients” from Puerto Rico, Africa and East Europe at Pikayo. Owned by true Puerto Rican chef, Wilo Benet this fine dining restaurant has been in business for 22 years and received honors from publications like Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Conde Nast Traveler, Caribbean Travel & Life, Miami Herald, and the New York Times. With a menu that often changes with the tastes of the season, sample things like Alaskan king salmon or truffle-cheese empanadillas. Finish out the night by trying your chance with lucky lady in the 24-hour casino on the premises.

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, Oranjestad

Perfectly placed in the center of downtown Oranjestad, Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino is an absolute paradise. A stay here comes equipped with access to Renaissance Island, a 40-acre island boasting two private beaches, Dive Center and Marina offering snorkeling and scuba diving adventures, two casinos, 24-hour entertainment and a long list of activities to keep your itineraries full of fun and excitement.

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But now onto why it’s one of our foodie favorites. Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino offers eight restaurants including a signature tapas menu at Blue’s and L.G. Smith’s Steak and Chop House featuring Chef Edward Zievinger. Named after the late L.G. Smith, Vice President of Lago and the man responsible for turning a “useless” island by the Spainards into one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, this steak house offers juicy cuts of aged, USDA Inspected Certified Angus Beef among delectable appetizers and extensive list of signature desserts. Their boundless wine list is also a 2012 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence recipient, so no need to worry about what you’ll drink with dinner. The award-winning staff will be sure to provide you with the dinner of your dreams.

So if you're mouth is watering and begging you for a taste,  it's time to plan that much-needed and well-deserved Caribbean or Mexico escape. With these being just a few of our fabulous foodie favorites, you can check out more of our favorites here. And if you've got a favorite of your own, be sure to share with us below.

The Perks of All-Inclusive by Chris Gray Faust

The Perks of All-Inclusive 

By Chris Gray Faust, Chris Around the World

Chris Around the World Guest Blogs for Cheapcaribbean.com

My husband and I have different ideas of a perfect vacation. While I have no problem being on the go, he prefers to stay in one place, where he can relax and have everything that he needs at his fingertips.

Blame it on today’s job requirements: Many professionals and executives work 24/7, it seems. While smartphones have made it easy to stay in touch, no matter where you are, they have also increased our working hours. The result? When Don pries himself away from his inbox, he needs to truly unplug.

That’s where luxury all-inclusives come in. USA TODAY has noted that resorts where all of the extras are included are on the rise, particularly in the Caribbean and Mexico. It’s been a popular choice during the recession, when travelers preferred to know the price of their holiday up front, paying one bill instead of many. And while these resorts were once favored by budget travelers, maybe used luxury instead of high end properties have gotten into the act, adding spas, private plunge pools and butler service.

On her trip to Jamaica’s IBEROSTAR Grand, for example, USAT’s reporter, Kitty Bean Yancey, found that her gratis butler would unpack her suitcase, bring her a special pillow, make dinner reservations and uncork her wine. Even within her room category, which she described as the least expensive (at around $300 a day in January), 24-hour room service and a stocked minibar were also included, as well as all meals at the resort’s four restaurants.

Travel + Leisure says that the biggest improvements at all-inclusives is the food (important to foodies like my husband and I). Says writer Ann Shields: “Buffet lines haven’t disappeared entirely, but resorts are recognizing that showcasing fresh ingredients and local cuisine will lure guests with more refined palates.”

Shields’ article also notes that cheesy group events have fallen by the wayside – again, important to someone like Don who just wants to chillax without having to take part in a “meet and greet.”  “Resorts are one-upping each other with an ever-expanding roster of diversions: golf, tennis, ziplines, kids’ clubs, snorkeling trips, Spanish lessons, beachfront climbing walls, kayaking, and trapeze instruction,” Shields writes. “Even lazing on the beach has received an upgrade.”

And how. I noticed on CheapCaribbean.com that the Sivory Hotel in Punta Cana, within the Dominican Republic, has submerged padded loungers in their infinity pool, so you can stay cool and still order a rum drink.  A pina colada poured poolside? Perfection!

The AAA Four-Diamond resort, part of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, also has all-inclusive dining at its three restaurants. Considered one of the best restaurants on the island, Gourmond has an 8,000-bottle wine cellar, and Tau has fresh sushi. While spa services are extra, the rate includes weekly cooking classes, kayaking, snorkeling and access to the steam room and sauna.  Plus, Wi-Fi is complimentary (although I might not tell Don that if I want him to stop working).

I think I feel a sun break coming on.

Must-Do Adventure Vacations for the Thrill-Seeker in Us All

No matter if you're a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie or just a tourist who likes to experience it all while on vacation, there are plenty of action-packed adventures that can take place in the Caribbean & Mexico. Here are a few of our favorite vacations to try if you're on the hunt for a thrill:

Jamaica is known for it's rich culture, beautiful beaches and plenty of one-of-a-kind excursions you can't find on any other Caribbean island. Pick a top-of-the-line resort and you can spend your days exploring this invigorating island and your nights with five-star service, food and fun. We recommend Grand Bahia Principe for the best of both worlds.

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Bounce between beachfront relaxation and running off to your next island exclusive excursion at Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica

You can leave your worries behind and step onto the beautiful shores of Runaway Bay, where the all-suite Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica offers all-inclusive access to a lake-style, beachfront pool with 2 swim-up bars for their popular dirty banana cocktails. The kids can hang at Principito for face painting and video games while you take advantage of the many onsite adventures, like kayaking, windsurfing or a ride on the catamaran.

If you're looking for an adventure that's fame-worthy, make sure to plan your trip to Port Antonio to explore The Blue Lagoon (yes, like the movie). While we can't guarantee you'll meet Brooke Shields, who made this location famous in the film, we can offer an enchanting, natural swimming hole with deep blue water, mixed with a fresh water spring, unlike any other swimming hole in the Caribbean. And don't forget that the legend tells the lagoon as bottomless with a resident dragon who lurks in these waters.

Another adrenaline junkie's vacation dream is Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the epitome of adventure and exploration. Toggling between iconic beach views and an Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica should be on every adventurer's bucket list. We've gone as far to plan out this Costa Rican adventure for you with our Liberia Guanacaste Costa Rica Adventure. This tour is a preplanned resort package that takes you through the city of Liberia, the Arenal Volcano, the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Tamarindo Beach.

Costa Rica Adventure Vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

See all the natural wonders of Costa Rica is seven short days - an adventurer's dream!

Each day on this adventure you'll experience something different including a city tour of Liberia, Arenal Volcano exploration, a trip to Cano Negro Wildfire Refuge, time to wander the Monteverde Cloud Forest and sun bathing on the beach in Guanacaste. Don't worry, top notch accommodations are provided the entire time so you'll be able to unwind after your days spent exploring this miraculous destination.

If you're looking for adventure in Mexico, we'd suggest Riviera Maya. Known for its stunning beaches and private seclusion in the lush greens of the region, Riviera Maya is a vacation spot with a little bit of everything to offer. Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa is a top pick of ours when planning your Riviera Maya exploration.

Adventure Vacations in Riviera Maya from Cheapcaribbean.com

Enjoy the hotel's seclusion as you plan your next Mexican excursion at Dreams Tulum Resort

We're big fans of Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa because you're minutes from the Mayan ruins and sites of Tulum, while still experiencing Unlimited-Luxury® that comes standard at this hotel. When you're not busy exploring the ancient, stone temples and pyramids of this historic Mexican city, you can enjoy this family-friendly resort set on two miles of white beach lined with palms and mangrove trees. There's also a great Explorer's Club, perfect for kids ages 3-12, which will let Mom and Dad sneak off to the pool fully equipped with swim and walk-up bars. You'll want to plan a stay here to see why this historic city in Mexico was voted #18 as the "Best Destination in the Caribbean and Mexico for TripAdvisor's "Traveler's Choice Awards."

The Caribbean & Mexico are home to some of the most astounding wonders of the world. For more recommendations on thrill-seeking vacations, check out some more of our favs here. Be sure to share your favorite adventures with us too! Happy exploring!

Beach on a Budget by Suddenly Frugal’s Leah Ingram

Beach on a Budget

By: Leah Ingram, Suddenly Frugal

You may not think that spending time on the beach in the Caribbean and saving money are two things that you can do at the same time. But there are a few things you can do to keep the beach in your budget. A key component to this can simply be knowing where to look for savings or how to stretch your buck.

 First and foremost, you're more likely to save money by booking a package deal through a service like Cheapcaribbean.com.

Even though an all-inclusive might seem more expensive upfront, in the end I believe they end up being cheaper because you don't have to lay out any cash for your food. I have stayed at all-inclusive resorts on St. Croix, St. Lucia and Jamaica, and I loved the ease of knowing where my next meal was coming from--and that I didn't have to pay extra to get it.

Another great benefit to booking all-inclusive travel is the options you have. Nearly all destinations in the Caribbean & Mexico offer all-inclusive resorts, which means there’s definitely something for everyone. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway you can search for all-inclusive hotels that cater to couples and honeymooners, or if a family vacation is in the works, there’s plenty of resorts that offer full family all-inclusive options. You may even want to check the price for younger children, as some of the resorts charge less or even offer free stays for young children.

When it comes time for souvenirs, I would recommend going off property. While you may save on meals at an all-inclusive, the same is not always true for items in the gift shop. If you are in a location with a chain supermarket or drugstore, stop in to look at your souvenir options. You are likely to see many of the same products from your hotel gift shop, but for a lot less money.

Another affordable souvenir option: local art works. I remember during a trip to Nassau, Bahamas, we visited an artists' collective on Paradise Island. There, painters, sculptors and other visual artists had booths set up as workstations and from which they sold their goods. We ended up purchasing two original watercolors for less than $40. My husband and I also brought artwork home as souvenirs from our trips to St. Lucia and St. Croix.

Years later, many of those prints are still hanging in our home. Every time I see them I remember our amazing trips to the Caribbean. The fact that we didn't spend a ton of cash while there helps to make those memories even better for this frugalista!

Leah Ingram is the founder of the Suddenly Frugal blog at www.suddenlyfrugal.com, and the author of 14 books, including Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less and Tie the Knot on a Shoestring.