I’m an early 80’s baby. I grew up being taught you went to school, then you went to college or university. You got a job after you graduated, hopefully a good one with a pension. Then you grind away in an office from 9-5 saving money to buy a house and take the occasional vacation. There wasn’t a lot of talk about straying from this path, or how you build the life you want to live. Now that’s a topic that’s very much on a lot of people’s minds.
We all know there was a huge shift from baby boomer work ethic to millennials having more of a living ethic. Not to say that generation isn’t hard working, but there’s definitely more of a focus on living your life instead of working for so much of it. I don’t know about you but the thought of waiting until retirement in my 50s or 60s (hopefully..!) to travel and enjoy my life does not sound appealing to me! Not enough people realize that you can build the life you want to live yourself; that you are the architect of your own future!
In my latest newsletter, I said I would share what building the life you want to live looks like for me right now. I was focused on making a 6-figure salary. That’s what I wanted, that’s what I was working towards. Spoiler alert – I haven’t achieved it. Over the last few years, I realized I didn’t need that to live the life I wanted to live. I wanted:
enough money to not worry about paying my bills
to take a vacation every now and then
to be able to take a day off without stressing about money.
When I worked out what the cost of those things would be, I figured out I could do that with a LOT less than 6 figures, which also meant I was working less! This is another thing I want for my dream life. I’ve been working 6 days (sometimes 7) a week for years now while I built up my businesses. I did this for a few reasons: One – I was growing two businesses, then three, so that obviously required a lot of juggling. Secondly, I was deeply unhappy in my personal life and working made me feel better about that.
After doing this for the last five years, I’m ready to wind down to a regular work week. To enjoy my evenings with my husband, family or friends, rather than catch up on work or try to get ahead of more work. While I lived the ‘hustle’ life for a few years, I do not glamorize it. There needs to be some balance, or work life integration to not burn out, or look back to realize how much of your life you spent working instead of living.
What does our dream life look like for the future?
Now that we live in the Clutterbug, our 25-foot Airstream trailer, our dream is to live in other places with it. Our current dream plan we’re working towards is to be able to tow the trailer down south for the winter. We would like to leave in October before the weather gets too cold and ideally take it to Arizona, but take our time getting there. We would fly back for Christmas and then back down south until we drive back in April.
So how do we make that work?
Step 1: Determine how much money we need to save to cover our expenses at home. We will only have a garage on our land but we want to make sure we save enough to cover the utilities while we are away.
Step 2: Create a budget of what we think we need to make to afford gas, groceries and other necessities. That includes touring to see the sites of where we’re travelling!
Step 3: Can we work while we’re away? I’ve been doing some freelance writing and working on a travel writing portfolio so I could potentially work while we travel. I also have the luxury of being able to work with my business while I’m away. Tyson doesn’t at this point as he has a physical job here in Nova Scotia. We need to figure out if there’s something he can do while we travel, or if we can save enough that it won’t matter if he’s not working.
Step 4: Set up a timeline that we can work towards. This is an important one on actually achieving the goals we’re setting for ourselves. We want to do this by Oct 2024. By actually setting a date, we are giving ourselves a tangible timeline to work towards and work backwards from. I set checkpoints in my calendar like ‘Need to have X amount saved by this date’, ‘Need to create a list of potential writing opportunities by this date’, etc. If we don’t set a time, we don’t end up doing anything to actually work towards achieving it, and the dream just keeps getting pushed along.
Timelines you set for yourself are NOT set in stone so don’t let that stop you. We may be coming up on the fall of 2024 and realize this year is not going to be possible to be away for the winter. We could have an expense come up that takes away the money we saved up to carry us through those months, a sick family member that needs us in Canada – any number of things. But if you don’t set up timelines for yourself to actually build the life you want to live, it’s not going to happen. We all know time flies by (how is it August 2023 already?!?!).
Here’s your ‘build the life you want to live’ homework!
Map out what you want for your dream life. The job you have, the hours you work, the money you make, the perks you want. Regular vacations, a four day work week, working for yourself – whatever it is! Write it down and be specific! You can get a great Dream Journal from Glowbug Designs Rebecca Hill here.
Do up an estimated budget of what you need to live this dream life. Ballpark what you can, from your daily/ monthly expenses, to estimated travel budgets or decreasing your work week. What do you need to bring in to live your dream life?
Set a date or timeline for you to move towards building the life you want to live. Remember, it can be flexible, but if you don’t set a timeline to work towards, how will it ever come to be?
Money is an intimidating topic for many of us. Budgeting is generally not something we enjoy doing because no one likes to feel restricted in what they can or can’t have, but that’s a whole other blog! If you can shift your perspective on budgeting being a tool that helps you in building the life you want to live, you can open up all kinds of possibilities.
I hope you enjoyed reading about what our dream life is, and seeing how we’re working to achieve it inspires you! Now get out there and build the life you want to live!
Summer may be winding down but fall is a wonderful time to travel! When it comes to taking a vacation, the last thing you want to do is over-schedule your time off, and end up coming back needing a vacation from your vacation. While you may not want a jam-packed itinerary, you will want to take in some of the sites, and make a loose plan with room for spontaneity! Here are my 5 tips for taking the stress out of planning your vacation.
Don’t panic – I’m talking about some leisurely scrolling here. You don’t have to rush to your local book store and drop a stack of money on travel guides (unless you want to – I personally love them!) You also don’t need to spend time deep-diving online, but some light research will definitely make for a smoother vacation when the time comes. There are plenty of regional tourism sites, and blogs full of the must see, must do, must eat spots for just about every square inch of the planet. Google the city/province/state you’re heading to and see what pops up. It’s also good to know ahead of time if places you want to go are closed certain days of the week.
For example, we went to PEI last month for a 5 day getaway and we desperately needed to unplug and unwind, so I didn’t want to schedule us a lot of activities. By googling ‘things to do in PEI’, I got a ‘What do do in PEI’ tourism site, a ’15 best things to do’ travel review site, and ‘Top 10 Attractions’. There are more specific pages like ‘best places to eat’, or ‘best beaches to visit’ – it just depends on what you’re looking for. I could easily sift through these sites and make a note of places we might like to take in.
Make a list
Now that you’ve done some research, make a list of all the places you’d like to see, or the activities you’d like to do. I like to do this on the Notes App in my phone so I can easily add to it and I always have it on me. Once you have your list, which you can continually add to as you go, group those places or activities by area. For example, going back to our PEI getaway, I put everything that was in Charlottetown on a list together, everything that was in the western part of the province together. This way, whatever day we decided we were going to spend in Charlottetown, we already have a list of things we’d like to do in that area. It save time figuring out what to do, and leads in to a much smoother day.
Check the Forecast
The last thing you want is to have a week of outdoor activities on your radar only for it to call for rain or high winds the entire time! Check the weather a week ahead and see what it’s calling for. Obviously, you’ll want to check it again a few days before you leave but hopefully this gives you a base to get a rough idea. Have some inside activities on your list in case the weather is unfavourable, and you want to get out of your hotel room!
Tickets & Food Reservations
This is a harder paragraph for those who don’t like to plan. If you want to hit up certain restaurants when you’re traveling, it’s always best to make a reservation. There’s nothing worse than when the time to eat comes and you can’t get in anywhere (where my hangry folks at?!). Where I’m going to eat when I’m travelling is important to me because I’m a food-driven human. As soon as I book a plane ticket, or time in my schedule, my second step is to make restaurant reservations!
If you’re worried about tying yourself down with a reservation when you may have other plans that day and don’t want to rush, opt for a later dinner than usual. Or if you’re really opposed to scheduling anything in advance, check out the restaurants you like that may use apps like Waiting List, or take walk ins. Lots of times busy restaurants have seating available at the bar where you can also eat. When I travel solo, this is my go-to option. There’s usually a great view of the kitchen (where all the action is), and the bar staff are always lovely and chatty which is great dinner company.
Leave Time for Spontaneous Adventure
One of my favourite parts of a vacation is the lack of schedule. I rarely have free time to do anything between scheduled appointments in my daily life. If we’re driving to a destination and see a shop or cafe we want to stop at, I want to have the time to do that. If we see a field full of beautiful flowers or a scenic coastal view, make sure you have time to pull over and take pictures! Allow yourself room to explore the place you’re visiting as you go. If you do have a loose schedule in place for the day, you can double the travel time for example. If it takes one hour to get there, give yourself two hours before the next thing that may be on your list.
Just Enjoy Yourself
Just because you made a list doesn’t mean you’ve committed to everything on it. Maybe you’re heading to an area where you have a list of fifteen places you’d like to see. You might do three of them and that’s enough. By having a list of potential things to see or do, you’re saving yourself precious vacation time by not having to figure out where you may want to go, where that is and are they open.
There are no rules for how your vacation has to go. By taking the time to do some research and make lists if you want them, you can use your list as a guideline, or a safety net if you’re stuck for ideas, or have an indecisive bunch.
I hope these 5 tips that take the stress out of planning your vacation are helpful the next time you’re looking to get out of dodge. If you’ve got your own vacation planning hack, shoot me an email! I’d love to hear them! Until then, happy travelling!
Last year, we lived our road tripping dreams. We spent two weeks in a 24 foot RV on a road trip exploring Nova Scotia. At the heart of the maritimes in Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia has more than 13,000 kms of coastline. A popular selling point is that you’re never more than 67 kms from the ocean anywhere in the province. It’s also home to more than 150 lighthouses, and hauls some 50,000 pounds of lobster from its waters every year. But it’s not all seafood and scenery.
Nova Scotia is home to some of the most unique experiences in the world. We got to take part in so many of them last summer. We packed up our RV and hit the open road for two weeks of sun, fun and east coast adventure.
We’re starting our journey from Truro, where we live. You could begin your road trip exploring Nova Scotia at the border from New Brunswick, coming off the ferry in Sydney, or flying into the Halifax airport.
*Disclaimer: there is SO much to do in Nova Scotia that this suggested itinerary barely scratches the surface. This is a recap of what we did, and what we liked. In no way are these the only things there are to see and do in these areas.
A. Tatamagouche & the North Shore
The North Shore of Nova Scotia is one of Nova Scotia’s hidden gems! Tatamagouche is a beautiful village located 45 mins from Truro. It’s bursting with businesses that are creating one-of-a-kind products using local ingredients! If you’re like us and travelling with your own kitchen, you can stock up on local produce, baked goods and other unique groceries at Jamieson’s General Store located in historic Creamery Square. Be sure to check out their freezer section for stews, pot pies and dips!
Next, get yourself some exercise with a buggy bike rental from Remember Adventures Rentals and explore the Butter Trail. This 25 km trail is a part of the Trans Atlantic Trail system. It gives you views of the Tatamagouche Bay, and some beautiful bridge crossings.
After working up an appetite, grab lunch at the Chowder House before heading to Tatamagouche Brewery for a flight of their extensive lineup of award-winning local brews. For dessert, you’ll want to walk a few steps to Tatamagouche Ice Creamery where their hand crafted ice creams are unmatched in flavour. Don’t forget to stop in to Appleton Chocolates for some hand rolled artisanal truffles featuring a maple fondant centre with flavours that include blueberry, walnut and cranberry.
No road trip to Nova Scotia is complete without a visit to the island of Cape Breton. You’ll want to give yourself a few days here as the island is quite spread out and requires a fair amount of driving to cover. We began with the Highlands National Park where the majority of the hikes we wanted to take in were located.
There are several campgrounds to choose from depending on what you’re looking for. We stayed at the Broad Cove Campground. We hiked Broad Cove look off, Franey Mountain and drove along the Cabot Trail to reach the Skyline Trail. While there is a lot of focus on doing the Cabot trail in the fall for the changing leaves, we visited in early June and everything was SO green and lush. It was like being in the rainforest! Cape Breton is also home to many scenic waterfall sites. If that’s something you’re interested in, definitely check where you can find those hiking trails. You should also check out Salty Rose’s & the Periwinkle Cafe. They are open for breakfast and lunch, but check out their pop up Bite House dinner events!
From here we came down through Baddeck and stayed a night at the Baddeck Cabot Trail Campground. We then made our way to Sydney. We explored the waterfront which has beautiful sculptures, grabbed dinner and gave the Sydney scavenger hunt a whirl! It’s a great way to see the city and learn about it at the same time.
Trailer Tips: A lot of places in Nova Scotia have small cable ferries to take you to other parts of the island. If you’re driving an RV or towing a camper, just be wary if you have a larger vehicle that it may not fit aboard these tiny vessels!
C. Lawrencetown, Mahone Bay & Lunenburg
While there’s lots to see on the Eastern Shore, we opted to head straight down to the HRM and Lunenburg County. You can easily spend a few days in Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. We did day trips during our road trip touring around Nova Scotia.
Just 30 minutes outside of Halifax is Lawrencetown Beach. This is one of the best places to surf, with several established surf schools in the area. They teach and rent to everyone from beginners to advanced. We had NO surfing (or water sport) experience, but the East Coast Surf School had us covered. They provide wetsuits, boards and instructors. Our instructor gave us a great run down on the beach of what to expect, and stayed with us the whole time in the water. Neither of us managed to actually get to standing on our boards but the experience of trying was priceless.
If you’re not too tired from surfing the salty waves, it’s a little more than an hour to Mahone Bay. Mahone Bay is like a scenic town from a movie. It’s filled with bustling activity and cute little shops as well as places to stop for delicious local food. We had a beautiful and delicious lunch at Mateus Bistro on the main street, and did some shopping at local staple establishments – Mahone Bay Trading Company and Amos Pewter. We actually got to see how their pewter products are created, from wax carving to finished product!
A 12 minute drive will have you in scenic and historic Lunenburg; the home of the iconic Bluenose sailing ship you can see on the Canadian dime. Lunenburg is a seafood lover’s delight. We had supper at the South Shore Fish Shack where we dined on their patio that overlooks the harbour. We also picked up a bag of local mussels to take back to our campsite to cook from Dory Mate’s Seafood Market. There are lots of unique local shops here as well, with plenty of historical stops like the Ironworks Distillery – a forge building from 1893 that worked on the original Bluenose which was converted to a distillery.
Nova Scotia’s history is steeped in the fisheries, and no museum captures that history better than the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. We learned about the Grand Banks and fishing in Nova Scotia dating back to the first peoples. There’s also an impressive exhibit in memorial to all the lives lost at sea from the Lunenburg port.
D. The Ovens & La Have
Continuing along the south shore another 25 minutes and you will come to Oven’s Natural Park. This beautiful park has campsites for RVs, trailers and tent camping right along the ocean facing the sunrise. Its the home to both natural and man made sea caves, as well as the opportunity to pan for gold! You can bring your own prospecting supplies or rent from them. The trails to the sea caves are not a hard walk, but they do have stairs and are not accessibility friendly. There is also a restaurant on site if you’d like a break from camp cooking!
Continuing on our road trip of Nova Scotia, a thirty minute drive from the natural park will get you to La Have – a small community I hadn’t heard about until I was researching for this trip. For faster access, take the La Have cable ferry across. The La Have Bakery is not to be missed! Allow time to visit as there would most likely be a line up. The building it’s in itself was beautiful and it was chock full of delicious treats of all kinds. We grabbed a cappuccino and one of almost everything they had in the show case. We then browsed their grocery store before moving over to the unique market of handmade goods next door. You could easily spend an afternoon exploring La Have.
We moseyed on down to the Fort Point museum where we learned all about the history of the area, including the ferry – which used to take carts and horses across the water. I also scored a recipe for chocolate sauerkraut cake.
E. Shelburne, Barrington & the South Shore
Continuing down the South Shore, we stop in Shelburne – the site of the largest free black loyalist settlement in North America. It’s also the site of many film productions such as The Scarlet Letter and Book of Negroes (check out IMDB for a full list of films that have been shot here). A visit to the Black Loyalist Heritage Centre and Birchtown is a must when visiting this area of the province.
We also visited the Dory Shop Museum which still makes – by hand – these small and versatile flat bottom boats that have been used in the fishery since the late 1800’s. Visiting this town was really an eye opening history lesson every Canadian should have.
Another half hour down the shore brings you to beautiful Barrington with its silver sandy beaches, and famous for its lobster rolls! Here we had a truly unique experience. The Wild Axe Lumberjack experience that is. Darren Hudson’s created quite the destination for those looking for a truly Canadian activity. What’s basically a lumberjack playground, the Wild Axe experience features log rolling, cross cut sawing and of course, axe throwing. We had an amazing afternoon here. Spoiler alert – I’m a terrible lumberjack, but you’ll have to try for yourself to see how you measure up!
F. Yarmouth, Bear River & Digby
In all the years I’ve lived in Nova Scotia, this was the first time I’ve made it to Yarmouth. I had always heard there’s nothing down there but it was a beautiful spot! We timed our visit with the annual Seafest. It had events like Mackerel Tossing (yes we did this), and kite flying, which we also did. Spoiler alert – we weren’t great at either, but it was a ton of fun!
We stayed at the Ellenwood campground which was a beautiful spot. Each campsite was nicely spaced apart so it felt private. There was a great Farmer’s market, delicious restaurants and scenic parks to explore.
No trip to this part of the province is complete without checking out Cape Forchu and its very unique lighthouse. You’re going to want to book the tour to go up in this one for the incredible panoramic views. Be warned though – this tour isn’t for people who are nervous of confined spaces or heights. You also want to check the footwear guidelines for going up in the lighthouse before you get there. This is also the site of the movie “The Lighthouse” which starred Willam Dafoe and Robert Pattinson.
While heading out of Yarmouth towards Digby, keep your eyes peeled for the small community of Bear River. Blink and you’ll miss this ‘tidal village on stilts’ as it’s known! We stopped for lunch at TacOcat for authentic Mexican cuisine with an impressive collection of hot sauces ( try and go for their taco eating competition). We stopped for a coffee at Sissyboo Coffee Roasters, then took in the beautiful grounds and wines of Bear River Vineyards. You can easily spend an afternoon in this scenic village.
G. Annapolis Valley
Annapolis Valley is one of the more popular regions of Nova Scotia, but it has so much more than the wineries it’s famous for. We began in Grand Pré, which was once the epicentre of Acadian culture. I knew very little about the Acadian culture so that’s what we dove in to on our trip to the valley. We started at the Grand Pre National Historic Site. Here you can browse the exhibits within the centre or book a guided tour. We booked the guide and we would highly recommend this option. We explored the dykes, the site of Memorial Church, Harvest Moon Trail, and of course, the statue of Evangeline. You can now actually stay in this UNESCO historic site in the o’TenTiks that were built on the grounds.
After a morning of touring, we stopped at the Grand Pré winery to have lunch at their restaurant, La Caveau. The food was phenomenal as was the wine and atmosphere. We highly recommend the wine tasting if you have time. You’ll also want to allow yourself time to tour the grounds as you can walk through the vines and find chairs that overlook the Bay of Fundy.
We didn’t book a campsite here, but instead parked for the night in the apple orchards of Hennigars Farm Market thanks to Harvest Hosts. It was an incredibly beautiful atmosphere with stunning sunset views and privacy amongst the trees. I’d never been to their market before but I’ve been back several times since! Their baked goods are mouth watering. They’re known for their donuts but it was the sweet potato biscuits that had me salivating. They also have an ice cream counter, impressive variety of fudge, and make their own alcoholic cider in partnership with Wayfarer’s Ale Society You might also want to take in a few rounds of Farmer’s Golf. Don’t know what this is? I don’t want to ruin the surprise but the fun we had playing it was priceless! We highly recommend you check out this activity.
If wine tours is what you’re after, there’s plenty to choose from, but our favourite is the Magic Winery Bus Tour. It has a few different options depending on the length of time you’d like to go or amount of wineries you’d like to visit. If homemade pasta is your thing, venture a little out of Wolfville to Port William and check out the Noodle Guy. The food is incredible, but this popular spot is often quite busy.
H. Parrsborro & Joggins
This area of the province is a great stop for the history buffs or fossil enthusiasts in your life, but it’s not limited to that by any means. Parrsborro is home to the iconic Ships Company Theatre which is housed in an impressive building you can’t miss on Main Street. If you get the chance, take in a show while you’re in the area. Get yourself a delicious lunch or dinner at the Black Rock Bistro before taking in the sites.
There are some great museums here, like the Ottawa House and Fundy Geological Museum. Just a 36 minute drive to Springhill and you can visit the Springhill Miner’s Museum. Although we’d already been to a mining museum back in Cape Breton, it was interesting to hear about the mining and history in this area. We had a young tour guide of just 16 years (Thanks Ben!) but his old soul came from growing up with with his family having worked in the mines.
Keeping up with learning about the history of Nova Scotia, another 37 minutes will take you to the Joggins Fossil Cliffs. This UNESCO site tells its visitors a 300 million year old story. After visiting the museum’s interactive displays, we opted to book a guided beach tour which was truly incredible. You could see how the seams of coal come up through the beach and in to the cliffs, examples of fossilized insects and plants, as well as a petrified tree! This was an incredible and unique experience I would definitely take in again. I want to take my niece back with me, who loves her rock and gem samples.
I. Five Islands
We then looped back to the Five Islands Provincial Park which is one hour from Joggins. The drive along the coast is beautiful, and the park has sites that are in the trees or with water views as well as access to some great hiking trails.
My favourite place to visit in this area is the That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm. In the middle of Economy is this hidden gem that makes *the* best gouda I’ve ever had, and so many varieties of it! Not only is this family business making these delectable cheeses in house, but they also have a dutch gift shop full of confectionaries like liquorice and strooptwafle. After you’ve sampled some of their many varieties of gouda (I suggest the old growler), you have to check out the Animal and Nature Park that not too many people know about. Be sure to grab your feed before leaving the cheese store, and pocket a few extra quarters for the donkey feed on the trail (they can’t eat the corn mix you get at the shop).
This park takes about an hour to walk, and is fairly easy terrain, so long as you don’t go down the longer steeper path to the highland cattle. But if you can make that trip, it’s worth it to see these shaggy majestic creatures. The park is home to everything from emus and potbelly pigs to water fowl, sheep and so much more. The real show stealers are the goats – grab your map and make sure you don’t miss those guys. They are NOT shy!
Once you’ve finished up here, the road back to Truro will take you by the Five Islands Lighthouse park where you can picnic, swing in a hammock on site or just enjoy the beautiful view of the area’s namesake. It’s a 50 minute drive from here back to Truro, but you can also make stops at Dianne’s or Granny’s for their famous fried clams. That delicacy brings tourists from all over the province. If you enjoy antique hunting, the road home will also take you through Great Village which is bursting with antique shops curated by the best antique collectors on the north shore.
As you make your way back to the Hub of Nova Scotia, you might also want to stop by Masstown Market, which has been around for more than 50 years. Their bakery section draws people from all over (if you see their donuts in stock, be sure to grab yourself a dozen), as well as their gift shop and garden center. There’s truly something for everyone here.
And back again..
So there you have it – highlights of an RV road trip exploring Nova Scotia. Whether you have an RV or trailer to tow, you like to camp, or want to check in to one of the many experiential accommodations around, there are so many options to tailor your perfect Nova Scotia road trip. There are so many options for food, breweries and distilleries, hiking and other unique adventures, you could do this trip 5 times over and not see it all!
Have questions about any of these stops, routes or rv living? Drop me a line here! Happy Trails!
It’s that time of year where your social feeds are clogged with people going down south for vacations. You’re either green with envy or not interested in this style of getaway. I’ve been booking all inclusive vacations religiously for the last 18 years. It’s literally my idea of a perfect vacation, but I get how it’s not for everyone. If you’ve ever considered booking one but haven’t pulled the trigger, here are the Ins and Outs of All Inclusive vacations.
What is an All Inclusive Resort
Wikipedia defines an all inclusive resort as: “a holiday resort that includes at a minimum lodging, three meals daily, soft drinks, most alcoholic drinks, gratuities, and possibly other services in the price. Many also offer sports and non-motorized water-sports and other activities that are included in the price as well. They are often located in warmer regions of the world, particularly in Mexico and the Caribbean”.
When you book an all inclusive vacation, everything you need is included in the sum you pay upon booking. Of course, like every experience, there are always extras you can tack on if you want more.
What kind of traveller are you
People have different needs and expectations for their time off. Some people want to relax and unwind while other’s want adventure and to explore. Before booking a vacation, it’s important to consider what you want out of it. For me, when I’m booking an all inclusive vacation, its because i’m looking for a relaxing getaway. Maybe you need a change of scenery or just a change in climate. Some travellers really want to experience the culture of the country they’re visiting and immerse themselves in it. You can satisfy both types of travellers with an all inclusive vacation, but the explorer will likely pay more money.
“I don’t want to just lay around for a week”. You don’t have to. There are gym facilities and often sports like tennis and volleyball which you can book time with. There are dance classes, yoga, and scuba diving lessons. You can also take advantage of amenities like kayaking and snorkelling. You can use an unlimited amount of times during your stay (subject to availability).
What do you want to spend
The all inclusive vacation experience can range in price depending on the type of experience you want. There are base level accommodations, which is still luxurious and includes all the amenities you want in an all inclusive. You can upgrade your room to things like suites, swim up rooms, or private butler service. There are also adult only sections, and VIP. You can also book off-resort excursions, that can be adventure activities or cultural exploration. These can be either half day and full day trips. They include all kinds of activities such as catamaran tours with snorkelling, dune buggy rentals, and safaris. For the cultural explorers, you can visit local industries depending on the country. Learn how to roll cigars in Cuba, or visit a sugar cane or coffee plantation in the Dominican Republic.
What I like about the all inclusive vacation is that almost everything is taken care in one payment before you go. I say almost because you have to consider the controversial topic of tipping while on resort. It says gratuities are included in your price, but tipping is a common practice you will see once there. This can be a hot topic: do you tip all the wait staff while you’re there? The bartenders for preferential treatment? Do you tip housekeeping as well? Really, the choice to do so is yours.
Most resorts offer their pricing and accept US dollars. I would recommend exchanging your own currency (if necessary) at your bank before you go. Most airports and resorts do offer a money exchange on site for a fee. There are also shopping areas on resort and in local towns which vary from market stalls to full shopping centres.
To stay on, or leave resort – that is the question
This is also a controversial topic when it comes to booking all inclusive vacations. Do you stay on the resort the whole time you’re there, or do you venture in to the nearest town? Is it safe to leave the resort? That answer will vary for the country you are visiting and the city you’re closest to. Check travel advisories from the Canada government website before booking. You can also check reviews on travel sites for people’s experiences.
Drinking water is still a concern in many of these destinations when you leave the resort. On resort, the water is treated but they also provide bottled water in rooms for drinking, coffee making or even brushing your teeth if you desire. Anything you drink off resort that’s not in a sealed bottle can be a concern, including ice cubes.
Lots of places will have local tour guides on site selling off resort experiences. They range from excursions to tours, to shows at local nightclubs. Excursions you book through the resort will include transportation, generally by bus, but there are also local cab services available. I believe you can rent cars in most places as well but this is not something I’ve ever looked in to.
What to eat
The first time I took an all inclusive vacation was to Cuba and I was 22. I didn’t know what to expect, but I know the food was not the main feature. Since then over the years, I find a lot of people will ask ‘What was the food like?’ when deciding which country to travel to. It’s a popular opinion that the food in Cuba isn’t great, while the Dominican is not bad, and its better in Jamaica and Mexico. Believe me when I say this all depends on the resort and the taste of the person you’re talking to.
All resorts have buffets you can eat all your meals at, but that’s usually your only option at breakfast and lunch. There’s usually also a 24 snack bar for in between meal times. I enjoy the buffets myself because no matter what I’m in the mood for, they have it, not to mention an entire dessert buffet which I never neglect.
In addition, all inclusive resorts offer á la carte restaurants which require a reservation made with guest services. These have a dress code of long pants and no beachwear. The food here is substantially better, and you can choose your courses from a menu. I always prefer dinner at the á la carte restaurants myself but it really depends on personal preference!
Pros and cons
Its so easy to book online or with a travel agent
All planning is done for you – flights, transportation, accommodations, meals, etc.
You can literally eat all you want any time you want
Lots of space and availability at the pool or beach
Everything is pretty close – food, rooms, pool, bar
It can be as lazy or busy as you want it to be.
a 5 star resort in the Caribbean is not the same rating as it is in Canada
There are often people on the beach or by the pool trying to sell you everything from excursions to trinkets. This can be a LOT if you’re not interested and just want to be left alone.
Breakfast and lunch are always buffet style. A la Carte restaurants are only for dinner reservations.
The post pandemic experience
The masking rule was dropped in Canada just before we went on our most recent trip to the Dominican Republic. While all the staff on our resort had masks, rarely were those masks covering their nose and mouth. Most buildings are open air but there are definitely areas of congestion, like the buffets, where this could be a concern for some.
In the past, most resorts I’d visited pre-pandemic had a hostess with sanitizer at every restaurant that greeted people upon entry and ensured they used it. I was surprised that this was not the case on this trip. We had brought our own bottles of sanitizer just out of habit, but we were very glad we did. There was always sanitizer at the gym, but there were no cleaners or cloths to wipe down equipment after use. Otherwise there were no real precautions at this point, but restrictions had already been lifted in most countries.
All in all, you have to find the right vacation that fits what you’re looking for. All inclusive vacations get pigeon-holed in to one experience- laying around all day and not leaving the resort. That doesn’t have to be the case. If you choose to read reviews on travel sites, you need to take them with a grain of salt. People will complain about anything. I find if you look at where those complainers are geographically, you will also notice a pattern. Travel agents are a great asset as they have been to many places themselves. They also gain valuable insider feedback from the clients they send as well. Whether you’re traveling on a budget and you want to shop deals online, or you’re celebrating a momentous occasion and want to spring for a little extra, you’re sure to find the perfect fit for your very own getaway.
The world is an amazing place! Get out there and see it! Happy traveling!