Josh and I have discovered a new love of travel. We have been addicted to all-inclusive resorts ever since our honeymoon. Lots of food, drinks, and beautiful beaches. While we have been to Mexico a couple times already, the Dominican Republic is our new fave! The city of Punta Cana had the most pleasant residents, bluest waves, and palm tree-filled beaches.
Excellence El Carmen was our choice for this fall. This 5-star luxury resort is newly built (it opened in late 2016), so we knew it was going to be top of the line. And we were definitely pleased! The style of the resort was a modern, sleek feel with lots of fabulous, unique decor and beautiful grounds. Compared to the other resorts we have visited, El Carmen has the most character. The restaurants were decorated so elegantly, the sports bar was super cool, and the coffee shop was to-die. And did I mention there was a food truck! By far, this resort was the coolest and kept our eyes active. Plus, the staff was EXCEPTIONAL: so polite and LOTS of fun!
Beaches & Pools
The beaches at Excellence El Carmen were immaculate! You would have never guessed Hurricane Maria had passed just a short week earlier. The beach was covered with soft, pearly sand and filled with tall palm trees. Bars were all over the resort- making it easy to access a refreshing cocktail! And our favorite was the swim-up bar at the main pool. The pool always had plenty of comfortable seating and cabana servers that would deliver your drink orders in a timely manner.
During our stay, we spent the majority time eating and drinking. However, when we got a little spark of energy, we hit up the gym that overlooked the entire resort. And then we ate again. 🙂 While we just enjoyed relaxing by the pool all day, there’s plenty to do all day long: between afternoon bingo, Spanish lessons, and the after-dinner shows, you’ll never go bored!
Dinner time is always the most fun. You get to dress up according to theme (at least I did) and eat lots of yummy food. The staff always makes you feel like royalty, and dinner was no exception. What is great about Excellence Resorts are the restaurants. Each resort offers over 12 International-themed restaurants. The food is always beyond amazing in flavor, presentation, and aroma. Reservations are not required, except for hibachi (BTW-I recommend doing), which is perfect for the clock we keep on vacation.
Because I am such a foodie, one of my favorite parts of all-inclusives is 24-hour room service. I try to refrain from overindulgence, however, it is such an opportune time to try new things! Not always is that the way my picky husband thinks, but with their perfect portion sizes, you don’t feel guilty for trying a little bit of everything.
Do’s & Don’ts of All-Inclusive Resorts:
- Book Online: While we used a travel agent for our honeymoon, we found that it was just as easy to book online through Excellence.com. It will also give the option of air flight selection made custom to your trip, all in one portal. Be sure to sign up for email subscriptions to receive updates on new resorts, renovations, and travel discounts.
- Do your research: When finding the perfect resort, always use TripAdvisor for input. While the resort websites are great for overall information, TripAdvisors allows you to get more details from those who have experienced it firsthand. The reviews are always abundant and accurate, allowing you to find even more tips and tricks and see photos of resorts through the lens of the traveler.
- Seasons to Travel: We have traveled both in late-September and throughout January. While it may seem close in timeframe, the weather varies greatly between the two. January is our favorite: not only because it is our anniversary month, but the weather isn’t too humid and traveling is lighter due to it being after the busy holidays. Late-summer through fall is prime hurricane season, which can cause some stress and worry. The weather is a little more humid, but not as bad as late-spring or summer.
- Travel Insurance: That being said–always choose travel insurance. Yes, you may feel like it is a waste of money, but in the overall-realm of things, it is a good option. Insurance usually ranges between $75-$200, which isn’t too much compared to the overall expense of the total vacation. Depending on your policy, it will cover cases of sudden cancelation due to job loss, death, or inclement weather. When booking online, you have the option of adding insurance before check-out, or you can shop online separately for your own policy.
- VIP/Club Option: When we travelled to Mexico the first 2 times, we decided to go with the VIP/Club option, which included a specialized room location (usually with a swim-up pool or overlooking the beach), check-in at the clubhouse, and access to a private beach and pools (plus a few other amenities). While the VIP experience was fabulous, we found out that this add-on isn’t necessary. We were able to have the same experience without the VIP option without ever feeling excluded. Plus, you never realize which guests are “VIP” since everyone is pretty much given the same amenities.
- Private Transfer: If you don’t get anything from these tips, please remember this– select Private Transfer when booking online. This allows for a nice, black SUV to take you to and from the airport in a safe, elegant manner. While $180 may seem a little pricey, you won’t have to worry about finding a cab, riding with a bunch of other travelers, or having to stop at other resorts for drop off of other travelers. Private transfer is just for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. It is very safe and very classy. Plus, having a personal driver gives you that celebrity status for a little while.
- Activities: Bingo is always lots of fun for a little game in the middle of the afternoon. Winners usually receive t-shirts or even bottles of local liquor. Always go check out the after-dinner shows. While they are not always Hollywood material, but it is a fun opportunity to experience professional dancing, singing, and other talents.
- Bars: Each resort through Excellence has many bars throughout. I always have a difficult time thinking of a cool drink to order, however, there is a vast menu at each bar that offers lots of tropical options. Some have a specialized menu, but you’ll always find the perfect option (or 2…..or 7 🙂 ) My suggestion: use the menu to find your drink of choice. Each option has a description of ingredients, which is perfect for those who prefer only certain liquors.
- Restaraunt Dress Code: Each restaurant has a dress code. It mainly applies to men, but if your hubby is anything like mine, he relies on you to pick out his outfits, just like a big kiddo. Excellence’s website offers the dress code restrictions for each restaurant under the “Dining” menu. Be sure to review before packing.
Now, I am not the ultimate guru of airport travel, however, I do consider myself a guru of sales! When looking for good luggage options without breaking the bank, hit up TJMaxx. They offer a great variety of options, between colorful hard-shells to designer basics. Thanks to my grandmother’s love of luggage, we were able to land a full set of Samsonite luggage for a great price! And it has held up exceptionally well.
It is always so much fun to try new places. Vacation is a time to let-loose, not only leisurely, but with your style. It is an opportunity to go “outside the box” with outfit choices and have fun with all accessories, prints, and colors. Let that Vitamin Sea give you some life and flavor-up your style!
SO GO- plan a trip, with people you love, with outfits you normally wouldn’t wear, and to a place you’ve never been.