By: Susan Gerle


I am normally a budget traveler but recently I stayed at an all-inclusive 4 star hotel in Puerto Vallarta for the first time. It was quite an experience. Simple things became a challenge, which surprised me. I thought staying at an all-inclusive meant a stress-free holiday.

The first one was getting to the hotel. I know the Puerto Vallarta airport well and usually walk out the door and get on a city bus or grab a cab. This time the hotel supplied transportation. We were one of the first couples off the plane, so we had to wait for everyone else. An hour later we finally got to the hotel, normally a 10-minute ride from the airport. Then we lined up to check into our room, another ½ hour wait. But no problem, even though it was late in the evening, copious quantities of free drinks awaited us after settling in! Of course everyone else had the same idea so it was necessary to wait in line once again.

The next morning arrived far too early (9 AM) with children screaming and shouting outside our window. Don’t get me wrong, I love children but I’ve already raised my own. A romantic getaway wasn’t supposed to include noisy kids in close proximity.

Our room was right next to the kiddy pool and after explaining the situation to the desk clerk Jesus (pronounced hay-zues), he managed to move us from the 2nd floor to the 9th floor. (I really think the fact that I didn’t call him the English version of his name helped). The only thing above us was the penthouse and there were no kids around anywhere. Our new view was to die for. Our balcony looked out over Banderas Bay and south toward the Malecon in the downtown section. What more could we ask for?

Now that our noise issue was solved we could venture out and soak up the sun. It’s obvious that people who go to Mexico in the middle of winter look forward to Vitamin D intake and warm rays. The nice thing about an all-inclusive resort is they supply towels and lounge chairs and even umbrellas or palapas (little woven palm roofs) for the guests. It’s not necessary to take a towel and lay on the hot sand on the beach, or so we thought!

There is a problem though. There aren’t enough lounge chairs to go around. People must plan a strategy to get a chair.

The challenge for poolside or beach seating begins early each morning. A person must get up at the crack of dawn in order to gain access to a coveted lounge chair. They can lay a towel out or even put a magazine on their chair of choice and often scoop 3 or 4 others for friends at the same time. Once their territory is marked it is theirs for the whole day……. Even if they don’t use it! Because all the lounges are locked up each night, there is no possibility of planting a possession after dark.

Those of us who lull about in the early morning don’t stand a chance! The idea of setting an alarm clock while on holidays was disgusting! What could we possibly do to get a chair? I’m sure some people pay staff to do the dirty work for them. After some discussion we decided we would take turns each morning to get our coveted lounges. Believe me, by the end of each beautiful sunny day we were glad we did!

Another challenge at the all-inclusive in Puerto Vallarta is the lack of authentic Mexican food on the menu. I’m used to eating my share of local fare but obviously the hotel guests normally prefer American style food. I was hard-pressed to find even frijoles (beans) and there wasn’t a tortilla to be had anywhere!

Taking into account all the challenges, would I consider doing an all-inclusive again? Yes I would. It’s still a nice change occasionally to the type of traveling I normally do.